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It’s a multicloud world: Dell Technologies embraces software innovation

Dell Technologies (NYSE: DELL) will undoubtedly face stiff competition on its journey to multicloud leadership. Building a simplified and unified multicloud environment remains an elusive concept for customers operating on a diverse set of platforms serving unique stakeholders. While by TBR’s own analysis, building a fully unified cloud experience for customers remains a distant goal for many vendors, Dell Technologies is taking steps in this direction by giving customers the tools to manage workloads running on Dell Technologies platforms more seamlessly and enabling customers to utilize Dell Technologies’ stack in tandem with public cloud. Success will hinge on Dell Technologies’ ability to scale partnerships, the speed at which Project Alpine initiatives ae rolled out to the market, and the company’s ability to win customers’ favor in leveraging Dell Technologies’ SaaS platforms for multicloud management.

Dell Technologies unveiled a series of multicloud initiatives, with software taking center stage

Jeff Clarke, vice chairman and co-chief operating officer for Dell Technologies, opened Tuesday’s keynote by pointing out that software innovation across the industry is consistently outpacing hardware innovation. This theme resonated throughout the event, which focused on Dell Technologies and partner capabilities that can marry on-premises and public cloud data, automate IT management tasks and enhance security. Dell Technologies is building an ecosystem around its ISG portfolio that can increase the value of its own software and tools, particularly in the storage space.

ISG has performed competitively versus market peers over the past year, growing 4% year-to-year in 2021 to $34 billion in annual revenue. Although much of the product emphasis during Dell Technologies World focused on storage innovations, recent ISG growth has predominantly been driven by the server and networking business, which was up 4% in 2021, while storage has remained flat, partially due to marketwide challenges around securing components. Dell Technologies’ leadership position in the storage market is a key advantage for the company and is important to protect, particularly as competitors such as Pure Storage (NYSE: PSTG) and NetApp (Nasdaq: NTAP) have intensified their focus on hybrid cloud storage solutions via partnerships with major hyperscalers.

APEX and Project Alpine announcements focus on data protection and multicloud capabilities

The primary service expansion announced for Dell Technologies APEX, Dell Technologies’ portfolio of cloud and IaaS offerings, was Dell Technologies APEX Cyber Recovery Services. This managed service provides day-to-day management of cyber recovery vault operations and assistance with data recovery should a cyberattack occur — valuable capabilities that help customers not only deal with ever-increasing ransomware threats but also fill in gaps for customers whose IT teams lack the capacity and expertise to address security issues.

Dell Technologies also expanded its partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS)(Nasdaq: AMZN), announcing CyberSense for Dell Technologies PowerProtect Cyber Recovery for AWS, which adds AI and machine learning-based monitoring of files to determine if a cyberattack has occurred as well as applies post-attack forensics to identify the customer’s last good backup copy.

While Product Group VP Caitlin Gordon noted that Dell Technologies is not new to hyperscale partnerships, with 1,500 companies already using Dell Technologies Data Protection on AWS, expanding the breadth of the company’s partnerships to include more services and a larger number of cloud providers is essential to address a more robust number of customer use cases. Gordon stated that the Dell Technologies PowerProtect Cyber Recovery Service, which was launched with AWS in 4Q21, will be available on Microsoft Azure in the second half of 2022.

Dell Technologies’ Project Alpine, introduced in January, encapsulates the company’s efforts to make more of its software available on public clouds. Project Alpine will make Dell Technologies’ block and file storage software available on public clouds to give customers a unified experience managing and moving workloads between their on-premises Dell Technologies infrastructure and public clouds. Gordon provided an update on the progress of Project Alpine, noting that customers will be able to access the same Dell Technologies management tools they are already familiar with via a SaaS interface to move data between environments. Project Alpine is a key step in not only increasing the appeal of Dell Technologies’ storage portfolio but also remaining competitive against storage peers that are taking a similar approach to cloud alliances, such as Pure Storage Cloud Block Store, Azure NetApp Files and Amazon FSx for NetApp ONTAP.

Dell Technologies lands the first on-premises partnership with Snowflake

Dell Technologies is the first hardware vendor to announce a partnership with Snowflake (NYSE: SNOW), a data warehouse company popular among public cloud users for analyzing and managing their company data. With this new partnership, Dell Technologies customers will be able to bring their on-premises data sets into the Snowflake cloud alongside public cloud data sets, a capability that is currently not available for other vendors’ on-premises systems. This type of partnership is an example of how Dell Technologies is expanding customer choice and the capabilities of its platforms, a trend that is likely to continue as Dell Technologies grows its partner roster and perhaps begins to ramp up acquisitions following the spinoff of VMware (NYSE: VMW) in late 2021.

