As Dell moves from an infrastructure and mainly a hardware company to a full solutions provider, competing with the likes of IBM, Oracle, and Hewlett-Packard, one of its largest differentiators is its open architecture stack, says Sukumar Narayanan, services director for Dell. While other competitors are selling a proprietary hardware/software stack that provides a single choice, often their own product, for each component level, Dell offers three or four.
“The roll-up of the marketplace in general – for instance Oracle's acquisition of components and vertical integration of those acquisitions into a unified stack from hardware to application layer – is a major trend in the industry today,” Mr. Narayanan told Wikibon co-founder David Vellante and SiliconAngle.com founder John Furrier during an interview on SiliconAngle.tv from OracleWorld 2010. Dell's approach also is to build vertical integration, but with a much more open model that lets you swap things in and out more easily. “So instead of having one option for each layer you may have three or four. That means that customers don't have to change out all their plumbing to make the solution work in their shop,”
Dell's stack, which extends from the hardware level up to consulting, also is focused on specific vertical industries including healthcare, aerospace, and automotive. Another major differentiator is a unique tool called Aim that customers can use to provision both sides of a partially virtualized shop. Mr. Narayanan expects this tool to play a strategic role in Dell's move into the highly competitive vertical solutions marketplace because today and for the foreseeable future most IT infrastructures are going to be hybrid virtualized/unvirtualized infrastructures, creating major provisioning complexities.
Services such as consulting and user support, Mr. Narayanan's side if Dell's house, are also going to play a vital role in Dell's transformation and growth, he said. “With the addition of Perot Systems, our reported revenues from services are roughly $7.5 billion, and we expect to grow that at a faster pace than Dell will grow overall.”
Another indication of the importance of services to Dell is that roughly 41,000 of Dell's 95,000 associates worldwide are in its services business, and that if anything is also expected to grow.
“Today there is tremendous demand to get away from the on-premise model, and to consume more SaaS and similar cloud services,” he said. At the same time, however, large systems such as ERP are very difficult to move whole into the cloud. Instead individual components will be replaced. “So HR, for instance, may get delivered in that fashion, and everybody knows about the impact of Salesforce.com on sales management.” But as that happens, the complexity increases. Companies have to find ways to integrate these hybrid stacks functionally to support business practices and to integrate the data from these multiple sources as well to support BI and a unified view of the enterprise. The trend toward more acquisitions is also driving up complexity in IT organizations as they seek to absorb the different infrastructures they acquire. And the mobile computing trend also creates new complexities as users seek a consistent user interface and presentation across multiple platforms ranging from laptops to smartphones to tablets.
All of this, he says, is driving up the demand for services, and that is an opportunity he and Dell are focused on as a growth center for the future.