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Dell made a number of enterprise product announcements at its annual conference this week, but the EMC acquisition was the major talking point.
Dell's proposed acquisition of EMC (the transaction is expected to close between May and October next year) "will create the world's largest privately-controlled, integrated technology company," according to the 12 October announcement. This comparative chart makes it clear just how big a deal this is:
There has, naturally, been much punditry on the likely prospects of the new tech giant, which, depending on how you look at it, will either be a one-stop shop for organisations to buy everything from tablets to datacentre infrastructure (an "enterprise solutions powerhouse" as Michael Dell put it) or a debt-ridden behemoth struggling to merge two different company cultures and product portfolios, and take a coherent story to market (as HP's CEO Meg Whitman would have it).
All of this will play out in due course, with every step (and mis-step) scrutinised by the tech press and analyst community. For now, it's worth noting Dell's and EMC's prominent positions in some of their key markets, using the latest data from analyst firm IDC:
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The major portfolio overlap, of course, is in storage, where EMC is the market leader (by some distance) and Dell is in fifth place (or third place, if you include storage inside servers). Another key market is virtualisation, where EMC has pole position thanks to its 81 percent stake in VMware.
The past week has seen the 2015 Dell World conference in Austin, Texas — where the EMC deal was, of course, the number-one talking point. In his opening keynote, Michael Dell outlined the broad synergy between the two companies: "EMC has an unmatched reputation with large enterprises. Across the Fortune 1000, EMC is at the very top tier for architecting solutions. And at Dell we have unmatched strength in the mid-market and small business. We can fuel innovation across our entire portfolio and across customer segments. We are bringing together an unbelievable set of capabilities: EMC is the best company in the industry at incubating new technology, and we plan to mirror the EMC approach as a strategically aligned family of businesses. And that front-end engine will be backed by Dell's best-in-class global supply chain. Think about the scale. An eighty-plus billion dollar revenue business — the world's largest enterprise systems company...To put it simply: the best innovation, with the highest quality, with the greatest value for customers."
At a Dell World pre-briefing in London earlier this week, executives presented several new enterprise-related products and services, while remaining relatively tight-lipped about the Dell-EMC deal. As Peter Barnes, Dell's UK director of enterprise solutions, noted: "the number of people that knew about this in Dell prior to Monday [12 October] was very very few...we're still working through what that integration is going to mean."
Here's what was unveiled at the London event.
Datacenter Scalable Solutions (DSS)
An evolution of Dell's DCS (Data Center Solutions) design-and-build-to-order servers for 'web-scale' companies and the commercial PowerEdge C family for cloud builders, the DSS brand — unveiled back in August — got some product flesh on its bones. Aimed at hosters, MSPs, telcos, system integrators, plus media/entertainment and web tech companies, the DSS products are stripped-down 'white-box'-like servers lacking advanced management software and cosmetic features such as bezels. Crucially, though, the DSS servers retain traditional big-name-vendor advantages like design and build quality, customer relations, global availability and 24/7 support.
There are three DSS series: 1000, 2000 and 7000. The 1000 and 2000 series are standard rack-based 1U and 2U servers respectively, supporting one or two CPU sockets. The 7000, which is based on the DCS XA90, is a different beast: it's a high-density 4U storage server that accommodates two dual-socket server nodes and 90 hot-serviceable 3.5-inch drives, delivering up to 720TB of raw storage capacity for customers such as hosters and MSPs.
SC storage arrays and XC appliances
In the corporate SAN/NAS market, Dell unveiled a new high-end storage array in the shape of the SC9000, which becomes the flagship product in what was the Compellent product line. Based on Dell's 13th-generation PowerEdge servers with a 12Gbps SAS back end, the hybrid/all-flash SC9000 slots in above the existing SC8000, offering up to 3PB of raw storage capacity and, according to Dell, 40 percent more IOPS and more than double the throughput.
