A look into the future of Dell: blocks and files

A look into the future of Dell: blocks and files

Attendees of Dell Technologies World 2022 this week saw and heard about Dell’s likely next CEO: Chuck Whitten, who joined Dell as a co-COO in August last year, a man who had grown up with no apparent public trace. Who is he?

The Bain boy

Anthony Charles “Chuck” Whitten studied at Rice University in Texas, an institution close to the Ivy League, and then earned his qualifications in mathematical economics and history from Bain, the business consulting group, in 1998. Between 2002 and in 2004, while at Bain, he received an MBA course from Harvard Business School. And then he went on to Bain, for a total of 23 years and two months, until he joined Dell in August 2021.

It is in the nature of Bain’s consulting work that his activities are rarely public. But we do know that he became Bain Partner and ended up running Bain’s Southwest division as a managing partner. He served on Bain’s Executive Committee for the Americas and joined Bain’s board of directors in 2018. According to Bain’s website, Whitten worked on growth strategy, complexity reduction, cost optimization and strategy capital markets and has been involved in projects involving hardware, software, solutions and services market segments.

Whitten has focused solely on the technology sector since 2011 and partnered with Dell, a Bain customer, to help shape its strategy and growth initiatives.

Jeff Clarke said Corner of the silicon that Whitten had been a principal Dell consultant, “an integral part of the team for a long time working on strategy, transformation and operations.”

Whitten is thanked by Michael Dell in his Play well but win book, but as a name between 20 and 30 others. There are no clues in that book as to what Whitten accomplished to Bain while advising Dell.

Chuck Whitten exhibits at Dell Technologies World 2022 in Las Vegas.

Whitten has joined Dell to lead its next phase of growth alongside co-COO Jeff Clarke and President / CEO Michael Dell, whose appointment quote read: “As our main advisor, Chuck has been an integral part of the team for a long time working in strategy, transformation and operations. I couldn’t be happier to have him as a co-COO to capture great growth opportunities in our portfolio as the world becomes more digital and data-driven. “

Dell said, “Chuck’s leadership, energy, knowledge and humanity make him the obvious choice to join our team and strengthen our industry leadership.” People I spoke to echoed the human aspect of this, saying that Whitten was a kind man as well as being smart.

But Whitten had no hands-on operational experience when he joined Dell. He is a strategic consultant and we believe he joined Dell to gain the operational experience needed to see if he could take over from Michael Dell when Dell decides to step down as CEO. He needs to earn his spurs so he can win the trust of Dell’s top executive team. Otherwise he is lost. That’s why he needs – he really needs – Jeff Clarke’s mentorship.

Speaking

His part in the first day keynote was almost flawless. We knew his text was being presented on low-level monitors in front of him, but even so it sounded spontaneous and genuine, yet it couldn’t have been presented to an audience of nearly 10,000 before. He was exceptionally nice to Jeff Clarke, Dell’s former COO and now co-COO, saying he was “my mentor” and “an engineer”. Praise from the man who may very well be stepping into Michael Dell’s CEO shoes in the next 12-18 months, and perhaps compensation for Clarke not to be that successor.

Still, Clarke looked comfortable, as an executive’s round table image shows: in a T-shirt, casual pants, and trainers;

Dell Technologies World 2022 Executive Roundtable. Left to Right; Jeff Clarke, Chuck Whitten and Michael Dell.

Whitten’s pace was competent and confident, he moved on stage and used his hands well. He talked about the big picture: “Our aim is to create technologies that drive human progress.” And he has linked Dell’s various products and services to this, such as assisting health care initiatives in India. He also sang from the multi-cloud hymn sheet: “The world needs multi-cloud by design, not by default.”

The form Dell is in

Dell’s market situation is excellent. Announced a wide range of hardware and software upgrades in its storage portfolio (PowerMax, PowerStore, PowerScale and PowerFlex systems) at the Las Vegas event, enhanced its APEX as-a-service offering with a data protection service and added to its services in AWS and Azure. We must not forget that it has also shown progress with its Project Alpine initiative to bring its file, block and object storage services to public clouds.

The depth, speed and breadth of this hardware and software engineering work is amazing. No other company could have done it, neither IBM, nor HPE, nor NetApp. Indeed, two of these main competitors appear weak and the third limited.

To compete

IBM has sold its traditional x86 PC and server lines and is now more of a Dell partner than a competitor. HPE has sold its PCs, and its storage lineup seems inconsistent compared to Dell’s portfolio. It has strength in supercomputing – thanks to Cray – and its GreenLake as-a-service business model is progressing. But its ability to move its file, block, and object storage services to the public cloud is severely limited, not least by partnering with other providers for file and block storage.

NetApp is a strong storage competitor and has a big CloudOps advantage, albeit in an early stage market. But NetApp is a virtually pure storage company with no PC, server and network. This breadth of portfolio offers Dell two substantial advantages: It can sell PCs, servers, storage and network switches to small and medium-sized businesses through partners and integrated systems and bundles of its components to enterprises. NetApp cannot do this. HPE can do more than NetApp, but not as much as Dell.

Look at their income history – the big picture is obvious:

Quarterly revenue was normalized to IBM’s fiscal year.

Dell has grown since IBM’s fiscal year 2016. IBM refused. HPE is down slightly, and NetApp, on this scale, is flatline at low levels. Dell reigns supreme.

In fact, Dell is probably in the best shape it has ever been in. Its product engineers are launching products and services at great speed as it responds to the cloud multi-public hybrid IT environment that is spreading like wildfire. Michael Dell said: “The on-site and off-site debate is over. The future is multi-cloud ”.

The Dell Advantage

Data gravity is its friend as on-premises data lakes are large enough to allow for computation of the public cloud to come; attend the Dell-Fiocco di neve agreement. Anti-lock-in is also his friend, as companies generally refuse to go all-in for a public cloud. This means that data and app portability is a major concern and is working in that area.

It is well positioned for the future world of super edge computing, with 5G telco endpoints becoming mini data centers generating huge amounts of data to be processed locally and with subsets transferred to central sites – on-premise or public cloud – for collective analytics. Once again, Dell summed up: “The edge is the next frontier where data becomes the competitive advantage at the time of creation. … By 2025, 75% of the data will be processed outside the datacenter. “

Dell wants to store this data, process it and send it wherever it is needed. A myriad of 5G edge sites could drive Dell’s revenues towards the $ 50 billion level, and if Whitten helps achieve that, Michael Dell’s shoes are within reach.

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