Dell is touting its re-invention as a solutions provider – and it sees midsized companies as its sweet spot.
At a launch event in San Francisco on Monday, CEO Michael Dell said the line between IT and business is disappearing. "IT is now essential to every aspect of business, and Dell is transforming to stay ahead of this."
That first statement isn't exactly breaking news, but the second is very good news for SMBs. Dell is working to make all its offerings easier to deploy and manage while providing more options at lower price points.
In an interview with Small Business Computing, Paulette Altmaier, vice president and general manager of cloud business applications at Dell, said Dell's strategy is to focus on companies with 100 to 5,000 employees.
"The mid-market is heavily underserved. It needs sophisticated technology, but without having to make these enormous investments in capital expenditures and expertise," Altmaier said.
Dell is moving more toward the appliance model, offering solutions-in-a-box for virtualization and cloud services. Preconfigured with all necessary software, they can help small companies without a heavy IT bench get enterprise-like business applications up and running quickly.
"Many small businesses don't have the IT experts in house, but they have same problems," Altmaier said. "They have the same needs for business applications, but they just lack the depth of expertise to support it."
The point of delivering the appliance form factor is to avoid the dreaded systems integration project, she said. "Dell is looking at the needs and capabilities of different types of customers, with a focus on lowering the barrier to being able to adopt the technology and get quick results."
Dell announced a full portfolio of 12th Generation blade, rack and tower PowerEdge servers optimized to run business applications, with the aim of helping enterprises move them to the cloud. Of course, many SMBs are already using cloud-based, software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, because they're more affordable and don't require management.
Data Warehousing, Virtualization and Private Clouds
The product introductions included a couple of solutions specifically aimed at smaller companies.
The Dell Quickstart Data Warehouse Appliance will help mid-market and departmental users organize, access and analyze data to make more informed decisions. The data warehousing appliance, which is based on the new Dell PowerEdge servers and Microsoft SQL Server 2012, will leverage Dell Boomi for data integration.
Praveen Asthana, vice president of enterprise solutions and strategy, said the Quickstart appliance can be up and running in 30 minutes. "We optimize it for applications and make it easy to deploy," he said. "And we complement customer expertise with embedded expertise, such as reference architectures or embedded systems management software."
While small organizations in the past haven't been able to access and use data for business insights, Quickstart can give them the same benefits as large enterprises get from crunching big data, said Forrest Norrod, vice president and general manager, server platforms for Dell. "Big data and big insights are relevant to customers of every size, including small and medium-sized companies," he said.
Dell Desktop Virtualization Solution Simplified is an integrated appliance, pre-configured with software and hypervisor components designed to remove some of the cost and complexity of deploying smaller desktop virtualization solutions.
The simplified solution can provide the benefits of virtualization in hours instead of weeks, Altmaier said. "Mid-sized companies see the value of virtualization in terms of getting usage of their equipment; smaller businesses need to make most of what they have. Virtualization gives them flexibility." Dell offers professional services to help with installation if needed.
While virtualization has been mostly the province of enterprises, she points out that it's an important ploy for small businesses, too, because it allows any sized company to get a lot more out of the hardware it has.
For mid-sized businesses, vStart for Dell Private Cloud is designed to help businesses rapidly deploy their own private cloud through a converged, pre-built infrastructure which includes the new 12th Generation PowerEdge server, storage, networking and management components.
Stressing ease of setup for both appliances, she adds, "You just roll it in and get it going."
SMBs get a lot more bang for their bucks with server advances in general and the PowerEdge line in particular, Dell execs said. For example, a single PowerEdge server with general-purpose GPUs has the performance of a top-50 supercomputer 10 years ago.
For companies running their own servers, the newest PowerEdge line can save substantially on energy costs. OpenManage Power Center helps manage room-level power consumption, and Norrod said the PowerEdge T620 is "whisper-quiet," a nice feature for small businesses and remote offices that run their server in a closet.
Dell also announced the next-generation EqualLogic PS Series storage arrays. The entry-level 10GbE EqualLogic array is designed for smaller deployments and remote office locations. The system supports up to 36 terabytes in a single array and 72 terabytes in a single group.
Altmaier pointed to Dell Cloud Business Applications as another example of how the company wants to serve SMBs. "You will continue to see Dell creating various tiers of offers," she said. "Dell is looking at the needs and capabilities of different types of customers, with a focus on low barrier to adoption and quick results."
Altmaeir said that Dell carefully selects channel partners for their ability to add value, but the company has a small-business sales force to work directly with businesses. She added, "Dell's transformation strategy is built on SMB customers. They are not an afterthought for Dell."