Hosted at The Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas from May 20th to the 23rd, Dell Technologies World 2023 was three days of keynotes and breakouts where attendees got the chance to hear about Dell’s latest innovations. Robert Sims was in attendance and shares his thoughts on what was showcased.
As it was my first time at a Dell Technologies World (DTW), I was keen to see how Michael Dell and colleagues would position the vision for Dell Technologies. Having attended many of these types of events, it’s always interesting to note the different approaches and priorities during the ‘big’ announcement speeches. With an expected 10,000+ people at the event, leveraging a sports arena for the keynote delivery certainly brought the scale to life!
Michael Dell took to the stage to deliver the bulk of the opening keynote and it was clear that Dell is looking to enable innovation and drive fundamental change across the world, with statements like “Ideas become innovation and innovation changes the world” and “Dell wants to deliver the power to turn idea’s into innovation”.
It was apparent the scale of the Dell operation could easily accomplish such a large aspiration. $102 billion in revenue, processing 179,000 orders per day, and shipping two units every second of every day is a testament to the power and resilience of the Dell supply chain. Combine this with 20,000 engineers working on ‘customer inspired outcomes’ and Dell really have a force to drive technology as a differentiating factor. Michael was clear that driving human progress and digital inclusion are key areas of importance to Dell and the world we live in.
Michael moved on to talk about the ‘Big Bets’ in the market and how that machine above will be focussing on delivering technology solutions that underpin each area:
- Multi Cloud
- Future of Work
Data is exploding and how organisations leverage AI will be key to differentiation and success – this is the next big revolution! Michael acknowledged the AI responsibility challenges that exist and that we must reflect our human values in how we leverage the technology. Dell sees the main value in closed industry specific LLM (Large Language Models) based on an organisation’s LLMs own domain specific data. This led to the Project Helix announcement, a collaboration between Dell and NVIDIA to help simplify the adoption of domain specific LLMs.
“Reimagine your organisation through AI” was the key message in this section.
“MultiCloud by design, not by accident” was the core message. There’s no single correct location for every or any workload and the ability to choose a platform based on the economic, performance, security, and feature requirements of each will be key to success. Providing this will require a unified storage architecture that can reduce operational complexity (also linked to the current talent gap in MultiCloud), reduce cloud storage costs, and ensure data can be leveraged in the correct location (think Edge > Cloud).
Dell is focussing on three core themes to enable the ‘By Design’ message:
- Ground to Cloud – Bringing enterprise features to cloud providers.
- Cloud to Ground – Bringing cloud-like operations and technology to on-premises.
- Air Traffic Control – Providing operational insights and control over the MultiCloud.
All three areas delivered several APEX branded launch announcements, some of which we will talk about in more detail later. Dell is on a mission to make MultiCloud work, unlock DevOps teams, and ensure we can create business value from data.
Some cool conversations followed about the new Avatar film. There was 15x more data produced over the first Avatar, taken from 26 reference cameras, creating an Exascale data challenge, while the production teams being based on multiple continents added to the technology challenges. Everything was underpinned by Dell storage and data management technologies helping to create one of the biggest films of all time.
With adoption growing as organisations look to leverage differentiation advantages, the complexity of deployment, security, and Day 2 operations at the Edge are becoming a reality. Dell already has a solid portfolio of products to support edge use cases (like the PE XE9680 and OptiPlex range), but orchestration of deployment and ongoing management are unsolved issues.
Dell announced that Project Frontier is coming to life as NativeEdge – A new frontier in Edge Operations. Providing an operational platform to cover ZeroTouch Onboarding, ZeroTouch Security, and Lifecycle Management for Edge architectures.
Dell believes the security industry is broken and fragmented and adding more technology is not the answer, saying “We need to change the fundamental foundations of security”. More on this in Day 2.
Future of Work
We’re living in a world of fundamental change in the expectations for work - Dell is the market leader in client technology so have a responsibility to support the Future of Work. There is no one size fits all solution, and the topic of employee choice will continue to grow in importance. Dell is constantly working on new devices so they can continue to delight the end users and empower IT departments. They demoed some new devices on stage with tech like LED keyboard lights that are significantly reducing power consumption and therefore increasing battery life – claiming 3+ hours of life! Also shown were safe BIOS technologies to secure the supply chain and help snuff out persistent attacks.
