Dell: Storage Is One of the Most Exciting Aspects of the Business

Michael Dell has trumpeted his love for all things data storage at his company's first ever Storage Forum in Orlando this week.

Buoyed by his firm's fistful of data management company acquistions over the last couple of years, including the $940 million capture of niche player Compellent this February, Dell played up to the data management specialists in the audience.

Dell said, "I often get asked what is the most exciting part of the Dell business. I have five kids and I love them all equally, but I do love storage - in fact Dell started as a storage company."

Dell went on to say his first completed deal as a Dell executive when he was running the company from a college dorm was to supply disk drive subsystems for the IBM PC.

"A guy wanted to buy 150 disk drive upgrade kits from us and we had to clean up the college dorm ready for his visit. We designed a PC to format the drives. He saw the PC and asked us whether we sold them too - that was a good idea."

Dell as a company claims to have around 30 percent of the worldwide server market, but Michael Dell says the Big Data question means that isn't enough to address what companies need to deliver on data management, both operationally and on security and compliance issues.

"We had to take on the server solutions challenge, which is what we've done with our acquisitions by going deeper into the enterprise applications space, it's not enough for these companies to just buy another bigger, more powerful server - they need to manage the data more efficiently."

Dell said the IT industry had often concentrated on the big enterprises too much with the technologies brought onto the market, when the majority of firms were smaller and more aspirational about what they wanted from their IT now and what they expected from it in the near to medium term as they grew.

Compellent's technology addresses the data management requirements of companies of all sizes by automatically learning how their data is stored and accessed across the organisation. As a result, Compellent claims to be able to reduce the amount of storage hardware needed by an organisation by up to half.

When asked what gets him up in the morning, Dell said, "Many organisations are only now waking up to the fact that the computational abilities of IT can allow them to really get the best out of their data. If we can help, that is an exciting and rewarding opportunity."

Dell isn't alone in trying to address the data management quandary firms find themselves in. At the same time as this week's Dell Storage Forum, HP is making a big play about new storage management offerings at its user conference in Las Vegas.

Both HP and Dell in fact have been battling over the right companies to buy to tackle the storage requirements of enterprises. Dell was rumoured to be interested in buying cloud storage management firm 3PAR before HP snapped it up for $2.35 billion last autumn.

The fibre channel data storage market is something that Dell is keen to expand in, and it launched a "budget" fibre channel data box in Orlando. It has a tight alliance with fibre channel leader Brocade, and the buzz among delegates in Orlando is that Brocade may well be a new acquisition target for Dell.

Phil Soran, president of Dell Compellent, would only say, "There'll always be companies of interest to us."

On the question of big IT companies tackling the data requirements of firms, Soran said, "When it came to addressing the real needs of organisations you could say some suppliers had a big hat with no cattle, something you can't now accuse of Dell."

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