​​Optimizing the Cloud Journey: An Exploration of Dell APEX and Consumption-Based Multi-Cloud Strategies | Futurum Tech Webcast

​​Optimizing the Cloud Journey: An Exploration of Dell APEX and Consumption-Based Multi-Cloud Strategies | Futurum Tech Webcast

On this episode of the Futurum Tech Webcast – Interview Series, host Steven Dickens welcomes Clint Boulton Senior Advisor, Portfolio Marketing, APEX from Dell Technologies for a conversation on the power of Dell APEX and consumption-based multi-cloud strategies.

Their discussion covers how Dell APEX aims to offer a cost-effective and flexible Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) solution by aligning costs with actual consumption and addressing the scaling and cost-containment challenges often seen in Public Clouds. They discuss how the platform provides a comprehensive range of services, including storage, data protection, and multi-cloud options, designed to right-size infrastructure and workloads for efficiency and regulatory compliance. Lastly, they discuss how Dell APEX focuses on life-cycle management to free up IT staff for strategic business initiatives while also incorporating robust security and data governance measures.

Key topics in this episode include:

  • Cost-Alignment: APEX’s elastic scaling and pay-as-you-go model eliminates overprovisioning and aims to provide cost-effective scaling, addressing limitations of public cloud and FinOps.
  • Comprehensive Service Offerings: Covers a wide array of IaaS needs from storage and data protection to cloud platforms, thereby offering multicloud flexibility and various custom solutions.
  • Workload Efficiency: Allows for intentional placement and right-sizing of workloads, whether in public/private cloud or on-premises, to meet scalability, operational, and regulatory requirements.
  • Resource Optimization: By offloading life-cycle management and other operations, it frees up IT staff for more strategic tasks, supported by Dell’s capacity planning, performance gains, and direct support services.

Learn more about the value of Dell APEX here.

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Steven Dickens: Hello, welcome to another episode of the Futurum Tech webcast. I’m your host, Steven Dickens, and I’m joined here by Clint Boulton from Dell. Hey Clint, welcome to the show.

Clint Boulton: Hey Steve, thanks for having me.

Steven Dickens: So let’s get our listeners and viewers orientated first, maybe explain what your role is and then we’ll dive straight in here.

Clint Boulton: Yeah, sounds good. Thanks, Steve. So I’m Senior Advisor of Portfolio Marketing for APEX Thought Leadership Concepts at Dell.

Steven Dickens: A nice short title they give you.

Clint Boulton: Yeah, I know it’s quite a mouthful. It’s quite a mouthful with a lot of comments in there. But essentially what that means is I’m in charge of creating content that will raise awareness and hopefully provoke some ideas and thought leadership around the Dell APEX portfolio of services.

Steven Dickens: So you mentioned APEX there. We’ve been doing a lot of work collaboratively with you and the team research really digging into APEX. I think it’s at the epicenter of where the market’s going with consumption-based models. What are you seeing as that value? I know in your role we’ve spoken off camera, you talk a lot to clients, you get in that sort of view. Where are you seeing the value of APEX from a consumption angle primarily?

Clint Boulton: Yeah, great question Steve. So the value prop for Dell APEX is essentially that IT leaders can deploy infrastructure on premises in a way that aligns costs with actual use by deploying buffer capacity to reduce over provisioning costs. So essentially customers can elastically scale up and down within the buffer paying for capacity as used at one rate and with no overage fees. And the idea is that you’re right-sizing infrastructure requirements with actual consumption, which allows for streamlined use of compute and storage capacity. So you get the simplicity and agility of a Cloud service but with greater control of an on-premises environment.

Steven Dickens: It’s interesting you mentioned on-premises there, and maybe I’ll just sort of take you to this before we get to the next question. It’s not necessarily on-premises in your data center that can be on-premises in a co-located data center next to a public Cloud. So I think what we’re seeing is these evolution of hybrid models. Is that what you are seeing as well?

Clint Boulton: Oh, absolutely. We’re seeing an evolution to hybrid and multi-Cloud models essentially where you’re running in locations on premises, public and private Clouds, colocation facilities, and even Edge environments on Edge devices.

Steven Dickens: Yeah, I think that flexibility’s key and private and public kind of were a terminology of sort of seven, eight years ago. It was either your data center or a public Cloud. We see a blur there. One of the next questions I had, and you started to hint at it a little bit with the answers to my first question. But really sort of drill down if you would, how’s Dell providing that value? So what are you specifically doing at that IAS layer, the infrastructure as a service layer to add some value there?

Clint Boulton: Yeah, so Dell APEX, we take the promise of infrastructure as a service along with all of its flexibility and scalability to drive a consistent Cloud experience with which customers may already be accustomed from the public Cloud, but in a way that aligns compute resources with consumption. And the APEX portfolio does this while covering compute, storage, data protection, cyber recovery, Cloud platforms, client devices and custom solutions.

