Dell EMC’s Aisling Keegan: ‘95pc of Earth’s data was created in the last 24 months’

26 Jan 2018

Aisling Keegan, Dell EMC Ireland. Image: Chris Bellew/Fennell Photography 

Dell EMC Ireland vice-president and general manager Aisling Keegan believes digital transformation is simply about achieving better business outcomes.

In December 2016, Aisling Keegan was named vice-president and general manager of Dell EMC Ireland. In the past year, she also operated as chief integration officer for the UK and Ireland region following the $67bn merger of Dell and EMC, the largest merger in tech industry history.

Keegan has spent the last 17 years working with Dell EMC where she has held a number of leadership positions across the small, medium and large enterprise customer segments.

‘We are a small island relative to other countries across the globe, but Dell EMC Ireland has one of the largest footprints across EMEA, and we are one of the largest employers in Ireland’

For the previous five years, she served as executive director and general manager of commercial business for Dell UK.

Keegan is highly respected in the UK and Ireland tech industry and, in 2014, the Women’s Executive Network named her as one of the top 25 most influential women in Ireland.

Following the merger, can you describe Dell EMC in Ireland today?

Dell EMC’s overall headcount in Ireland today is around 5,000 people. Dell combined with EMC officially well over a year ago (7 September 2016) and I was tasked with being the chief integration officer for UK and Ireland region because I was running the UK business at the time, so I had insights into how we could best integrate the two companies.

At a very high level, the history of Dell was direct-to-consumer and business, removing the middle men, and our core focus when Michael Dell started the company 30 years ago was bespoke, configure to order. The primary target markets for Dell originally were the mid-market spaces and EMC’s heritage was in storage systems. But, over the course of the last 30 years, both companies went through a series of incubated acquisitions of technologies.

From Dell’s perspective, over the last 15 years we acquired 22 companies with their own intellectual property (IP) and built out our portfolio from an IP perspective to address the customer challenges that we were seeing in the marketplace.

From an EMC perspective, it was similar. It acquired strategically aligned partners like VMware and Pivotal.

So, the combined company is made up of our direct to business and consumer division, and Dell EMC which is our storage, compute and networking business – anything to do with the enterprise or data centre.

We have our Dell Services division which spans support, deployment and consulting across all customer segments, and then we have the strategically aligned businesses like VMware and Pivotal which specialise in software development for the cloud. In addition to these, we have Virtustream which is our enterprise cloud class platform for mission-critical applications. And, finally, we have SecureWorks for infosec, and RSA which focuses on compliance.

In Ireland, we are a small island relative to other countries across the globe but Dell EMC Ireland has one of the largest footprints across EMEA, and we are one of the largest employers in Ireland.

We have three primary hubs in Ireland – Dublin, Cork and Limerick – and we have Dell Bank in Dublin, a financial services institution that is regulated by the Central Bank.

Along with software and services, we have technical support teams that support all of the Dell infrastructure, storage for all EMEA customers. We also have our Cork facility in Ovens which is a technical centre of excellence for storage. Some manufacturing still happens there. We also have a Solutions Centre in Cork which hosts a lot of our customers all across EMEA. Our Limerick office has services and all the different global functions are represented across all three sites. The great capability about the Limerick hub is our internet of things (IoT) lab.

Tell me about how Dell is capturing the internet of things opportunity?

We have three IoT labs across the globe, one of which is hosted out of Ireland and customers from all over EMEA can come and do proof of concepts on proposed IoT projects with partners. In Limerick, we are partnering with the Irish software research group Lero and at the University of Limerick we are sponsoring a post-doc researcher on the use of IoT in smart sustainable cities, with a focus on Limerick.

We have unique capabilities and skills in the tech arena that are emerging. It gives us an opportunity to give back and partner with some of the education institutions.

Dell began in a bedroom selling personal computers. Now it is involved in every facet of IT. Where is Dell EMC at in the narrative of the story of computing?

