The big picture: One of the most interesting and longest-lasting trends to impact the world of enterprise computing has been the transition to cloud-based computing models. While some predicted that the transition to the cloud would happen quickly, the reality has been far different. In fact, until recently, it wasn't completely unlike observing a sloth climb a tree or, frankly, do just about anything. Everything moves slower than you'd like, and there aren't a lot of surprises about what's going to happen next.
The impact of the pandemic has changed the situation, and we're now starting to see concerted efforts to move more of many companies' applications and workloads to various types of cloud architectures. The problem is---and this has been a huge barrier all along---it's still hard to do.
The number of different pieces involved, the skill sets it requires and the overall complexity of the solutions have made it very difficult for organizations to modernize their applications and infrastructure as quickly as they'd like.
In recognition of that reality, the one aspect of the cloud computing revolution that has started to really accelerate recently is the self-service, consumption-based, as-a-service business model that lies at its heart. To be clear, the technological advancements involved with cloud computing, such as modern, cloud-native, containerized, microservices-based applications orchestrated by tools like Kubernetes continue to be an important long-term goal. What many companies are really looking for now, however, is a mechanism to shift much of their IT spending from a big-hit capital expenditure model to one focused on subscription-based operational expenditures. In addition, many companies are looking for external assistance and expertise in installing and managing some of these new cloud-focused solutions.
All of this provides context for the big news from Dell Technologies' DellTechWorld event: the launch of Project Apex, which promises to unify and expand its "as-a-service" offerings across its entire portfolio of products and services, from PCs to cloud computing to storage and more. Dell has offered various types of "as-a-service" models in the past, but the goal with Project Apex is to make everything available as-a-service.
Project Apex promises to unify and expand its "as-a-service" offerings across its entire portfolio of products and services
Specifically, what Dell wants to do with Project Apex is create a suite of standard as-a-service offerings that potential customers can purchase via the new Dell Cloud Console. This ability to transact directly is one of the distinctions that separates Dell's Project Apex from some of the conceptually similar HPE GreenLake "everything-as-a-service" offerings announced earlier this year. With the preview launch of Cloud Console, Dell Tech is offering the ability to select from a range of different service and payment options via a marketplace then order the services in a self-service fashion. Over time, Dell plans to add the ability to directly deploy, manage, and optimize a range of services via the Cloud Console as well.
In addition to these, the company also unveiled new hybrid cloud-focused services that allow customers to pick from different types of computing instances, much like the major cloud service providers currently do. The idea is to provide a wider range of options so that customers can more easily make a selection based on the requirements of the specific workload they want to move to the cloud, without necessarily having to know the specific hardware requirements needed.
For this first iteration, the hardware is owned by Dell, but it is delivered to the client's premise (or desired co-location facility) and subsequently managed by the customer. This differs from the current VMWare Cloud on Dell EMC combined offering, which is a fully managed hybrid cloud service, but doesn't come solely from Dell. (The devil is often in the details with regard to the various combinations of who manages what as well as pay-for-use vs. pay-by-the drip consumption models, etc.)
Dell knows that many of its customers will still prefer to purchase at least some elements of hardware, software, and services in a more traditional transaction-based approach, and the company will continue to offer its products in that way
The first completely Dell-owned and managed offering that utilizes strict consumption model pricing is going to be the company's Storage-as-a-Service offering, also announced at DellTechWorld and scheduled for release at the beginning of next year. Dell sees this offering as the model upon which it wants to base its future services. In some cases, that may require some minor tweaks to some of its existing offerings, such as with PC-as-a-Service, while in others, more significant changes will be required. Ultimately, the goal is to make the services consistent---in the manner in which they're offered, in the options by which they're managed, and in the method by which they're purchased.
Even with all these changes and the additional flexibility they provide, Dell knows that many of its customers will still prefer to purchase at least some elements of hardware, software, and services in a more traditional transaction-based approach, and the company will continue to offer its products in that way.
Over time, however, Dell also knows that the sloth-like pace of cloud technology and business model adoption will change, so it's good to see the company building a foundation for this new approach to IT technology selection, adoption, and usage with Project Apex. The story isn't complete just yet, and Dell Technologies is arguably a bit late to the complete "as-a-service" approach, but the company, and the market, are clearly moving in the right direction.
Bob O'Donnell is the founder and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLC a technology consulting firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community. You can follow him on Twitter @bobodtech.