There was a big conversation around the use of AI in the workplace and the impact that technologies like Microsoft Co-pilot should have on productivity and creativity. They touched on some industry specific use cases like coding and medical transcription services. To support this vision in the Future of Work, Dell announce APEC PC as a Service, allowing you to wrap devices, peripherals, services, and software into a simple monthly payment.
In summary, across the five focus areas, we got a large block of announcements. Not much detail on each during the keynote (as you would expect), but I looked forward to unpacking these over the coming days of the event and as they go to GA. Here’s the full list of Day 1 announcements:
Following the APEX announcements, I headed over to a breakout session focussed on the new APEX Storage or Public Cloud. It was very interesting to see the simplicity of orchestration and speed of deployment followed by Day 2 operational insights. It’s interesting that we now have multiple storage vendors talking about the concepts of data fabrics and consistent data operations across the MultiCloud ecosystem.
The rest of the day was spent Intermixing breakout sessions and some great conversations with the customers CDW was hosting at DTW this year. It’s always great to understand the announcements and vision through the lens of the actual consumers of the technology - from secure customers that struggle to adopt cloud services to healthcare services organisations wrestling with data mobility, connectivity, and latency in the multi cloud arena.
Day two at DTW and the expectations were set very high following an amazing first day of 12+ solution announcements along with some bold statements from Dell (“Bring ideas to life and reinvent the world!”) about the role of technology in our futures.
The day two keynote was hosted by Jeff Clarke, and it really started to bring alive the announcements from day one. He entered the stage via a GenAI chatbot and made a joke around its failure to fully understand his questions – more on this later.
Jeff acknowledged that 2022 was a year of challenges in the IT sector (with supply issues etc) but believes Dell still delivered an unmatched year of innovation, reeling off the stats to support such a claim including delivering on 120 new projects, 2,500 new patents, 2,000 new storage features, 16th generation PowerEdge, 30 years of OptiPlex, and 60+ CES awards. Also, he spoke of initiatives to remove ocean waste and reuse it for packaging to support the wider sustainability initiatives.
As expected MultiCloud was a large part of the conversation, building on the Ground to Cloud and Cloud to Ground messaging from day one. Getting the right workloads to the right cloud platforms will be key to success and delivering this will require infrastructure to embed several characteristics:
- Easy to Consume
‘Get data handling right and you can get MultiCloud right’ is the Dell view. By standardising on a single storage operating model, they can remove the need for multi skilled teams, reducing the talent gap that’s crippling current adoption and transformation. Bringing the ability to manage, secure, and mobilise data from a single platform that provides consistent operations is the play for APEX Navigator for Storage, allowing that existing talent to manage a Hybrid Cloud storage portfolio consistently and simply, as the centre of the operational control.
Leveraging APEX Storage for Public Cloud brings best of breed block and file storage software features to the public cloud. Dell quoted a 300% more performance per dollar on block and a 4x better write performance on file when leveraging APEX Storage for Public Cloud!
APEX Cloud Platform brings cloud capabilities to on premises infrastructure to provide a consistent operational model across the Hybrid architecture. Take APEX Cloud Platforms for Azure (also available for RedHat and VMware) which brings a consistent Azure operational model from Azure native to on-premises.
The combination of these three solutions will deliver on the HybirdCloud by Design mantra from Dell.
Jensen Huang (NVIDIA CEO) talked to Jeff, via a recorded video, about AI and how he sees GenAI as the next big revolution - PC > Internet > Mobile > Cloud and now GenAI. This will need the right infrastructure deployed in the right locations to generate AI powered business outcomes. The location of the data will be the location of AI, and this is the plan for Project Helix – combining Dell processing and data management with NVIDIA GPU and Software. Jensen told us that the new Datacentre will be an AI factory deployed at the edge close to the data.
Kari Briski came on stage next demonstrating the value of Large Language Models (LLM) specific to an industry domain. She showed a cool demo of a virtual assistant trained on a general purpose LLM versus one trained on a domain specific LLM and how much more value this adds to the customer experience.
