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Tom Petty once crooned that the future was wide open. For Dell Inc., the future is about being more open than anyone else.

As the company waits for its acquisition of EMC Corp. to close, Armughan Ahmad, Dell’s vice-president of global enterprise solutions, was willing to talk everything and anything at an informal presentation with Canadian journalists yesterday, except the pending deal. He focused particularly on the need for the country to make progressive moves to what he calls “new IT” if Canada is to remain competitive on the world stage.

This new paradigm is the realization by enterprises that they don’t have to build their own data centre for everything, and there is an opportunity to learn from web-scale companies such as Facebook and public cloud providers such as Amazon.

While CIOs and IT managers often focus on CAPEX, said Ahmad, how they maintain infrastructure from an OPEX perspective is just as critical, noting that based on IDC Canada data, 75 per cent of IT budgets are spent on OPEX.

“Enterprises are learning how to drop their OPEX dramatically,” he said, but they’re not as automated as the Facebooks of the world, which is able to employ one administrator to manage 50,000 servers using commodity hardware.

But while Canadian organizations need to embrace new models of IT and automation, said Ahmad, Dell needs to have a mix of support for both traditional IT, which includes server farms and databases, and the new IT, which encompasses the software-defined data center, storage, networking and cloud-ready platforms. “The underpinning of the future-ready enterprise is both.”

Connor Duffy, Dell’s global strategist for enterprise solutions, said the hybrid cloud is a big bet for Dell going forward as it allows enterprises to transform operations and speed up processes. For example, developers in a traditional IT model often wait five or six business days to have a virtual machine provisioned for them; now it’s possible for a developer to configure a virtual machine via a web portal.

One way Dell is helping customers have the best of both worlds is through its hybrid cloud offering co-engineered with Microsoft, which Ahmad said is one of Dell’s greatest partners; other hardware vendors have not been open to partnering with the software giant on a deep level, but Dell’s collaboration enables customers to easily “burst out” to the public cloud when needed.

Dell is not the only major vendor to profess openness. Oracle is opening its ecosystem and sees enterprises putting everything into the cloud within the next decade, while Microsoft wants its customers to bring whatever they wish to the cloud.

There are still limitations on how open other vendors want to be, said Duffy. “It’s the degree to which you are open. A lot of our competition will become open reluctantly.” The word “open” has become rather trendy of late, he said. “Everyone wants to use the word because it’s the antithesis of locked.”

Ahmad said vendors such as Cisco are opening up through avenues such as APIs, but you can’t buy a Cisco switch without its OS on it, and it won’t let VMware or OpenStack play too deep into its stack, either. He said Dell is willing to let customers completely remove its software from its switches and replace it with their choice – Cumulus Networks  or Pica8, or example. “We know for certain applications there are benefits to using one vendor for the entire stack.”

Ahmad said Dell is truly opening up its architecture and said the company’s recent privatization allows it to play a long game and disrupt its own business models for the sake of its customers. He said all IT vendors need to take a similar approach to help Canadian customers be truly nimble and competitive.



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