DellEMCWorld 2016 – I’m impressed!

My DellEMCWorld ride from Los Angeles to AustinWhen the news about the Dell and EMC merger became public last year, I was somewhat skeptical. I’ve had some really sketchy experiences with Dell servers and storage products, so it didn’t feel like a step forward. At the same time there was the organizational and support aspect. Mergers usually result in confusion for both sales processes and us people in the field having to glue all the products together. Not something I was looking forward to.

Lo and behold: I got an invite from the EMC Elect program to attend DellEMCWorld in Austin, Texas! This was my chance to fly over there and experience the merger announcements firsthand, plus ask questions. So I did! And I have to say: I was impressed. 

DellEMCWorld & The EMC Elect

The EMC Elect were invited to DellEMCWorld as social influencers, which put us in the same bracket as the press and analysts. Victor Forde has a nice picture a about our reach on social media in his post. Apart from occupying a couple of seats closer to the stage, this meant we were also each scheduled for an interview with one or two DellEMC VPs and got access to several Q&A sessions.

I was pleasantly surprised with this level of access compared to previous EMCWorld events. It enabled us to “get closer to the fire” and speak with the people that set the direction for the company. The EMC Elect are not simply an extension of a marketing department; we don’t simply repost and retweet marketing slides. We want to know WHY decisions are made and HOW things work. This implies asking questions, and we were definitely able to ask them this time around.

So face time – with whom, you ask?

EMC Elect and Michael Dell at DellEMCWorld

Yep, that’s Michael Dell himself. Mr Dell was quite visible on the floor, taking his time to talk with people left and right. We talked about Dell Technologies and developments like hybrid cloud. My take from those 10 minutes: definitely a man with a strong, calm personality and the ability to set the direction for the merged companies. Quite the relief in this overheated part of IT…

Transformation

A big part of the general keynote was about transformation. Transformation of Dell and EMC into a privately owned IT technology powerhouse. Becoming a single company that can help a customer not just with storage, but also with compute, clients, security: basically everything to run IT.

DellEMCWorld Cloud Native Storage

There’s also the transformation of applications from classic server/client to cloud native applications. A lot of IT is moving towards the public cloud, for benefits of the fully automated service model for provisioning and the “start small, grow big” elasticity. Just leaning on public cloud can be costly though, as I’ve touched upon earlier. Jeremy Burton talked about the move towards an enterprise hybrid cloud, combining low cost on-premises solutions like VXRail and ECS with agile and flexible public clouds.

So how does Dell Technologies see people moving to the enterprise hybrid cloud? In three steps:

  1. Modernize the datacenter, with modern architectures utilizing flash technology, scale-out and software defined solutions.
  2. By automating as many processes in IT as possible. Without automation, there’s no cloud. Automation gives you fast response times and elasticity, something you can’t achieve cost-efficiently with an army of engineers clicking buttons.
  3. Finally, transforming IT into a service provider. The business can pick the desired functionality from a service catalog, making the involved costs transparent. IT is no longer a provider of IT services, but a broker of services. They will ultimately decide which workloads stay on-site or off-site in the public cloud.

Hyperconverged

According to David Goulden of DellEMC, hyperconverged infrastructure will play a large role in the clouds of the future. Why are we moving from traditional converged to hyperconverged? The tipping point is driven by three aspects:

  1. The availability of high core count CPUs. The abundance of computing power means that even with the processing overhead of fast storage, there’s still enough CPU power left for running applications.
  2. High performance and capacity flash media, which mean you don’t need a massive amount of drive slots anymore.
  3. High speed Ethernet connections to connect all this power to the rest of the infrastructure and your users.

Up till now I haven’t seen too many deployments of hyperconverged systems in the field. Apart from caveats such as lack of (easy) scalability and customizability, it usually boiled down to money. The new VxRail promises a <$50k list price starting point. It should give you 90TBs of flash in 3U though. I’ll have to run some calculations to see how this compares to an equally specced Unity storage + Dell/Cisco compute config. It’s definitely more expensive for those remote offices that only need 5-10 VMs, so I still see plenty of opportunity for VSA style deployments at those sites.

My thoughts on DellEMCWorld

From an event and social media influencer perspective and compared to the previous EMCWorlds I’ve been at, this event was a big improvement in regards to the access we EMCElect got. We had way more opportunity to talk with executives and to get information ahead of the launch. It felt we were more included and valued, whereas in some previous events we were ‘those pesky Twitter spammers and bloggers’. So if anyone from DellEMC social/marketing is reading this: well done!

DellEMCWorld Social Influencer stats

Industry strategy wise, the current direction feels less hyped. I agree that most environments could benefit from moving towards a hybrid cloud. And at the same time, the cases where you need to keep on-premises equipment were also discussed. Which feels more realistic than the overhyped “the (public) cloud is going to eat it all!” message we’ve been hearing the last couple of years.

Technology wise, ECS or Elastic Cloud Storage jumped out during those days. Not from technology reasons, but due to the impressive claims that it’s 60% cheaper compared to S3 public cloud storage and could be an extension to Isilon and DataDomain. I’ve had an interesting interview about ECS and am looking forward to write more about it in a future post.

Disclaimer: DellEMC paid for the flights, hotel and ticket for DellEMCWorld 2016. We also went out a couple of times with a few EMCElect and other DellEMC staff; beers were bought and consumed, sometimes even some guacamole which I’ve come to thoroughly enjoy. I was however under no obligation to blog or tweet about anything. Anything I write is because I like something and want to write about it.