This is the value for Project Helix, combining Dell platforms and NVIDIA foundational models to easily train domain specific models on in house data. This was the loop back to the failed virtual assistant during Jeff’s stage entrance and really brought to life the real-world value of contextual AI.
Dell sees that data is complex to move and that there’s a pull to process at the Edge, or more specifically at the point it’s created. The cumulation of Project Frontier is the release of Dell NativeEdge, a new software management platform for Edge Operations, providing ZeroTouch, ZeroTrust, and MultiCloud by design.
The concept is to have Edge devices assembled in the Dell factory with a secure digital signature half stored on the device and half uploaded to the NativeEdge platform. The hardware can then be drop shipped to a location (for example a retail store) and simple power and network initiates provisioning. The device will contact the NativeEdge service, validate the signature (ensuring no in-transit compromise), and auto provision based on deployment blueprints configured centrally. The solution will push the base OS, security policy and updates, and even applications. All this can be defined while the device is shipping as it’s linked to the signature created in the factory, reducing time to value.
Once deployed, NativeEdge enables the ongoing Day 2 lifecycle management and remote support features. The idea is to simplify, optimise, and secure the operations of Edge deployments. All this was brought to life with a demo leveraging Edge sensors, 5G, Wi-Fi, and tags to optimise the supply chain for a food retailer, enabling an end-to-end connected supply chain that supported a just in time delivery while also reducing waste and enabling minimal inventory per store.
I managed to get to a session running a live demo of the code and it was a slick process and very impressive. I’m really looking forward to seeing more of this technology and the applicable use cases.
On stage, Herb Kelsey was introduced as the ‘Chief Zero Trust Guy’ and driving a rather large blue truck (on video, not the stage)! The truck was a concept vehicle for a fully 5G connected mobile military command centre built on a full zero trust model with embedded Edge technologies. If Dell are going to talk security seriously, they want to prove it can be done in the most stringent environments. It was a very cool combination of technology and on display in the solutions expo hall.
Dell has a vision in the Zero Trust space – they understand that the market is crowded, and security teams are overwhelmed with products, choices, FUD, and complexity. The journey needs to drive a full end to end Zero Trust model and to that goal Dell launched Project Fort Zero! Dell said “Project Fort Zero will deliver an end-to-end, validated Zero Trust solution to help organisations minimise the risk of cyberattacks” which is quite a bold statement of intent in this space.
Dell is looking to absorb the integration pain in the security landscape, taking that burden off the end customer. The concept is that Dell will define a validated security architecture built on its own and partner technologies that can be adopted to ensure comprehensive cyber protection. They are looking to have this US Department of Defence validated so that it can be trusted and adopted with confidence.
This is definitely an area to keep a close eye on!
Jen Felch (Dell CIO)
Next, we had Jen on stage, talking about how Dell leverage their own technology to drive internal IT functions. A few interesting points from a discussion that covered a wide range of topics like AI, MultiCloud by Design, Optionality, and Choice.
How Dell leverage six factors when choosing where to run an application in its own MultiCloud platforms:
1. Performance characteristics
2. Application Eco System dependencies
3. Security and Compliance requirements
5. Cost6. Environmental Impacts
It’s a very interesting conversation and an area I don’t think gets enough focus in most organisations. This is something that really should be part of the core decision process within the architecture functions.
Next followed a conversation around driving efficient use of developer resources within the organisations. Dell sees that only 20% of developers’ time is spent on coding, the rest being consumed by administrative chores. To this end, Jen announced the new Dell Managed Developer Cloud designed to remove the barriers and enable developer teams to be more productive. They also talked about nice innovations, like using GenAI for code documentation and delivering persistent storage for K8 environments.
DAY 2 FOLLOWING THE KEYNOTE
Day two followed a similar pattern to the first following the keynote with some great breakout sessions, meetings with the Dell teams around how we can work even more effectively, and more interesting conversations with the customers that joined us at DTW.
The session on the new APEX Compute launch was interesting, with Dell looking to empower cloud like economics into on premises, Edge, or collocated facilities, supporting the move to OpEx along with not owning assets that are driving many organisations. APEX Compute joins the existing APEX portfolio, allowing customers access to a simple catalogue of workload optimised compute solutions with the option to have them delivered and commissioned, all for a consistent monthly fee. As a bare metal service, the end customer has complete choice over the OS deployment, location of data sovereignty, and security. Combine this with the wider APEX portfolio and customers can deploy an end-to-end Hybrid Cloud with cloud like economics and refocus on delivering outcomes over choosing and deploying complex infrastructure.
