Dell Technologies World: Five Infrastructure Modernization Lessons

This syndicated post originally appeared at Zeus Kerravala, Author at eWEEK.

Businesses need to modernize their infrastructure to keep up with digital transformation, yet the path to modernization isn’t straightforward.

Dell’s user event, Dell Technologies World, is a few weeks in the rearview mirror now. I’ve had the time to reflect on the content from the event and the discussions I had with customers, Dell executives, and technology partners.

A summary of my conversations can be found in my key takeaways video (see below). My top takeaway from the event is twofold: Businesses need to modernize their infrastructure to keep up with digital transformation, and the path to modernization isn’t straightforward.

Technology has grown increasingly more agile, making it more complex, which creates quite a conundrum for organizations as they need to upgrade but avoid risks.

Below are my top five lessons from Dell Technologies World that customers should heed as they look to modernize.

1) Artificial Intelligence has arrived

I had many discussions, and there was only one topic that was common to all of them: artificial intelligence.

However, deploying AI is multi-faceted as there are user implications and considerations for IT professionals. Rita Hoge, Manager of IT Services for Thompson River University, mentioned that the University is investigating how students should use it.

Conversely, Will Champion, from the Las Vegas Water District, told me he’s looking forward to AI being used to automate IT processes and remove much of the heavy lifting.

Regardless of how AI manifests itself in the business world, it’s here, and there is no going back. AI will play a key role in any organization’s business strategy, and IT teams should embrace it to help them do their jobs more efficiently.

2) IT organizations need to remove the silos that separate them

Historically, IT organizations were organized in silos, and many still are. When one looks at the current state of digital transformation, it’s clear that all those silos need to come down to enable those businesses to move fast.

In my interview with Scott Riley of Corewell Health he talked about the importance of this in implementing zero trust. Historically backup and recovery were handled by one team and cyber by another, but the correct implementation of zero trust could minimize the demands on backup and recovery. Riley did mention that the people side of security is still the biggest challenge for this organization, which echoes conversations I have had with other IT leaders. This drives the need for cross-group automation.

3) Modernization is complicated

At the same time, all new technology is designed to be open and increase the agility of IT. However, agility comes with a price, and that’s increased complexity.

Legacy infrastructure was monolithic, limiting deployment options. With modern infrastructure, companies have more options, but that requires more decisions to be made. Also, because systems are software-based, the pace of change is much faster than before.

In my conversation with Bob Olwig, EVP of Global Partner Alliances for World Wide Technology (WWT), he said the “Sheer amount of change is creating uncertainty” in their customer base as the pace of change is so much faster today. He added that global macro issues, such as COVID response, inflation, and the war in Ukraine, have increased IT leaders’ anxiety levels.

Olwig cautioned that modernization does often require integrating the new with the old. He mentioned that many of his customers want to move to the cloud, but IBM mainframes still exist, as do on-premises servers, making almost all deployments hybrid.

4) Vendors must work together to simplify modernization

Customers have demanded that technology be disaggregated and more open, which creates a burden on the customer to put the pieces together, which isn’t always easy. This puts an emphasis on the vendor community to partner effectively to do much of the heavy lifting on behalf of the customer.

This was the primary focus of the conversation of my interview with Dell, Intel, and WWT. Robert Looney, who is responsible for America Enterprise Data Sales and Marketing for Intel, talked about how it’s critical for IT professionals to understand how to apply technology to solve business problems, such as increasing worker engagement and operational efficiency.

Vendors like Dell have created more “as a service” offerings, like its Apex, which lets customers consume technology with a cloud-like consumption model. Intel and Dell work closely together to build a range of products that can meet their customers’ wide range of demands.

We discussed how many technology themes from the show, such as generative AI, edge computing, and sustainability, have created new demands on infrastructure. As an example, AI is putting new demands on the data center.

Alan Ashby of Dell Technologies told me, “Every single product Dell brings to market, there is now an AI element to them. The storage arrays have been optimized using data analytics and AI engines to service their customers as best as possible.” Ashby then added that the goal is to have products that are simple to deploy and easy to manage.

5) When it comes to new technology, experience matters

The market has been flooded with new technology, and it’s very difficult for IT pros to understand how to utilize it. One way to experience new technology is to go to a tradeshow like Dell Technologies World. In fact in Rita Hoge’s video, she explicitly called out how great the Expo Hall was as she could check out all the new technology. But what about the customers that could not make it? Or what happens in the year between events? For that, Dell partners can play a key role.

World Wide Technology uses its Advanced Technology Center (ATC) to let customers try new technology before making an investment decision. In my conversation with Michael Ambruso and Steve McCall of WWT, we did a deep dive on the ATC. They told me the ATC is a massive facility in St. Louis with infrastructure from dozens of technology vendors, Dell included. Customers can remotely access any network device, storage system, security endpoint, server, or other infrastructure and experiment with it to see what’s possible. McCall and Ambruso both discussed how the ATC could significantly de-risk modernization initiatives.

Bottom Line: Dell Technologies World

The technology landscape is changing faster than ever, and IT leaders must chart their path to modernization. The vendor community is doing a great job partnering to simplify infrastructure, but that’s not enough. Businesses should take advantage of tools like WWT’s ATC to access virtually the latest and greatest before committing significant capital.

Author: Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.