Dell executives met with the press today in San Francisco to have a discussion about the company’s strategic direction, but it turned into more of a lecture about how Dell is going to leapfrog HP and IBM in delivering datacenter solutions.
Dell’s CTO Kevin Kettler and Jay Parker, director of PowerEdge servers, announced Project Hybrid, which they said will set a new industry standard for reducing cost and complexity in datacenters. “It’s a bringing together of hardware products, integrated software and services to deliver solutions to customers,” Parker said, that will be “truly differentiated in the market.”
It appears that Dell's approach is to deliver plug-and-play, power efficient, virtualized datacenter equipment. "[Customers] want it in a package, and they don’t want to piece it together," Parker said. It's unclear how unique that will be in the next six months.
He went on to say that the benefits of Project Hybrid will supposedly bring--reduction in deployment times from weeks and days to hours and minutes, reduction in power consumption by 40 percent, and management costs sliced by up to 50 percent--don’t exist today from HP, IBM or even Dell today.
He described HP and IBM, leaving out Sun, as having vaporware, being too expensive and profiting from complexity. “Our competitors thrive on complexity…that’s what we are solving with Project Hybrid,” Parker said. “It’s not vapor and it will be a reality the second half of this year, starting in the datacenter and extending to the desktop.”
I’m sure that HP and IBM would argue about Parker's characterization them, especially since Project Hybrid is mostly vaporware at this point.
Parker did offer some details about Project Hybrid. From what I can piece together, Dell is going to focus on solutions, rather than products, and use its historical model of packaging standard parts to deliver turnkey datacenter systems pre-configured and optimized for virtualization, using VMware or some other virtualization software, to enable faster deployment and better performance, and manage server sprawl. It's not clear how bundling virtualization and management software will uniquely differentiate Dell in the market.
In addition, Dell will roll out a new blade system, which Parker claimed would leapfrog existing players. Dell just launched a Datacenter solutions group for doing custom, high end solutions. Project Hybrid seems more focused around dealing with customers who are running out of capacity and need to increase density and lower power consumption as well as ongoing maintenance costs with a more cookie cutter datacenter solution approach.
Dell also played the anti-proprietary card, citing HP and IBM as having proprietary some hardware and software, referring to the various, incompatible blade solutions. "Customers want to know that they can get open, flexible options that are cost effective and non-proprietary in nature and optimized for their environments," said Parker.
Parker also said that Dell is not making a services play, although it is an essential part of Project Hybrid. Without any specifics, Parker just said that Dell's services would be "simpler and differentiated and better in some cases" than competitive service offerings. He described HP and IBM service offerings as "we’ll fix it for you, send a lot of people there and you will be very happy with it until it's time to take our checkbook." Sun uses the same tactic in talking about IBM, as if "services" were a dirty word, while IBM continues to lead in server revenue and generate billions in service revenue.
Dell's claim of simpler and better seems to be in installing its pre-packaged, virtualized x86 servers and blades, which theoretically would require less maintenance. "[In our model] we allow customers to enable themselves and not us," Parker said. It's a kind of Dell direct model, packaging together the parts from various suppliers and applying its unique glue, to the datacenter. At this stage, with space and power constraints, the Dell approach will work in some situations, but won't be a great differentiator unless the overall solution price and services are significantly better than that of rivals who see the same market need and opportunity.
The Dell executives offered no information on pricing for Project Hybrid solutions.