Dell Storage Strategy is All About Listening

At the recent Dell Enterprise Forum in Kuala Lumpur, DSA managed to catch up with Dell’s Storage Group Global Director for Product Management, Bob Fine.
Bob had travelled in from the US, with the KL event a key stop on his tour around the region.

Dell has recently been identified by IDC Dell as the No. 1 storage vendor by total terabytes sold (internal and external) for the first half of 2014*.  This being the case we welcomed the chance to get Bob’s views on the storage landscape in South Asia and more generally for Dell's storage business across the world.
Dell’s claim to being the global leader in storage is based on including shipments of disk capacity in servers. Some might argue that is not a quite a “purist” view of the storage market, but Bob was quick to point out that one of the key strengths of the new 13g Dell servers (launched at this event) was putting enterprise class storage with enterprise management capability back into the server. With the advent of software defined storage, Bob contends that including disks in server as part of the total storage market is more relevant now than ever.
That said, Bob did point out that when it comes to iSCSI external Storage, Dell number one globally and number one in Asia not just for units sold but for support also.
When we asked Bob why he was making the trip to Asia, he explained that there are two sides to the coin. The local teams certainly welcome having him around to present to and speak to customers, but for Bob the most valuable parts of these trips is for him to come and listen.
According to Bob “Having the chance to just hear what people have to say” is the only way he can be effective at his job.  That includes listening to customers and also his own colleagues located in this part of the world. Bob explained “18 months ago our Compellent product was overpriced for the APJ region. We listened and we made some changes specifically to meet the requirements of our Asian customers.” These changes meant reducing the price by stripping out just a few features whilst leaving the bulk of the enterprise capability in tact.
We believe that Bob is serious when he states he comes over here to listen and learn, and that is a refreshing attitude, maybe born out of Dell’s shift back to private ownership in an attempt to focus on developing technology for the future not to help hit shareholders revenue expectations.
As a key influencer in Dell’s storage strategy, Bob’s view on any aspect of the storage market has to carry weight, and we were interested in his take on the rise of specialist enterprise flash array companies. He raised the recent Gartner Magic Quadrant on Enterprise Flash Arrays, in which Dell did not feature “Did you know that to feature in that MQ vendors needed to have Flash products under a dedicated sku and also had to have products that were all flash”. Bob joked that he could have created a sku in order to feature in the quadrant, but on balance disputed whether the criteria was valid.
Dell believes they have leading value and lowest cost flash at over 100,000 iops but when they have surveyed their own customers they found that of all their customers using flash only two percent were using all flash arrays, the remaining 98 percent use a hybrid configuration.
In Bob’s opinion Flash is vital but can only ever be part of the total storage strategy.
At the moment Dell seems to be moving in the right direction, perhaps this focus on listening rather than telling is part of the reason why.

* Based on IDC Worldwide Quarterly Disk Storage Systems Tracker Q2 2014

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