Dell Technologies World this week was about expanding the Digital Transformation story, this time through the entire technology family. With his keynote on Monday, Michael Dell extended the idea of digital transformation beyond simply a competitive necessity (“technology strategy is business strategy”) to becoming an engine by which businesses could positively change the world as “technology amplifies human activity.”
These conversations about the greater role of technology set the pace for the rest of the event in a couple of important ways.
First, as an analyst, it is often easy for us to assume that everyone in IT has the same view of the future as we do, that everyone just intuitively understands the greater role that data plays in our economy, and what that means for their business. While this understanding is still growing, it isn’t there with everyone yet. IT is a conservative space. The more conversation the better. The digital transformation message is an important one that every business needs to internalize. Also, this higher-level theme allowed Dell Technologies to bring in the other members of the family and extend the conversation beyond just Dell EMC to VMware and Pivotal as well. Speaking of the family, from discussions throughout the event, I was able to get a glimpse of where collaboration is starting to emerge. While I had hoped for some larger announcements in this regard, it is important to remember that these things take time and Dell Technologies is moving in the right direction.
Second, in terms of announcements, the big ones for me were related to the new PowerEdge options and the new Dell EMC PowerMax (a high-end VMAX).
- On the PowerEdge side, Dell EMC introduced the R940xa and the R840. The R940xa is of particular interest to me: a four-socket server that can combine four CPUs with four GPUs with the ability to connect to NVMe flash drives. While it’s easy to love a powerful server, I think the R940xa is a forward step in an important strategic direction for Dell EMC. There is a lot of talk about the importance of transformational workloads, such as artificial intelligence(AI) and machine learning (ML), to ensure that businesses stay competitive. That is all well and good, but businesses need some pretty high-powered tech to make those workloads run effectively. And if AI/ML is important for every business, every business needs access to the tools necessary to succeed with AI/ML. In other words, we need to democratize the supercomputer. And I am hard pressed to think of anything else that is more in line with the DNA of Dell than that. It would not surprise me if PowerEdge plays a major role in making the compute power necessary to run these intensive, transformational, and competitively necessary workloads (such as AI/ML) far more accessible in the coming years.
- PowerMax: Speaking of high powered, DellEMC introduced the PowerMax, which Jeff Clarke (and Dell EMC) claimed will support 10M IOPs and be the world’s fastest storage array. After a quick look, I am a fan. It’s end-to-end NVMe and designed for storage class memory (SCM) in addition to flash. I am a huge believer in flash. I have written numerous time that if you are not using flash, you are doing your business a disservice. For me, the all-flash era cannot get here soon enough. Delivering a high-end storage array that is just flash and SCM, no HDDs, signals the end of the disk storage era for supporting any sort of performance-needy workload. While some of the cool tech in PowerMax is labeled as future-ready, such as support for NVMe-over-fabrics, I am very interested to see which SCM options emerge and when. Now is the time to get the architecture out there. Waiting for every single piece to be completed (such as NVMe-over-fabrics) prior to launching the system just slows down access to these technologies. The current concern with NVMe flash storage of course is the price, but prices come down. And Dell EMC has the benefit of having an entire portfolio. If you don’t want to pay for the performance advantage, Dell EMC has a myriad of other options, and it looks like they will be keeping the existing VMAX options around for a while as well.
With PowerMax and PowerEdge, Dell EMC takes a huge stride in augmenting the high-powered tool set available to today’s IT organizations. The performance these products offer will likely play a major role in enabling businesses to proceed with their own digital transformation activities. As the first Dell Technologies World, this year’s event was a good start, and I am excited to watch how the larger Dell Technologies portfolio of services and solutions will evolve over time. See you there next year.