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Dell privatization yields more of the same

It's been one year since Dell's private move. Here's what customers have seen so far and what they hope will improve.

AUSTIN, Texas -- Dell's privatization last year may have helped the company financially, but the move hasn't led to the type of innovations and technology diversification customers hoped for.

Almost a year to the day after he privatized the company, CEO Michael Dell took the stage here at Dell World to proclaim that going private has "unleashed" the company and allowed it to be "bold," providing the kind of freedom it needs to deliver "future-ready" products for the data center.

While some IT pros and analysts have seen a more concerted effort to deliver cloud-based software and services, others said they have yet to see a whole lot of boldness.

"I don't see how the privatization has measurably changed the company as far as its products and services go, and I don't necessarily have a lot of complaints about that," said one long-time IT professional with a large Texas-based university. "They seem to be doing what they do best; be a fast follower to some of the more important trends like big data and the cloud."

Dell might have put too strong an emphasis on the future of traditional PCs during his keynote, another conference attendee said.

"He is unabashed about his decision to keep believing in the present and future of PCs, but I'd like to hear him talk more about his vision and investments in mobile devices," said a systems analyst with a Hartford, Conn-based insurance company. "He did mention his focus on the Internet of Things, but I didn't get a lot of details today about how they will approach that for IT."

Some attendees praised Dell's decision to go private and believe it will pay, if not necessarily technology rewards, at least financial rewards.

The decision to go private hasn't hurt the financial performance of some of the company's bread and butter desktop and server lines so far. Dell, which no longer has to publicly disclose its financials, claims it grabbed the top spot in storage over the course of the first half of 2014, growing some 14.3%. It reports a 10% increase in PC shipments in this year's third quarter compared to the same quarter last year, which fueled its growth in North America by 19%.

"Privatization has allowed them to survive, and not face some of the turmoil its major competitors have faced," said Steve Brasen, an analyst with Enterprise Management Associates in Boulder, Colo.

Some attendees at the conference have noticed a difference from Dell's privatization.

"From what I can see, their ability to execute seems to be quicker [over the past year] and their decision making has improved," said Kyle Stewart, a technology manager with Overlake Medical Center in Seattle. "I think this is what could drive out some cool technology over the next year or two."

Dell makes converged architecture play

Whether the technology Dell introduced this week will be deemed 'cool'  remains to be seen.

The company rolled out its PowerEdge FX architecture, a new approach for Dell in converged architecture. The 2U enclosure includes six new PowerEdge servers, storage and network slots stuffed into the FX2 chassis to support a variety of workloads. The product also includes management software to reduce operational complexity, according to Dell.

The company's XC Series of Web-Scale Converged Appliances glues together compute, storage, hypervisor and a virtual machine compute platform into one offering. The converged product uses Nutanix software and is aimed at virtualized servers and virtual desktop infrastructure.

Other vendors, including HP and SimpliVity, have offered converged infrastructure systems for years.

Dell also made its debut as a cloud broker with the first public beta of its Dell Cloud Marketplace, which gives IT pros a one-stop-shop to compare, purchase, use and manage many different and well known public clouds through Dell.com, similar to the cloud marketplace IBM launched earlier this year. The company also announced partnerships with Docker, Delphix and Pertino for data portability and fast application development.




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