Dell takes to the cloud to manage hardware remotely


2 Jul 2009

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Computer giant Dell is spearheading a new strategy to provide services to SMEs via the internet cloud. Tim Griffin is global head of services and solutions at Dell.

Many of the big shifts in technology such as virtualisation are out of reach for cash-strapped small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). How do you see these businesses adopting future services?

There’s an argument that says at what point should an SME even buy a server? If you think about it in terms of the evolving internet cloud – you have early adopters and those who are reluctant – this model was built for the SME. 

More and more companies are finding it economically viable to get their software-as-a-service via the internet and we believe that economies of scale will encourage firms to take the same route for their hardware needs.

While you have early adopters who view their IT as another utility like gas or electricity and are comfortable to host servers offsite in a data centre, for example, or leave the management to specialists, there are firms who are reluctant.

 Even though they understand the economic argument, they fear the security implications. So we are taking a ‘crawl, walk, run’ approach. We understand the ‘on premises’ dimension, so we’ll start with a few services available via the internet.

There are a lot of services in the cloud for SMEs today such as remote monitoring, remediation and management, thanks to acquisitions we made in recent years.

What are the advantages for an SME that opts to go with a utility computing model?

The advantages are economic and freeing up minds to focus on strategic matters. Around 70pc of any given IT budget today is being spent on keeping the lights on. Our attitude is firms should focus on reducing that spend and freeing up more money and brains to focus on changing the business.

The majority of IT managers and CIOs are spending all of their energy just keeping the business running. We’ll do that and let the IT manager focus his or her energies on changing the business and keeping core customers happy.

Are you meeting resistance from IT managers who fear change? 

It depends on the organisation’s level of development and business issues. For SMEs, there is an inflection point to where companies view IT as a necessity and then as a contributor to the business’s growth.

In the latter case, IT managers and CIOs want to have a seat at the boardroom table. This is a good indicator when businesses start using IT as a differentiator to get closer to customers.

That requires a lot of brain power and CIOs can’t be distracted by the utility issues and worrying about rooms full of cables. They want to be able to drive change in the business, either via new technology or by supporting new business models.

If a company does go down the hardware-as-a-service route, what happens if something goes wrong physically?

We have a legacy of remotely detecting if there is a problem with hardware, often knowing before the organisation if there is a problem. We can also trade on our core strengths in the area of ‘next day delivery’.

We do a lot of fixes and remediation via the internet, but I don’t think you will ever get away from the last mile. There will always be a need for someone to appear onsite.

‘Next business day delivery’ is still not offered by some of our competitors. But, as we evolve, we are looking at ways of integrating it with channel partners to give them more fire power.

By John Kennedy

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