I recently posted three long pieces on computing and virtualization. There were two trends that mattered.
(a). Enterprise computing was moving to the cloud - sometimes an external cloud - but more often-than-not an enterprise cloud. Computers would henceforth be virtual machines sitting on some mondo-powerful server and thin clients. This setup was superior for a range of reasons that I went into. But more than superior - it was cheaper to set up and MUCH cheaper to run.
(b). Personal computing was going towards ever-more-powerful handheld devices on which I thought PC as-an-app would be an end game. These devices will plug into screens and keyboards at home if you wanted - and to a large extent they would replace or displace the personal computer.
Microsoft would be a winner if it remained the cloud desktop (which it has at every firm I know who uses an enterprise cloud). It would be a big winner if it also captured a worthwhile place in the handheld device market. I thought that unlikely - but the reviews of new Windows 7 phones are convincing me that a Windows 10 phone could be a big winner.
Although I did not discuss this, one implication was a bleak future for "beige box makers". Computers disappeared into a cloud or into a shiny and extremely well made personal computing device. A logistics firm which assembled beige boxes (as Dell was in its glory days) had no future. You either needed to be in the enterprise server (especially blade server*) market or a consumer good maker. Dell I posited was an extremely poor consumer good maker - as my old XPS1330 laptop would attest. [That laptop had the notorious Nvidia graphics chip problem... Hewlett Packard also dealt with it badly.]
Now I know of no evidence that Dell is getting its device business together (I will never trust Dell with another consumer device). However some think the new Dell phone (The Thunder) is cool.
But Dell is approaching the enterprise cloud product in a purposeful and seemingly effective way. Sure mostly they are doing it via acquisitions - see the latest purchase of 3Par. 3Par make integrated hardware-software solutions for storage in enterprise clouds - in other words sophisticated jbods**. And this is after a few other acquisitions in that area.
And surprisingly it is working. Dell server growth was rapid even as their beige-box business continued to falter. As they they stated "storage and server revenue increased 35 percent with rapid growth in blades". They talk about integrated solutions to enterprise cloud - presumably so relatively unsophisticated IT guys can install it.
Hewlett Packard is also getting its growth in blades - but - frankly - not at anything like this rate. Partly they are incumbent - but mostly I think they are just ceding share to a company - that at least on that area has its eyes firmly focussed on the prize. Here - and I quote verbatim - is the quarterly highlights.
Dell’s commercial business continues to benefit from improved demand across all products and services, and in all geographies as Dell expands its enterprise solutions portfolio. Recently, Dell acquired Scalent, developer of virtual infrastructure management technology, and Ocarina Networks, a leading developer of storage optimization technology. The company also announced an agreement to acquire 3PAR, the leading global provider of utility storage for cloud computing. These moves illustrate Dell’s commitment to build its capabilities for open and affordable enterprise solutions.
This has me more-than-passingly surprised. In a world where the beige-box disappears Dell, once the biggest maker of beige-boxes, is finding itself a seat at the table. It may not be as good a seat as they held in 1998 - but it is a seat nonetheless. And they are doing it by going where the puck is going to be. And that has me surprised because - personally - I hate Dell like I hate few other companies. They sold a defective computer, replaced the defective part with another defective part and kept me waiting in endless phone-center loops.
But their agility here had me covering my short last night.
I am - I confess - truly stunned. If you ask me whether Michael Dell should keep his job. On the evidence of this I have no doubt...
*blades - for the non-geek - are the most effective way of getting really dense and cheap mondo-computing capacity. Blades sit in boxes which have integrated power supply and cooling and are effectively the ready-built motherboard of a server ready to plug in. You can get an enormous amount of computing capacity into a small room filled with blade servers. [The room will also need serious cooling.]
**jbod = just a bunch of discs.