You hear of buzzwords around emerging technologies. As a matter of fact, when you look at some of the technologies, they have been around decades. AI, robots, cloud … but what we are seeing with the explosion of data is the embedding of IQ in things, embedded AI and machine learning in so many devices.

It is anticipated that, by 2025, there will be more than 20bn connected devices, by 2030 100bn devices. And with each connected device and the intelligence embedded in these devices, we are generating more data than ever before. 95pc of the Earth’s data has been created in the last 24 months, which is more data than created in the last 5,000 years. It kind of throws Moore’s Law out the window.

When you look at the explosion in data and the consumer compared with how PCs started – always on, access to any app anywhere – that consumer and customer demand is fueling a need for businesses and for tech companies to be able to respond and remove all that latency that we have had historically.

Also, there is a changing demographic. The millennials are demanding different things from the workplace. For 77pc of millennials, technology would be a factor for whether they would join a company or not. Almost half of millennials would leave a company over technology. When I started working it wasn’t even a question.

The impact that technology is having on society and the relationship between tech and society in terms of accessibility is going to be transformative.

Dell EMC’s Aisling Keegan: ‘95pc of Earth’s data was created in the last 24 months’

Aisling Keegan, Dell EMC Ireland. Image: Chris Bellew/Fennell Photography

‘William Gibson, author of Virtual Light, said that the future is here, it is just not evenly distributed. In many respects a lot of these technologies existed in some form for decades, they just haven’t been adopted’

What kinds of impact will AI have on business and society?

If you look at some of the work we are doing with customers in the space of AI and machine learning, particularly in the health industry, in terms of social impact in Ireland we have a challenge in terms of research, funding and budgets. Every hospital that I have spoken with agrees that budgetary constraints are always an issue and actually investing in transforming their own hospital to deliver patient services is a challenge.

We are doing work with some of the hospitals whereby they’ve invested in artificial intelligence that has replaced the after-patient care service. Instead of a nurse sitting down post-op with patients to go through the medicine they need to take, they actually have a bot with embedded intelligence that can explain to them what to do.

What we are seeing in the healthcare market globally is a move with citizens and patients from being passive – waiting for clinicians – to active. It is estimated that there will be a 40pc increase over the next 12 months in passive to active patient engagement.

Citizens expect immediate care, they do not want to wait, and so this technology really can absolutely fuel the repurposing of some of the resources we have delivering these patient services and actually focus on attending to more critical areas.

Fast forward 15 years in terms of how technology can fuel what we are talking about. We are talking about wearable technology, ingestible technology that can do an analysis of your blood, how you eat, cardiovascular activity, and could predict five or 10 years down the line, which will fuel preventative care as opposed to after the fact. It sounds sci-fi, but actually it’s happening right now.

William Gibson, author of Virtual Light, said that the future is here, it is just not evenly distributed. In many respects a lot of these technologies existed in some form for decades, they just haven’t been adopted

How should organisations go about digitalisation, is there a framework to follow?

In essence, what is digital transformation? It is about delivering better business outcomes for the customer and those outcomes and deliverables will be different depending on the organisation, whether it is a hospital, an education institution, or a car maker.

At the heart of every company is the software, the applications. And, essentially, users – the employees and consumers – want access to these apps whether mission critical or legacy applications or cloud native and run on infrastructure at all times and available from anywhere.

The reality is these apps and platforms expose users to security threats, because these apps today are mostly run on mobile devices.

We see the underpinning transformation being IT transformation because it is IT transformation which leads to business transformation; they are two sides of the same coin.

IT transformation is about marginalising your current infrastructure, be it best-of-breed components like x86 storage or network storage or, depending on what part of the journey you are on, accelerating that IT transformation journey through a hyper-converged architecture. And that will all depend on what you are trying to achieve.

The second pillar of our blueprint is workforce transformation where we enable employees to access those apps from any device in a secure way to the network  at any time. Because 95pc of security breaches in an organisation occur at the end point, this acceleration of data and access to data poses a huge security risk because there are so many loose ends.

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years