Michael Dell At VMworld: The IT Infrastructure Giant Explains Its Place In A Multi-Cloud World

IT Giant Sees Growth Via Partnerships

When Dell closed its acquisition of EMC a year ago last month, the new combined Dell Technologies suddenly became not only one of the IT industry's largest vendors with a hand in everything from PCs to data center infrastructure, from on-premises to the cloud, and from SMBs to the largest enterprises. Because of that far-flung reach, its CEO Michael Dell said Dell's success is closely tied to successful partnerships, whether with small channel companies or the largest Dell competitors.

Michael Dell, during last week's VMworld conference, discussed his views about his company's role in the overall IT business and its part in building an ecosystem that encompasses a wide range of businesses. Turn the page for a look at Dell's view of the IT world.

Machine Intelligence And Our Future

I think we're in perhaps one of the most exciting times ever in human history and human development. And, if you think about what's going on right now with the explosion in the number of smart connected devices and intelligent nodes, and the cost of making something intelligent approaching zero, and as we travel around the world and talk to our customers, digital transformation is "game on." And when you overlay on top of that the enormous amount of data that's being created – and the amount of data that's being created is doubling faster and faster out there in the world – and then on top of that you overlay this really interesting and exciting computer science – the artificial intelligence, the machine intelligence – you get a tremendous age of human-machine working together in a tremendous set of possibilities for the future.

Where Dell Technologies Fits In

I think we're just at the beginning of this. One of the things we think a lot about across Dell Technologies is the data. Because the fuel for these engines of A.I. and machine intelligence – and certainly we have a lot of compute power and storage and [are] protecting and managing these environments – the data is incredibly important. Because you can have the best algorithms in the world, but without any data to feed it, your A.I.'s not going to be very good.

We think a lot about that. Across the Dell Technologies family, the digital transformation is "game on." I think there's another interesting element in this. It's really much broader than IT. It is a CEO-agenda'd topic: How do you evolve your company? What's the strategy of your company? If you're not thinking about how you're going to use all this data to … make your product and service better, you're doing it wrong.

Dell EMC's Commitment To The SMB Market

If you look at the economy, and you look at where jobs are created, most of the jobs are actually created by small and medium businesses and emerging companies. And that's where most people work. I'm proud to say, since we completed the combination with VMware and EMC and Pivotal and the rest of the Dell Technologies family, we've added tens of thousands of new customers into the family here. And a lot of those are new VMware customers that are in that small and medium business space. Together, we've been re-imagining our products to say, 'How do we serve not only the big giant companies and the biggest governments of the world?' We're honored to serve those customers for sure, but also how do you serve these small and medium sized businesses and emerging companies?

Maintaining A Diverse Ecosystem, Which Includes Competitors

We said this back in October of 2015 when we announced the plan to combine [Dell and EMC]. We said it again when the combination was complete a year ago. And we'll say it again here: I am incredibly pleased to see the open, independent ecosystem of VMware thrive and be very vibrant. You see it in the continuing adoption of VMware technologies by open ecosystem partners. This is a key part of VMware's success. We're fully committed to that. It's as strong as it's ever been. I think it only gets stronger. All the great work that the VMware team is doing in extending the VMware technology reach with cross-cloud architecture, the amazing things that are going on with NSX which I continue to be very, very excited about, the announcements [at VMworld]. The open ecosystem of VMware continues to grow and be very, very vibrant.

Thoughts On The Partnership Between Dell And VMware

What I've seen is, the more we do together, the better it gets. I think Dell EMC and VMware go together like peanut butter and chocolate. We've got a great thing going here. We've talked a lot about revenue synergies. And that was driven not only by cross-selling, but also a deep level of technical integration innovation in creating new products and solutions. We're seeing that in all the things that we're rolling out. Every time there's a new Dell EMC announcement or a VMware announcement, you can see the deep integration while we retain this open ecosystem of other partners. When we talked about the revenue synergies a year or so ago, we're absolutely ahead of plan there. That's going faster and better than we planned for, maybe better than any of us thought. But great news there, and [I'm] absolutely delighted about how everything is coming together here.

How To Enhance Confidence In Dell Technologies As The Cloud Grows In Importance

It's definitely a multi-cloud world. The more we talk to customers, the more customers are realizing that cloud is an operating model, and exists in many different forms. Public clouds are very important. There's software-as-a-service. There's many managed services partners that VMware works with. And there are use cases for on-premises as well. And all of those will work together … VMware is (connecting) all of this together with cross-cloud services, NSX, deeply thinking about security. It's very forward-thinking in terms of how computing is evolving. I think it's also very important to imagine the use cases with the coming boom in edge computing. The cost of making something intelligent is approaching zero dollars, we have the fifth-generation [5G] cellular network coming, and the absolute explosion in the number of connected nodes. And that will require a new computing model as well, a new kind of cloud.

Managing Enterprises Workloads And Apps

We start with the perspective that VMware has been very fortunate to have relationships with over 500,000 customers. And the service that the team has stood up is being built so that any one of those 500,000 customers over time can onboard any of that service. We're approaching this from the perspective of absolutely the biggest companies and governments in the world, and all the way down to the smallest of small businesses out there that require those capabilities. And I think there'll be applicability all across the spectrum.

Dell's Expertise In An App-Centric World

Companies are re-discovering that competitive advantage is actually expressed through software and with the data that underlies their business. We do have a fantastic set of businesses in the infrastructure world, and certainly, when you think about all the interesting computer sciences going on the world today with artificial intelligence, machine intelligence, etc., the fuel for that is the data. And that's a very big part of the intersection of the infrastructure business. (Companies) say, 'OK, I've got this packaged software over here and this software-as-a-service here,' but the real competitive advantage that distinguishes my company from other companies is expressed through software. There's a requirement for developer-friendly infrastructures. And all I can tell you is that we've been thinking about this very deeply.

How can Dell Technologies, which partners with VMware and VMware competitors like Microsoft Azure for cloud services, recommend the right cloud partner for clients?

The larger the company, the more the likelihood that we've seen that they actually have both, or all of the above. It just goes back to this concept of a multi-cloud world … We help our customers in that way. I think it is somewhat workload-dependent. And also where the customers are coming from on their journey. There isn't a perfect answer for every customer that's the same. Our job is to help the customers on their unique journey. I think they're all on that path to this multi-cloud, hybrid cloud world. We're grateful to them. We have a great set of partners to work with. And our story is resonating very well with customers with the set of capabilities that we have across Dell Technologies.

How Dell Technologies Looks At The Security Ecosystem After VMware's Introduction Of Appdefense?

What I've heard from customers is actually a deep frustration in this area. The way it manifests itself is, the customer will say, 'Well, in applications I've got two or three partners, infrastructure I've got two or three partners, in security I've got seven partners.' And the seams that are between all these different partners creates all kinds of problems and challenges. And so, when I first heard about what has now become AppDefense, building [security] into the microkernel of the hypervisor, and in a deep and thoughtful way, [I thought] this is exactly the kind of solution that's needed. We've been talking about the importance of the ecosystem. And it continues to be incredibly important. The open ecosystem vibrance that you see here, [and] the business firing on all cylinders and doing extremely well with a thriving open ecosystem, that's exactly what we love to see.