I attended the DellEMC Forum 2016 in Toronto on Nov. 15 (along with more than 500 other people). It was a fact-filled day showcasing and discussing technologies from the newly combined Dell and EMC. ITWC’s Brian Jackson also provided an overview of the merger and executive perspective.

In case you haven’t heard, Dell Technologies completed the acquisition of EMC Corporation on Sept. 7. The press release says: “This combination creates a $74 billion market leader with an expansive technology portfolio that solves complex problems for customers in the industry’s fast-growing areas of hybrid cloud, software-defined data center, converged infrastructure, platform-as-a-service, data analytics, mobility and cybersecurity.” The press release goes on to say that “Dell Technologies blends Dell’s go-to-market strength with small business and mid-market customers and EMC’s strength with large enterprises and stands as a market leader in many of the most important and high-growth areas of the $2 trillion information technology market, including positions as a “Leader” in 20 Gartner Magic Quadrants and a portfolio of more than 20,000 patents and applications.”

Dell, when combined with EMC, is certainly a major player in the ICT industry; this was demonstrated by the variety of products that were discussed in the presentations. The Dell family also includes such companies as Pivotal, RSA, Virtustream and VMWare. Other vendors, such as Brocade, softchoice, Bell, and Cisco, were also sponsors of the event. I will refer to the new company and all its related organizations as DellEMC, just for convenience.

There were five session streams – modern infrastructure, converged systems, workforce transformation, cloud landscape, and big data analytics. I would say these are all key areas of focus for the digital transformation. However, IoT and blockchain should also be in the mix somewhere.

A few observations from the sessions

  • The opening keynote discussed the digital transformation in general – the impact of Moore’s Law, the ascendancy of software as a driving force, and disruptive innovation. These are leading to a new generation of systems thinking; there is likely to be a 1,000 times improvement in systems over the next 15 years, which implies there will be some amazing things in our future. I felt that this was the standard pitch for the digital era, but it’s always good to set the scene before delving into the technologies.
  • Modernization is needed in 3 major areas: workforce, security and IT (i.e., data centers).
  • Apparently 2016 is the tipping point for Flash (solid state storage) – there will be more Flash storage sold than hybrid, software capabilities such as de-dup are expanding, and new technologies such as 3D NAND are emerging. Flash sizes are now 16TB, with 32TB coming soon, and 60TB announced.
  • The three areas of importance are “M.A.T.” – Modernize the infrastructure, Automate delivery of services (self-service, API-driven), and Transform IT operations.
  • Traditional systems were characterized as scale-up, shared storage and infrastructure resiliency; cloud native systems are distributed, scale-out, compute + storage nodes, and application resiliency. A modern data center architecture would feature flash storage, scale-out capabilities, software-defined everything, cloud-enabled solutions, and protected/trusted environments.
  • The idea of hyper-convergence is gaining popularity – buy packages of functions instead of building from components. Drivers for hyper-convergence include lower TCO, speed and agility, scalability, and operational simplicity. It was stated that hyper-convergence is the new normal for data centre designs. HCI (hyper-converged infrastructure) can be appliance-based or rack-mounted. The idea of a “cloud native infrastructure” also caught my eye – this is a turnkey OpenStack environment.
  • David Senf of IDC, in the luncheon presentation, discussed the state of cloud in Canada. Apparently, Canada is slow at adopting cloud native tools and we don’t spend enough time on training. However, he also suggested we are not as far behind the USA as you would expect, especially in like-for-like organizations. We are apparently catching up quickly which was good to hear.
  • The session on “enterprise hybrid cloud” was interesting – the push is on to buy hybrid cloud solutions, not to build custom integrations. Enterprise Hybrid Cloud also turned out to be the name of a DellEMC product. It was claimed that the benefits of hybrid include fewer downtime hours/year, time savings due to automation, up to 50 per cent savings in CAPEX, and faster project delivery.
  • The Brocade speaker indicated that virtualization would continue to drive change, that the amount of data to be stored would continue to grow, that customer expectations are rising, and that the limits of infrastructure storage are being pushed. Flash storage apparently changes everything – it is driving the need for robust storage architectures. The next wave of storage technical disruption was predicted to be “NVMe over fabrics.”
  • Storage seems to be an area where technologies also take time to mature. There are many options in both older and newer systems at multiple levels – media, format, protocols and packaging. Given the critical nature of corporate information and the rapid growth in quantity, there is no doubt that risk avoidance is an important design criteria.
  • Another session traced the evolution from basic servers in the mid-1990s to the current (2015+) hyper-converged software-defined data centers and hybrid clouds. It was also noted that in 2016 we are seeing the first servers with 25GbE interfaces. There are many, many server configuration choices – on the order of 80,000 unique configurations from DellEMC alone.
  • The last session I attended was about securing the digital future. Security is certainly an elephant in the IT room, with some of the most recent concerns being with IoT security. While the session was mainly about SecureWorks, the need for good security was highlighted. Security services include threat detection and response, endpoint data security, identity and access assurance, risk management and security infrastructures.

The closing keynote was by Bruce Coxon (ex-Dragon’s Den) who discussed digital innovation and the type of skills needed for success. He also provided some anecdotes of his time as a founder of Lavalife.

Overall, I enjoyed the event. It was a good mix of future thinking, products and general advice, all of which are essential to understanding the transformation to IT as a Service.

This is what I am thinking. If you were at the event too, you may have had a completely different experience!



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