Storage updates focus on software innovation
Dell Technologies focused on the software innovation theme as it highlighted improvements to its storage portfolio, which includes PowerMax, PowerStore and PowerFlex. For the enterprise PowerMax storage product line, Dell Technologies emphasized the zero-trust architecture and increased intelligence and automation, which reduces NVMe-over-TCP setup time by 44% and guarantees a 4:1 data reduction ratio. Dell Technologies highlighted a more SaaS-based approach for its midrange PowerStore operating system software, rolling out version 3.0 to customers free of charge with 120 new features.

Dell Technologies commits to making its products developer-friendly

Perhaps one of the most critical aspects of gaining share in multicloud environments for Dell Technologies will be winning over developers, an audience that has been more of a tangential focus for Dell Technologies in the past as its historical customer base has been rooted in infrastructure managers. In his keynote address, CEO Michael Dell noted the company is focused on making its solutions API-driven, increasing levels of automation and supporting Kubernetes platforms like VMware’s Tanzu and Red Hat’s OpenShift in addition to AWS EKS, which is available on Dell EMC VxRail and PowerStore.

Dell Technologies CIO and chief digital officer Jen Felch went on to discuss how the company has applied these principles to its own IT department. Dell Technologies focused on its own developer experience by creating self-service infrastructure through automation of virtual machine provisioning, networking and container deployment, in addition to providing developers with increased cost transparency to help them make more informed decisions. This was orchestrated through the Dell Technologies Developer Cloud, a user interface utilized by Dell Technologies’ developer and infrastructure teams. Per Dell Technologies’ own internal audit, enabling a self-service infrastructure helped the company’s developers increase their time spent on software development (versus administrative tasks) from 20% to 75%, a success point that Dell Technologies believes it can help its customer base achieve. Dell and Felch did not comment on what the company is doing to cultivate a Dell developer community, which will be another critical element to driving participation in the Dell ecosystem.

While multicloud took center stage, PC innovations highlighted collaboration and security

Dell Technologies’ PC business has been fueling the company’s revenue growth, with the Client Solutions Group (CSG) growing 27% year-to-year in 2021 to $61 billion in revenue, while also supporting strong margins. Highlighted PC innovations focused on the top end of Dell Technologies’ portfolio, for both business laptops and the Alienware gaming line, with a theme of collaboration, connectivity and security. Dell Technologies showcased a prototype of its Latitude 9330 laptop featuring buttons built into the trackpad to manage virtual conferencing functions such as turning the camera and microphone on and off, chatting, and sharing content. The PC also leverages AI-based features such as fixing videoconferencing performance issues by connecting to multiple networks simultaneously to increase bandwidth. From a privacy and security standpoint, the PC can detect whether onlookers are viewing the user’s screen and obscures the content from view.

Aside from innovations centered on user experience, Dell Technologies showcased the company’s focus on sustainability in PC design via Concept Luna, a three-pronged approach to reducing the carbon footprint of PCs by decreasing the size of components such as motherboards, intentionally choosing eco-friendly materials, and designing PCs to be more serviceable, which facilitates repairs and refurbishment.

Conclusion

Dell Technologies World 2022 illustrated Dell Technologies’ intentions to enable a multicloud ecosystem for its customers. The company is taking a broader approach, rather than relying solely on its APEX “as a Service” portfolio to drive growth, by embracing partnership opportunities with public cloud vendors and turning its attention toward meeting the needs of developers who are consuming vast amounts of infrastructure services. Partnerships are also a focal point for building a broader ecosystem. While Dell Technologies’ relationship with VMware remains close, the company’s first major event since the VMware spinoff gave Dell Technologies greater opportunity to highlight a broader range of partnerships, including its new alliance with Snowflake and in support of customers using OpenShift. The multicloud messaging throughout the event demonstrated that Dell Technologies understands its customers’ most essential market needs, and now the company must focus on executing to meet those demands, particularly through Project Alpine and by expanding its strategies to better cater to developers.

TBR releases exclusive webinar content from 2022 Prediction series

Technology Business Research, Inc. (TBR) announces on-demand availability of all of our 2022 Predictions webinars. Predictions is an annual special series examining market trends and business changes in key markets, such as cloud, IT services, digital transformation and telecom.

COVID-19 changes everything: What’s next for devices and IoT?

