Canada needs to move beyond traditional IT: Dell

Canadian organizations are not as far along the transition to the new IT as some in other countries, so Dell’s global strategy of forming deep ISV alliances to create Dell Blueprints to help customers make that transition seems particularly relevant here.

Armughan Ahmad Dell 300

Armughan Ahmad, Vice President, Global Enterprise Solutions & Alliances at Dell

 “We’re at the intersection of traditional and new IT.”

That’s an idea that’s fundamental today to Dell’s value proposition, as outlined by Armughan Ahmad, Vice President, Global Enterprise Solutions & Alliances at Dell. The company has a strong foot in both camps, to help nudge customers – and partners – towards the new IT. It also has a strategy, through Dell Blueprints, which is designed to optimize integration with partner ecosystems to facilitate this transition.

“Customers can’t afford to just jump from traditional IT to new IT,” Ahmad said. “They need a journey.”

Traditional IT can be best understood as ‘keeping the lights on,’ meeting the organization’s IT needs, and Ahmad said that today, that’s nothing more than table stakes. New IT, on the other hand, is all about doing things which accelerate the business. As an example, he referred to HBO, whose business model was being threatened by cloud-based Netflix, which had already disrupted and destroyed Blockbuster and the once-dominant video distribution system.

“HBO, which was being disrupted by Netflix, is an example of a company which was playing defense, with an IT strategy of keeping the lights on,” Ahmad said. “They moved to using to IT to accelerating the business, using software-defined, ubiquitous mobility, and cloud computing themselves, expressly targeting Netflix.”

This understanding of how organizations can use new IT aggressively to fend off competition and open up new markets is something that Canadian organizations need to do better at, Ahmad warned. He said that these strategies are being employed more systematically in Mexico – not somewhere popularly seen as a tech hotbed, but a place where many customers have moved to take advantage of cutting- edge technologies.

“In Canada, we need to start having more of these conversations,” he said. “Canadian CIOs need to think of things very differently, or get left behind compared to other countries.”

Ahmad focuses on this issue in two ways. His role brings all the siloed business units at Dell together to offer future-ready digital solutions for customers. The second part of his role – one suspects, the more important part – is alliances.

“Alliances are fundamental, because we can’t do all this ourselves,” he said. “We partner with companies like Microsoft, Red Hat, and VMware, and with Dell Blueprints, we let these ISVs create much deeper hooks into our platforms than our competitors do.”

That makes Dell’s partnering strategy fundamentally different from the other Tier One OEMs, like HP, EMC, and Cisco, Ahmad stressed.

“These other companies also let their partners into their APIs, but Dell goes much further, and we don’t stop them at a 25 per cent level,” he said. He added that this has always been Dell policy, but it is one that has been significantly amplified over the course of the last three years. He also said it is complemented by other aspects of Dell design. This includes an open approach with no intentionally closed ecosystems, modular systems rather than monolithic stacks, flexible scaling to avoid rip-and-replace, a modern portfolio rather than an interest in legacy systems, and an emphasis on end-to-end solutions rather than siloes.

“Playing with other vendors is a key part of our strategy, but we don’t tend to play as much with vendors who are too proprietary,” Ahmad said.

This partnering strategy for what Dell calls the Future-Ready Enterprise involves five levels of Dell Blueprints, which span the gamut of IT solutions from the traditional to the new. The most traditional solutions are Workload-Ready ones, which include partnerships with Microsoft, Oracle, SAP and Fusion-IO (the latter now part of SanDisk). One level further along is Virtual Infrastructure-ready solutions, through partnerships with VMware and Microsoft.

“The Dell Engineered Solutions for VMware EVO:RAIL can do integration at a much deeper level,” Ahmad said. “We also work closely with VMware Canada to develop joint markets, by bringing top customers in to joint events.”

Next come the software-defined Blueprints, which are with smaller vendors. These include the Dell XC-series with Nutanix, as well as Nexenta and BigSwitch.

“We are Nutanix’s main OEM providers out in the market, as they are going out with Dell and Dell alone,” Ahmad said. “We are having an incredible amount of success with this. We let them go deeper into our platform than Cisco does with Simplivity, their partner in this space, and we get better results.”

Ahmad said these smaller vendors are particularly receptive to partnering with Dell.

“They love it because they are newer companies with great IP, but they don’t have the scale, and we do,” he said.

Further into the New IT continuum is the Cloud-Ready Blueprints, with partners Microsoft, VMware and OpenStack.

“Our cloud platform is hybrid first and public second,” Ahmad said. “With Dell Cloud Manager, with technology from the acquisition of Enstratius, we can offload traffic from public to private clouds and back. With Dell Cloud Marketplace, we can transfer workload over to public clouds in a way where Dell gives customers the choice of public cloud, and also controls the relationship.”

At the extreme end of the New IT solutions is Big Data-optimized blueprints for Hadoop and Cloudera, which include the Dell In-Memory Appliance for Cloudera Enterprise.

“None of the Dell Blueprints depend on my server being faster than these other guys,” Ahmad emphasized. “We need to stop talking about feeds and speeds, and talk instead about what workloads will mean for customers.”

Ahmad also stressed that the Dell Blueprints are ideal for channel partners as well.

“Partners are themselves getting disrupted by businesses going to cloud models,” he said. “We give them blueprints to go sell these, instead of selling a server or storage or a network. With all the disruption coming from China, and from the SaaS, PaaS and IaaS vendors, it’s in Dell’s interest to drive these cloud environments and offer a deployment guide to channel partners and tell them to add their value.”

The channel response to the Blueprints has been strong.

“Partners say do this faster!” Ahmad remarked.

The bottom line, for both customers and partners in Canada, is that they need to move to the New IT, and Dell Blueprints are an ideal way to do that, Ahmad stressed.

“If you continue to run your technology in a traditional way, but dream that you can out-innovate Silicon Valley, it’s not going to happen,” he said. “We need to get this message out strongly in Canada.”