Dell CEO Michael Dell took the company private to gain more independence from Wall Street investors. Now that the buyout's cleared, what moves can customers expect?
3. Dell will focus on the hybrid cloud.
Ferrand highlighted hybrid cloud services as a market on which Dell will focus, and which Dell sees as ripe for growth. "We want to dominate hybrid," he said, explaining that customers want a company that will allow them to be flexible with their data. Customers want to move applications between private and public clouds as they see fit, and they want security from outages and data leaks, he said. He cited some of the investments Dell has already made to fulfill these needs, such as its acquisition of Gale, a company that makes cloud automation tools.
But he said direct relationships with customers would be one of Dell's defining traits as it builds its cloud business. With competitors such as HP, Microsoft, IBM and others occupying the same space, Dell hopes it can stand out not only with its products but also by serving as a "trusted advisor" for its customers.
4. Dell wants to enable IT to manage BYOD and fragmented workplaces.
Ferrand said device choice has become a smaller part of Dell's conversations with customers. The reason? Dell's cloud, virtualization and device management products allow companies to employ applications to whomever needs them, regardless of what kind device the person is using.
"Connecting devices" will be one of Dell's core competencies as a private company, Ferrand said, and it will involve a variety of products from the company's existing portfolio, from Wyse technologies for thin clients, to KACE products for management and deployment, to Credent technologies for added security. Device management tools and virtual desktop products are fairly common, but Dell hopes the breadth of its offerings can help it to stand out. This "one-stop shop" mentality plays in the "trusted advisor" persona noted above. Ferrand said the attitude would apply to all Dell's businesses.
5. Dell will invest in next-gen data center technologies and big-data products.
Ferrand also said Dell would continue to focus on next-generation data center products and big-data applications. The company has already achieved some early momentum with its Active System line of converged infrastructure products, as well as its hyperscale servers built around energy-efficient ARM processors. But for both these data centers products and its emerging analytics tools to stand out in the crowded market, Dell will need to continue showing that its software assets are starting to coalesce. The company spent several years acquiring software patents and expertise, but Dell's success will rely on integrating all of the technologies at the right price and pace.
6. Dell will increase its international sales coverage.
U.S. customers currently account for an inordinate amount of Dell's business but the company believes emerging markets will be central to its long-term success. Ferrand said the company will continue to participate heavily with channel partners but will also expand its fleet of direct sales representatives throughout the world.
7. Dell will continue to focus on the middle market.
As its enterprise portfolio has expanded, Dell has tried to carve out a niche by delivering enterprise-class resources to SMBs and mid-market customers. Ferrand said Dell will continue this strategy as a private company partly because the middle market contains the largest group of potential customers. But he said this focus also enables Dell to design more flexible products. It's easier to scale up a mid-market architecture than to affordably repackage one designed for large companies, he said.
8. Dell will execute moves more quickly than in the past.
Ferrand didn't offer any hints regarding big moves Dell might be planning -- such as another major acquisition, or some kind of new product launch. But he said customers can expect Dell to quicken the pace of innovation. As a publicly-traded corporation, the company faced a variety of hurdles in making aggressive moves. But with Michael Dell now securely in the driver's seat, Ferrand said changes will unroll much more quickly.
Server Market SplitsvilleJust because the server market's in the doldrums doesn't mean innovation has ceased. Far from it -- server technology is enjoying the biggest renaissance since the dawn of x86 systems. But the primary driver is now service providers, not enterprises.