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Michael Dell: On SDNs and networking for the masses

Jim Duffy | April 29, 2014
The man who popularised consumer computing sees an opportunity in 'making technology more affordable, more acceptable to hundreds of millions of customers'.

Why did you acquire Force10 out of the several switch vendors out there?
We looked at them all. I know all the rest pretty well. I don't want to go into the difficulties with any of them but, we definitely liked the approach 40G and beyond. It was exactly what we need and wanted. Some of the others had a whole bunch of other stuff that we were just not particularly interested in or relevant, or present a high value add.

What's Dell's networking differentiator?
If you look at the server market 20 years ago, it was a tightly wound appliance of OSS, BSS, and was a very expensive thing, proprietary. X86 blew that open, lowered the cost dramatically, opened it up. I would argue that Dell was among the major catalysts that caused that to happen. Now if you jump over into the networking space it actually looks a lot like the server market did, with a tight coupling of OSS and BSS, it's expensive and a high margin business for a lot of folks in the industry. We're all about making technology more affordable, more acceptable to hundreds of millions of customers out there in the world. We have a big opportunity here to change the way the data center is installed, and it's absolutely in our DNA. It's why we were the first to embrace Linux, it's why we were the first to embrace OpenStack, it's why we're jumping into the open networking space very rapidly. Any time something comes along that's good for customers, ultimately standing in the way of it is never a good idea. I was talking with a large customer in the financial sector, they're pretty enamored by the idea of open networking. We work extensively with those customers, we certainly work with the big med tech companies, we're seeing it jump a bit into pharmaceuticals. Of course the real opportunity is, beyond that, how do you take this into the (mass) market, all the enormous numbers of small and medium sized companies huge opportunity for Dell obviously to use the strong base that we have in end user computing and servers. That's a great position of strength to work from as the market goes to more converged, more software-defined [infrastructures].

Doesn't hardware/software disaggregation marginalize or commoditize or devalue your hardware?
I certainly don't enter a battle if you can't win the war. This is the kind of war we know how to win. In commercial PCs and x86 servers, we lived that and we know how to run our supply chain and drive quite a profitable business. The market's consolidating, we've been gaining share. If and when that happens we're certainly quite prepared to be the provider of choice. Dell has unparalleled scale in our supply chain and cost structure to be able to win in that kind of world.


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