I also attended an interesting session jointly presented by Dell and Equinix on the concept of NearCloud deployments and the benefits of being connected directly to the same locations as the cloud providers you’re leveraging. Either directly or indirectly your data will likely flow through an Equinix location – so you might as well reduce latency and connect direct. At least that’s the Equinix view. When you see the scale of global organisations that rely on the Equinix ecosystem it’s hard to ignore, the joint message being that a digital first business needs to focus on three elements: Core Adjacency, Intelligent Edge, and Interconnected Enterprise – three areas that combined Dell and Equinix are uniquely positioned to offer.
Two great days at DTW and an exciting portfolio of solutions on offer from a single vendor that’s laser focussed on delivering true value-added outcomes. I am really looking forward to bringing the conversations back to our customers and seeing how the Dell Innovation engine can truly help drive technology driven differentiation.
Having some time on the journey home to digest the content over three packed days at DTW, I wanted to share some thoughts and takeaways from the event, but first let’s talk a little about the day three keynote.
The final day keynote was a departure from talking directly about technology, focussing on different viewpoints on the topics of Cyber Security and Digital Risk. The conversation was led by Bobbie Stempfley (Dell Vice President and Business Unit Security Officer) who introduced the speakers:
- Frank Abagnale – Former Cyber Criminal
- Kim Zetter - Investigative Journalist who specializes in cyber security.
- Oz Alashe – Technologist
Bobbie talked about how we don’t see the threats in technology until the first attack happens. Think about email and the internet before the first threats. Are we ready for the next jump in technology innovation and ready before the first attack? The posed statement was that technology is an incomplete picture and we need to consider the human impact on digital risk, creating a culture of security awareness to help us all differentiate as new technology emerges.
Frank touched on three core requirements. Firstly, Prevention, as money fraud cost the US $110 billion last year and 91% of that will never be recovered. This money fuels criminal activities that fund direct human misery around the world. Second was Verification – in a world of deep fakes, can you trust the voice you’re hearing or images you’re seeing? And third: Education, as this will be the human factor, warning that AI alone would not be the answer to social engineering. Our culture of fast time to market leads to cutting corners, and the cyber attackers will leverage these soft spots as points to attack.
Kim has been covering Cybercrime for 15 years with no vested interest in the technology only the human impact and outcome. She raised four key points during her presentation:
- Insider Threat – The ones who have access are the issue, something not even the US government has solved!
- Failure to Imagine – Not thinking about how systems could be used to expose data. Think SolarWinds supply chain breach.
- Failing at the Basics – Simple outcomes could be blocked by simple solutions – for example, why do critical servers have internet access at all?
- Going Beyond the Basics – Organisations paying ransomware as they have no plans in place that could deliver business recovery. Many organisations have backups but have not truly tested the business level recovery or the time taken, so end up paying!
Oz talked about how circumstance drives behaviour and how the world relies on trust to operate. Imagine a world without any trust! His belief is that technology is both undermining and building trust and we need to balance its use. Trust is the foundation of our society, and we now see voice and facial deep fakes threaten to undermine that fundamental requirement. While technologies like Blockchain can build trust and be a force for good, education was the action in the end, the more digital inclusive the world is the more positivity we can drive from technology use.
It was an engaging session and provoked many thoughts. How can we drive the overall digital maturity of the world so we avoid gaps in inclusivity that can then be exploited by bad actors? It’s something everyone should dedicate some thought to.