In pandemic recovery, IoT will contribute to organizations’ resilience, while PC sales will suffer from saturation

The COVID-19 outbreak has had two effects on pre-existing trends: In many cases, such as the migration to remote working, it has accelerated them, and in others, like the deployment of voice solutions in workplace environments, it has interrupted them. Where trends are accelerated, we can expect a slowdown or temporary rebound as the economy recovers from the impacts of the pandemic, followed by a resumption of the trend. Where trends are interrupted, resumption will often be delayed until later in the recovery, when there is less uncertainty.

Under these circumstances, it is worthwhile to look back at last year’s predictions:

  • There will be less talk of IoT, as it will be increasingly viewed as one technique among many for delivering digital transformation.

This trend was accelerated by the pandemic, as organizations focused on operating in the crisis and preparing for greater uncertainty during and following the recovery. In a sense, once IoT was better understood by customer organizations, including IT, operational technology (OT) and business management, it no longer required special attention. The focus shifted from the enabling technology, IoT, to the problems to be solved using all techniques including IoT.

  • AI in IoT will increasingly be encapsulated in specific functions like recognition and detection.

This trend was also accelerated by the pandemic, as organizations focused on point solutions that included IoT and strategic solutions that incorporated data from all sources, including from IoT. At the edge, AI is aimed at improving operations by increasing efficiency and reducing errors as well as recognizing things like anomalies and patterns that imply a need for service. IoT-generated data contributes to AI-enabled business analysis, but that is as part of a larger body of data, including data from other sources, and is typically done either in the cloud or in on-premises data centers.

  • Conversational user interfaces, based on voice or typed communication, will play an increasing role in business solutions.

Many natural language processing (NLP) projects have been deferred or slowed due to pandemic constraints as well as organizations diverting attention and dollars to more pressing needs or to husbanding resources for a more uncertain future. A minority of NLP projects, especially ones already in use, have been accelerated because they reduce dependency on human operators. While conversational solutions remain in the digital transformation tool kit, TBR believes NLP will remain a lower priority for the first stages of recovery, as organizations look to solutions that increase resilience and transparency.

This focus on digital transformation for resilience and transparency, giving organizations the flexibility to adapt to changing conditions in the pandemic recovery and economic unpredictability, is, TBR believes, the next phase in the evolution of commercial IoT. At the same time, the PC industry faces a saturation-driven reduction in demand following a pandemic-driven surge in 2020.

2021 Devices & Commercial IoT Predictions

  • The emergence of the chief data officer role will increase organizational clarity, accelerating IoT adoption
  • Packaged solutions and components will become more important
  • Despite enjoying an increase in TAM, PC vendors suffer from market saturation, a weak global economy and demand for resale units

Technology Business Research 2021 Predictions is a special series examining market trends and business changes in key markets. Covered segments include cloud & software, telecom, devices & commercial IoT, data center, and services & digital.

COVID-19 changes everything: What’s next for devices and IoT?

The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated some trends and slowed others. In IoT, the emphasis has shifted to a more strategic approach to achieve greater resilience and transparency, while projects largely aimed at increasing operational efficiency have be put on the backburner. At the same time, the crisis has accelerated a maturation in customer organizations that makes it easier to build IoT into digital transformation strategies. In devices, especially in PCs, the 2020 surge in consumer demand will be followed, TBR believes, by market saturation, reducing revenue and driving down margins.

Don’t miss:

  • The new division of labor in IoT customer organizations     
  • Specialized packages and bundles simplify vendors’ go-to-market strategies
  • How the increased PC total addressable market will affect the near-term PC market

Mark your calendars for Wednesday, Jan. 6, at 1 p.m. EST,
and REGISTER to reserve your space.

TBR webinars are held typically on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. ET and include a 15-minute Q&A session following the main presentation. Previous webinars can be viewed anytime on TBR’s Webinar Portal.

For additional information or to arrange a briefing with our analysts, please contact TBR at [email protected].

PC status report: PCs reach a turning point

Join Ezra Gottheil and Eric Costa for a presentation on the PC market’s “interesting year” of 2020, where demand skyrocketed as more people used more PCs for more purposes than ever before. TBR believes the pandemic positively disrupted the PC market, giving the total available market a boost that will endure past the end of the crisis. However, the market will be largely saturated going into a year of recession.

Don’t miss:

  • How PC use and the perception of PCs have changed, and what the long-term implications are for vendors
  • How the changes are affecting Device as a Service (DaaS), PC management, and the relationship between users and vendors
  • How the major vendors are responding to a disrupted PC market

Technology Business Research, Inc. announces 3Q20 webinar schedule

Technology Business Research, Inc. (TBR) announces the schedule for its 3Q20 webinar series.

