When you think of Dell—a $60 billion company—what comes most immediately to mind?
For Dell's liking, I'll bet way too many people would answer notebooks, supply-chain wizardry, built-to-order PCs, and yesteryear's dippy hipster hawking the line, "Dude, you're getting a Dell!"
And maybe far too few thought of this: each and every day, about 1 billion work and play in Dell-powered clouds.
Recently, the company's gained some notoriety as the x86 provider of choice for powering the stupendous data centers for many of the world's largest web companies, including Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Salesforce.com, and some of China's biggest online businesses. But even though that's been a huge achievement for Dell, those megadeals have also partially reinforced the perception of the company as a very large and mightily efficient but not terribly strategic IT player.
All of that, however, seems to be about to change dramatically as Dell is looking to reposition itself—and not just cosmetically—as a customer-driven and forward-looking business-technology partner with expertise in virtualization, cloud computing, and "solution stacks" that help CIOs hammer away at the 80/20 spending trap that starves innovation and growth opportunities.
At the same time, Dell is also planning to come at the market from the other end of the spectrum with a forthcoming family of tablets aimed squarely at the Apple iPad but designed from conception with enterprise connectivity, management, security, and compliance as indispensable priorities.
And Dell believes that new emphasis on flexible and strategic enterprise solutions, in combination with all of the products and capabilities for which it's well known, will give it the blunt-force strength to take on the biggest enterprise IT players without having to sacrifice the agility and speed it has mastered over the years.
"Dell is going through classic brand transformation that all IT brands go through," said Andy Lark, VP of marketing Dell's Large Enterprise division, in a phone call this week. "This type of thing doesn't happen quickly and we know it'll take us a while but we're up to it.
"At the core, Dell is shifting from being the industry value leader to being the value leader plus the company that can deliver the best solution stack.
"For us, that means keeping that stack open, and customers tell us that's one of the things that differentiates us: we're not burdened with loads of legacy business models and legacy engineering requirements and legacy IP that we have to try to drag into the future," Lark said.
Taking a shot at primary competitor HP, Lark said this about Dell's perceived advantage: