When Colin met Michael Dell

Posted on Friday, November 20, 2015
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By Colin Brown
Managing Director

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Last week I was presented with a very rare opportunity to meet Dell’s Chief Executive, Michael Dell at an exclusive partner event.

It gave me the opportunity to discover valuable insight into Dell’s future plans, especially in light of the recent EMC acquisition, and to put some important questions to Michael about the direction for the business and where he sees the market going.

It was a revealing hour and a half in his company. He divulged his desire to maintain the values and communal spirit that have always been inherent at Dell through the merger with EMC, spoke openly about his love for the UK, and demonstrated his huge passion for all things technological.

It’s not every day you get to meet someone like Michael, so I wanted to share some of the highlights of our discussion.

The acquisition of EMC

In preparation for the merger, Michael revealed that lots of pre-integration work has already been done, and assuming that the acquisition is approved by the Federal Trade Commission, he anticipates the integration to be relatively painless. We discussed what product rationalisation might occur (I specifically highlighted Compellent – a highly successful storage solution for Dell) and he stated that he sees the Dell and EMC product line-ups being very complementary, and in respect of Compellent, this would in fact be staying.

What happens to VMware?

I think everyone in the room was very keen to hear about the future of VMware. Michael endorsed what we already know, in that VMware has a very good history of working with a host of vendors, some competitive to Dell. He wants VMware to continue with the same sense of freedom they have always had and anticipates a very hands-off relationship between Dell/EMC, again continuing in the same spirit previously adopted by EMC.

We also discussed if anything would change with the VCE (VMware, EMC, Cisco) venture - he sees little change to this too. It’s been a successful endeavour for EMC and VMware and he really wants to leave things alone to continue as they have. He recounted the conversation he recently had with Chuck Robbins, (the Cisco CEO) in light of the proposed acquisition and was pleased by the reception and continued desire to collaborate.

Of course, the large stake that Dell will now have in VMware, may actually create some challenges for their traditional business, Dell having forged great ties and solutions on Microsoft’s Hyper-V platform.

My take on the clarification however, was that it was good news. VMware is brilliant technology and the business has grown fantastically well as a result. To hear that it will be allowed to continue doing what it’s good at with little interference was reassuring. With trends like converged and hyper-converged infrastructure playing such an important role in the thinking behind enterprise IT strategy, VMware will have a big contribution to what the future holds and remaining to be seen as ‘independent’ will be critical to them.

Not forgetting RSA

Michael told me how pleased he was to have EMC’s access security company RSA on board also. With all the buzz focussing on VMware’s role in the acquisition, RSA has been somewhat overshadowed. Nonetheless, Michael recognises that they are a very successful business and will dramatically strengthen Dell’s existing security offering.

Softcat has seen a lot of success with RSA – its proven technology and in my opinion, will enable Dell to offer a more complete security proposition, especially in light of new workstyles born out of mobile technologies.

UK marketplace

I was surprised to learn the importance of the UK marketplace for Dell. The UK is actually their 3rd largest market, and was the first foreign market Dell expanded into outside of the US in 1985, just two years after the business was founded. Michael expressed his commitment to the UK and its important role in his business, seeing the UK as critical to the growth aspirations for the future and as a pioneer for the new technologies.

It’s good to hear UK plc as an integral cog to Dell’s business. With all the talk of uncertain economic times ahead, clearly Dell is still betting on the UK being a major component of its success. Softcat has only seen our Dell business go from strength to strength, and I hope this will continue with such commitment to the UK.

The future of Dell

Naturally, it was difficult for the conversation not to touch on activity taking place elsewhere in the market. Michael commented on the recent HP split, suggesting he felt it was a backward step, principally because enterprise innovation is fuelled by the scale and volume of a PC business and the economies that this leverages with the chip manufacturers; Intel and AMD. Likewise, he firmly believes that with trends like the Internet of Things, a PC/mobile device business will become more important than ever.

Other topics recurred regularly through the conversation, like the software-defined-datacentre, where he’s clearly excited about the strength of their hand now in this domain. Customers will literally be able to source all of the hardware and software necessary to make this possible under one roof. More than ever, Dell now sees itself as a true enterprise solutions company and it would seem, hopes the world will too.

Finally, what struck me most from the meeting was just how connected with the technology Michael Dell remains. He knew the expanded product portfolio inside out and was eager to talk about shifts in the industry. I was astounded by how one man in charge of running a multi-billion dollar, multi-national business, can so effortlessly keep up with the ever-changing technological landscape.

This is, however, where Michael thrives. Whilst he’s clearly a hugely successful businessman, it is plain to see that he is still, at heart, a technologist. With roots in client computing from when he started Dell all of those years ago, his enthusiasm when speaking about this was undeniable, energised by the role these devices will play in our future work and personal lives.

For me, I think Dell’s story is stronger than ever with the acquisition of EMC. Sure, there needs to be a re-aligning of the natural order as people see that VMware will continue as it always has, innovation does continue around the Dell/EMC product line-up and the integration of the two businesses is completed. It’s an ambitious move, but having met Michael, if anyone can pull it off, he can.

It was a privilege to have been a part of what was an engaging and truly interesting meeting that provided me with a glimpse into the inner workings of Dell and the inspirational character who founded it.

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We would love to hear any comments you have about this article!

Sean Fane

Wednesday, February 17, 2016
It's great for a leading UK reseller to get airtime with a large US vendor CEO (and to share some of the content). This doesn't happen very often, so hat's-off to Softcat.

There is a lot of complex technology, and there are many relationships and businesses, tied-up in this acquisition, so a business as usual approach is certainly the most pragmatic approach in the short-term. Without doubt there will be changes and efficiencies, but step-by-step would seem to be the plan from this article. I am sure that will be music to the ears of most in the channel.
Ian Waring

Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Michael Dell seems pragmatic at the moment. That said, he appears to be the one vendor heaviest entrenched in technologies where customers are nervous of an "all cloud" strategy - which is where the industry puck is headed. So, he's likely to see his most stable long term business in telco and banks. Their Linux strategy will also be key in those areas IMHO.
Craig Lodzinski

Monday, November 23, 2015
It's encouraging to see a very pragmatic approach to the acquisition from Michael Dell, and that he's not looking to do anything too drastic (in the short term at least). The sheer scale of this deal probably won't be apparent from an external position for at least 12-18 months, after which I expect the real disruptive changes will start to come to fruition.

It was always going to be a difficult task to integrate these two huge organisations together, but it certainly seems that Michael Dell has his finger on the pulse, which hopefully should be reassuring to customers of both Dell and the EMC group of companies.
Dionys Gragousian

Saturday, November 21, 2015
Feels like this acquisition isn't going to be very disruptive if all Michael Dell intends to do is keep everything as it is. There needs to be change. He wants to maintain VCE? Why main VCE, which is based on Cisco UCS compute architecture.

Doesn't seem like its a very competitive move if the marketing from Michael Dell is more or less, "We aim to change nothing." Dell competes with Cisco, they should put the squeeze on them during this acquisition. HP isn't their only competitor out there.