July 15          The long view: Which post-pandemic trends will shape the world in 2030?

Technology trends that were shaping the digital transformation world pre-pandemic as well as predictions for 2030

July 29          From boom to bust and back: COVID-19 changes dynamics of consulting-led digital transformation programs

Key findings around leading IT services and management consulting vendors’ performances as well as evolving buyer expectations around service delivery and vendor consolidation

Aug. 26        5G is coming faster than originally expected

Impact of key market occurrences over the past six months on the 5G market and the broader ICT ecosystem

Sept. 16       Cloud vendors expand their go-to-market tool kits

How vendor go-to-market strategies are evolving and becoming increasingly creative in the cloud era

Sept. 23       PCs in a pandemic

How the global COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the PC business and the use of PCs in general

Sept. 30       Federal IT moves past COVID-19

Trends shaping the federal IT market as the federal government’s fiscal year comes to a close

TBR webinars are held typically each Wednesday at 1 p.m. EDT and include a 15-minute Q&A following the main presentation. Previous webinars can be viewed anytime on TBR’s Webinar Portal.

For additional information or to arrange a briefing with our analysts, please contact TBR at [email protected].

PCs in a pandemic

Join Ezra Gottheil and Eric Costa Sept. 23 for a presentation on how the global COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the PC business as well as the use of PCs. As people use PCs to work, learn and play at home, what are the implications for the types of PCs they are using, the environment in which PCs are used, and the future relationship between users and PCs, even after recovery?

Don’t miss:

  • How social distancing has affected how PCs are used and how the PC business runs
  • The long-term effects of the economic crisis beyond recovery from coronavirus
  • The effect of the crisis on the PC total available market as well as the implications

COVID-19 creates pain, change and even pockets of opportunity for the IT industry

There is still a fog of uncertainty around COVID-19’s impact. What is clear, however, is this outbreak is unlike any event in living history. The long-term health crisis, economic disruption and social disruption are occurring at levels that were unfathomable just months ago. These changes are taking place in a world that is much different from when the last widespread pandemic, the Spanish flu, hit more than 100 years ago. Technology has become such an integral part of our lives since that time and, as such, will be deeply ingrained in many of the short-term and long-term effects of the COVID-19 virus. In this report, TBR will provide a high-level overview of the impact these recent events will have across the hardware, software, cloud, telecom and services markets we cover. While most of the market effects will be painful due to the economic disruption occurring, many will lead to changes in long-held business strategies and create opportunities as technology needs shift for both individuals and organizations.

Social distancing challenges core of IT services industry

Pain: At the core, IT services and professional services are human-centric businesses, delivered by humans and intended to improve employees’ efficiency or accelerate their ability to connect with clients and enable growth. Changes in travel and personal interaction as well as business disruption all challenge the existing IT services business model. Additionally, many of the largest IT services providers will have new leadership tasked with managing these disruptions. In 2019 TBR noted a large number of C-level changes at the largest IT services vendors and consulting firms, as well as their technology partners. Those leaders will be tested in the coming months, and TBR anticipated more positive than negative reviews. More significantly for the long-term business impacts will be the performance of those leaders at the team and business group level, the equivalent of squad leaders and company commanders in a military organization. Adjusting to COVID-19 safety measures; managing people remotely; delivering to clients and managing their expectations, particularly in a tough economy; and continuing to lead — those will be massive challenges for team leaders. How well prepared they are, how well their companies have trained them, and how agile and flexible they can be in an ever-changing business climate are the factors that will distinguish high-performing IT services vendors and consultancies from struggling ones in 2020. The CEOs and top leadership will set the tone, but execution at the lower levels will become exponentially more difficult with this pandemic. 

Change: TBR has already spoken with consultancies and IT services vendors grappling with changes to their business models, particularly around collaborative design sessions in the early stages of digital transformation engagements. Vendors with pilot projects to enhance global coordination and project management have accelerated those efforts and expect to invest heavily in the infrastructure needed to perform at speed and at scale. Vendors have also begun evaluating their technology alliances and resetting expectations around large-scale systems integrations. Also being mentioned are new engagements based on COVID-19, including technology consulting around delivering healthcare — and, critically, testing — through “drive-up” systems.

Opportunity: TBR expects that recent trends around automation, AI and platform-delivered services will be catalyzed by the spread of COVID-19 and imperatives to work remotely and with minimal in-person contact, resulting in a few knock-on effects across the broad IT services and consulting space. Most significantly, those companies that have invested most heavily in automation and remote delivery will see the least impact on their engagements, even if clients begin to freeze or reduce spend in line with a broader economic slowdown. Second, consultancies and IT services vendors with experience in online, remote training and upskilling will be able to both continue their own digital transformations and provide offerings around human capital training and management based on their own lessons learned and best practices. Third, vendors that anticipated a global economic slowdown and prepared to take advantage of lower costs for acquisitions and new opportunities to assist clients in distressed markets — while they likely did not anticipate this virus — are best positioned to provide consulting and IT services throughout the pandemic.