Moving onto the wrap up, here’s a quick reminder of what we’ve covered - five big bets from Dell that will focus that massive 20,000 strong innovation engine:
- Multi Cloud
- Future of Work
Along with a large range of solution announcements bringing each to life:
- Dell APEX Block Storage for Azure
- Dell APEX File Storage for Azure
- Dell APEX Block Storage for AWS
- Dell APEX File Storage for AWS
- Dell APEX Cloud Platform for VMware
- Dell APEX Cloud Platform for OpenShift
- Dell APEX Navigator for MultiCloud Storage
- Dell APEX Compute
- Databricks Collaboration
- Dell APEX PC as a Service
- Project Helix
Data Fabrics and Multi Cloud
I am happy to see the world moving on from the cloud first era (read cloud only era) to a more cloud considered or cloud when it delivers business value era. Born in the cloud companies have the freedom to ignore 10-20 years of technical debt, while the reality for many organisations is they have been running applications in traditional architectures over this same period and the Hybrid Multi Cloud world is going to be a reality for some time to come. Moving traditional architecture to public cloud is not always the right answer, but not being able to leverage cloud native benefits should not be a penalty to these same organisations.
Leveraging a MultiCloud architecture that supports Edge, Core, and Cloud, allowing each workload to run in the most effective location, must be the goal. The Dell APEX portfolio could be an option to provide organisations the agility to scale in either a Public or Private location as requirements dictate, providing protection against future unknowns (think the next global level event) while not limiting the speed of innovation to unlock new opportunities.
It’s interesting to hear the term Data Fabric used during the DTW week; we now have (at least) three major players in the enterprise storage space making Hybrid Cloud data mobility a key focus area. When we see this amount of focus from the major players it really is time to take notice and understand how it can benefit our organisation.
Finally, I could not miss the VMware conversation. I think it’s positive to see the continued innovation and investment in VxRail and all the benefits that joint engineering brings. The sessions on VxRail and the content really showed the future of the partnership. But it was also good to see Dell’s investments in the ‘Flex’ platform for those organisations looking to possibly move into the post VMWare era. True choice based on your needs!
AI has taken over as the next big conversation – it was ‘Meta’ last year and now GenAI is the buzz. I think this is for good reason and every organisation needs to understand if and how they can leverage it to provide a differentiated level of customer outcomes. Some industry segments have a much clearer use, but some creative thinking and its application are likely to show value for most sectors. Organisations need to have a clear policy in the use of AI technology and communicate this to the market. New generations of the workforce are buying and working based on their own personal brand with topics like sustainability and human rights driving decision making. Misuse of AI has the potential to damage reputations and impact talent attraction opportunities.
I would urge everyone to make an active decision to engage with AI – set a clear strategy and align an easy-to-understand policy as well as an ethical position. Then put the technology to work to drive your customer experience!
Future of Work
People are your most important asset just as ours are here at CDW. There’s no doubt the world of work has changed over the last 2-3 years and will never be the same again. I really don’t think many organisations have truly grasped how to deliver on hybrid working and balance the use of technology, management styles, or the core functions of employee satisfaction. The ‘no one size fits all’ message from Dell resonated and aligns well with the employee choice conversations we’re having with customers. Talent is a troubling commodity at the moment and getting it ‘right’ for employees and the business will be key to winning the battle and enabling organisations to differentiate.
The power of the Dell innovation engine, supply chain, and insights into customer requirements is a real force to be reckoned with. The Dell purpose of driving human progress and tackling the global digital inclusion challenge also aligns with the next generation workforce brand. Aligning an organisation to the Dell technology portfolio, especially in MultiCloud, Future of Work, and AI, will offer access to solutions to underpin true transformation.
I don’t think this combination should be underestimated. We live in an ever more volatile world and having access to a solid supply chain and a technology vision to support whatever the future brings will be important.
One topic that was key through almost all the conversations at DTW was security. It’s clear Dell are on a mission to simplify this space and build features directly into the technology to help combat modern threats. If they can deliver with Project Fort Zero, we could see a game changing shift – let’s keep a close eye on developments.
The comments from Kim really echoed the challenges I’ve been seeing with customers in recent years, going beyond the basics. True Cyber Resilience is not just a technology challenge, in many organisations it’s treated purely as a platform recovery conversation (IT issue, not a business wide issue) with no consideration for the business functions or human elements. We need to take a much more inclusive approach and really understand the end-to-end impact of recovery so that when the breach happens, we can truly recover.
One last thought I was left with following the event: the strength of the CDW and Dell partnership. Our people are aligned on the goal of leveraging technology to deliver differentiated outcomes for our joint customers.
Please do reach out if you would like to know more about any of the topics covered in this blog or tap into the power of the joint CDW and Dell partnership.