Also new for the SC series is version 6.7 of the Dell Storage Center operating system, which includes auto-failover for the Live Volume high-availability feature, thereby enabling zero-workload downtime — essential for mission-critical applications. In addition, ThinImport allows Dell's EqualLogic PS customers to port data to high-end SC series arrays for consolidation, backup or batch-processing, for example.
Dell's XC series of Nutanix-based software-defined converged appliances is refreshed with the high-density 44TB, four compute node, 2U XC6320 — including an all-flash XC6320-6F model. The existing XC630 appliance gets an all-flash (XC630-10F) model too. Future versions of the Nutanix operating system (NOS) will also be able to tier between write-intensive and read-intensive flash.
New deployment services
Dell Services has added a new ProDeploy offering, comprising a three-tier infrastructure deployment service. The Basic service provides technicians who will rack, stack, cable and label equipment onsite, and dispose of packaging materials. ProDeploy provides Dell-certified network engineers who will also configure and optimize the new hardware — and the OS and hypervisor if required — either remotely or onsite. The flagship ProDeploy Plus service adds tools-based environment mapping to give a before/after picture of a customer's infrastructure, migration planning for moving data to the new Dell platform, and network integration with third-party infrastructure from the likes of Cisco, Juniper, Brocade and HP. Post-deployment configuration assistance is also provided for 30 days, along with training credits for Dell education services to help train up in-house staff.
Dell has benchmarked its ProDeploy service against experienced IT professionals from Principal Technologies and found that it required 75 percent less planning time, was 39 percent faster, took 91 percent less customer effort and saved over $2000 per deployed unit (server, storage array, network switch). Dell is also offering ProDeploy certification to its channel partners, which will allow them to resell a Dell-branded deployment service.
Dell Data Protection (DDP) solutions
Dell's DDP portfolio has been built from a number of acquisitions — including AppAssure, Quest, NetVault, vRanger and Ocarina Networks — which it has built into an end-to-end solution. New to the fold is Dell Data Protection | Rapid Recovery, or DDP|RR, which integrates AppAssure and other Dell IP into a new continuous backup/recovery product. DDP|RR can take snapshots of the state of physical and virtual (ESXi-based) systems every 15 minutes, compressing and deduplicating changed data, and restoring "in seconds," according to Fabio Invernizzi, Dell's EMEA data protection director. Agentless backup of VMware Vsphere-hosted virtual machines has also been added via integrated vRanger technology (with Hyper-V support to come), along with R3 compression/deduplication technology from Ocarina.
Dell also unveiled an Endpoint Recovery tool, DDP|ER, that delivers continuous backup and recovery for Windows clients to private cloud infrastructure in the first release, with support for other operating systems and public cloud to follow.
There was a lot more at Dell World, of course, including the announcement of the Dell Hybrid Cloud System for Microsoft, a 'cloud-in-a-box' system, combining Dell servers and switches with preconfigured Azure-based Cloud Platform System (CPS) software from Microsoft.
Dell's traditional PC heartland wasn't ignored either. Michael Dell confirmed his company's commitment to the PC business, saying: "PCs are core to our strategy and we are not leaving the PC business. We are giving people a lot of reasons to upgrade and we have been working closely with Microsoft on Windows 10 for years." New announcements included a refresh of the business-focused OptiPlex range with 'smaller, faster and more energy-efficient' systems based on 6th-generation Intel Skylake processors.
One cloud appeared on the Dell/EMC horizon this week, though. Following the announcement on Tuesday that EMC and VMware planned to create a cloud-computing subsidiary under the Virtustream banner (EMC bought Virtustream back in May), shares in VMware dropped sharply, causing EMC to admit that it could have done a better job of explaining the VMware-Virtustream move to a market that's in the throes of digesting the implications of the Dell acquisition.
"If you think back to when we took Dell private," said Michael Dell in his opening keynote at Dell World, "I kept getting asked if we would still do acquisitions...well, 'go big or go home baby'."
Dell has certainly gone big with the $67bn EMC acquisition. What happens next will be fascinating to watch.