HP Inc. reaffirms its rejection of Xerox offer

As of this writing, Xerox is attempting a hostile takeover of HP Inc., after HP Inc.’s board reiterated its rejection of Xerox’s offer on Jan. 9, 2020, and has obtained a commitment for the necessary $24 million loan to complete the deal should HP Inc. accept a Xerox offer.

HP Inc. continues to contend Xerox’s valuation of approximately $33 billion is too low, implying it would consider an offer with a higher valuation. HP Inc.’s stock market valuation is almost four times that of Xerox.

Acquisition remains a possibility

HP Inc.’s board has signaled its willingness to consider higher offers, as the driver of the offer, activist investor Carl Icahn, is a major stockholder in both companies and there is considerable overlap among leading institutional investors in both companies. Nevertheless, since the first offer was made, HP Inc.’s stock has increased in value and Xerox’s has decreased, making the proposed acquisition less attractive to shareholders. Xerox is limited in how much it can increase its offer, since higher offers would increase the debt carried by the new company.

Supporters of the acquisition recognize that Xerox’s and HP Inc.’s printing and printing-related services businesses are very complementary. Xerox is stronger in the enterprise, while HP Inc. is stronger with SMBs. HP Inc. relies on a strong channel, with emphasis on value-added services, and Xerox has a larger direct business, with channel partners relegated more to a reseller model. Xerox owns a more comprehensive services business, Xerox Business Services, that retains its locally and vertically oriented subsidiaries. HP Inc. is relatively stronger outside North America, especially with SMBs.

But it could go the other way

Because of its larger size and lower debt burden, HP Inc. is positioned to counteroffer Xerox with an offer to merge. The companies were in talks before Xerox’s original offer, and HP Inc.’s objection to the current offer is regarding valuation, so TBR believes HP Inc.’s board would consider a merger on better terms. Both companies are executing restructuring plans that involve headcount reduction to adapt to the globally shrinking market for printing, and therefore, print supplies, which has been a profitable part of both businesses. Both restructuring plans are also aggressive, Xerox’s more so than that of HP Inc. However, TBR believes Xerox’s proposed plan for the new company is too aggressive for HP Inc., suggesting an HP Inc. acquisition of Xerox, or a more equal merger, would not align with the plans of Icahn or the Xerox board.

3D printing: HP Inc.’s unhidden gem

The not-so-hidden gem in the HP Inc. portfolio is additive manufacturing, more commonly called 3D printing. HP Inc. has more than a decade of research in this field, growing out of the inkjet business. It has products and customers and regularly announces partnerships, small acquisitions and improvements in speed, size and materials. TBR believes 3D printing is a slow-moving, large-scale disruptor, starting with medical applications and retail customization and expanding into repair parts and low-volume manufacturing. Over time, 3D printing will drive top-line growth that the mature PC and printing businesses cannot. Xerox’s plan includes 3D printing, but it is one of many ostensibly adjacent businesses in which it has an interest. It is not clear that a Xerox-led merged company would continue to make the investments necessary to capitalize on this gem.

The PC impact

The big question for the PC industry is what a unified company would do with HP Inc.’s PC business. For HP Inc., PCs are a relatively low-margin business but generate a considerable amount of cash because of an advantageous cash conversion cycle. Spinning off or selling the PC business to reduce the new company’s debt burden is one possibility; however, Xerox has plans to leverage HP Inc. to make its services businesses more comprehensive, effectively combining managed print services with PCaaS.

There are no obvious acquirers for HP Inc.’s PC business. Acquisition by HP Inc.’s primary competitors, Dell Technologies and Lenovo, would probably be met with regulatory objections. Huawei is too restricted in the U.S. market, due to concerns over Huawei device security, to profit from such a deal. These facts suggest that an offer for HP Inc.’s PC business would be too low for the new entity’s needs.

Irrespective of the future of this deal, the uncertainty has opened up opportunities for HP Inc.’s primary PC competitors among customers and partners. While a merger would be more disruptive than the uncertainty, a spinoff or sale of HP Inc.’s PC business would be more disruptive than a merger. And TBR believes the uncertainty of this deal will continue to hinder HP Inc. as a whole until issues are resolved.