Steven Dickens: I think the interesting thing for me, and you touched on it there, maybe people will be thinking about it from a compute point of view or from a storage point of view, the ability to flex and scale. One thing is I’ve dug in more to APEX is the ability for… You can pull this from a storage perspective, you can pull it from a compute point of view, and you’ve got that sort of flexibility. So whilst there’s some reference architectures and T-shirt sizes here, you can certainly flex and pull those kind of as you see fit.

Clint Boulton: Yeah, no, absolutely. We like to think of it sort of as a multi-Cloud by design state in terms of what we try to provide with APEX. And so what do we mean by that? It’s the idea of intentionally choosing workloads to run in the best environment possible. I mentioned earlier, public and private Cloud, traditional on-prem infrastructure, colos and even the Edge. The factors for allocating workloads, and that’s what we’re talking about here, workload placement include cost, security, latency, control, data locality issues. The example that we’ve been using recently is take AI workloads, which is obviously the topic du jour in light of the rise of generative AI. So a lot of AI workloads typically feature two components, right? You’ve got the training of the models and the inferencing. So the algorithm training tends to be sort of performance intensive and often requires specialized hardware. And as a result, many orgs may find that training is best suited for on-premises.

Now, however, the inferencing aspect is typically not as performance intensive, not in every case, but in many cases. So for that you can often run that in public Clouds, Edge, colos and on-prem. Another example we like to talk about is client computing, which includes workloads such as virtual desktop farms, digital workspace solutions, and client applications. We saw a lot of sort of upheaval on this front during the pandemic with a lot of VDI implementations.

So these workloads are inherently distributed in nature, right, and they require plenty of connectivity and network bandwidth. They follow specific usage patterns that are tied to how the business operates. For example, in the case of a multinational enterprise supporting thousands of users working for multiple countries across the globe, the public Cloud may be a good primary choice because it provides greater scalability and lower maintenance. However, you’ve got some client computing workloads which may be subject to regulatory requirements such as data locality or security rules for governance. And so those may be best operated on-premises where IT can maintain sort of tighter control. So circle back to the point about cost savings relative to APEX, right? If you are rightsizing those workloads and putting them in the best place possible, just sort of makes your IT infrastructure management more efficient. So ideally you’re saving some money on operations, which is good for the business overall.

Steven Dickens: Yeah, I think we’ve moved to a stage where people are being more thoughtful about workload placement from all of the conversations we have. And you picked up on a lot of the points there. It’s performance, it’s availability, it’s scalability, it’s security, it’s regulatory. We’re starting to see ESG come through and consumption, and obviously cost from a FinOps style perspective. So those kind of seven vectors that I’d call them really where people are starting to think about workload. It’s not just where do I put my infrastructure Cloud on-prem? It’s more nuanced than that and it’s coming through. And I mean you talked a little bit about some of the implications for IT resources, utilization, staffing. Maybe you can sort of double click there for us.

Clint Boulton: Yeah, yeah, so it’s a question of freeing up staff to focus on other things that provide business value, right? I think every IT leader worth his or her salt is concerned with that at one point or another in their career arcs, right? So one of the things about Dell APEX is that it helps organizations offload the lifecycle management of traditional infrastructure from deployment to operations to decommissioning assets. So in the process, this frees up IT staff to focus on other critical priorities. So what might those be? They can serve as business advisors to help their line of business stakeholders better understand the needs across their various departments such as sales, marketing, HR, operations. Maybe it’s a consultation on how to approach generative AI use cases, right, something that’s sort of very popular right now. Or maybe it’s something more traditional such as helping derive more insights from their ERP systems, right? That’s something that I think every line of business leader has concerned his or herself with that at some point.

Steven Dickens: Yeah, I think it’s interesting the point you make there. If you can get these teams out of the plumbing, the racking and stacking of servers, the patching, the sort of hamster wheel if you will, of kind of the lowest level of infrastructure and enable those teams to add more value to your business, that’s going to be good news for all. But one of the other factors that we hear a lot about, and I’m going to take you towards security and data governance here, but one of the things we hear a lot from our clients, and it’s interesting where this meets from an infrastructure point of view. I was talking about the work of patching and updating systems and network connectivity. There’s a whole sort of security set of implications across infrastructure through that management and through that sort of hands-on with the IT teams having to get in to stitch all this infrastructure together. As we look at solutions like APEX, kind of how’s that working from a security and data governance point of view? What’s the security and data governance meets infrastructure sort of perspective?

Clint Boulton: Right, right. Obviously security plays a critical role in the development process for applications, right? So a lot of developers will test applications in a public Cloud, but oftentimes they have to be sensitive about their intellectual property. So typically what we see is when it’s time to launch those apps into production, maybe an on-premises environment is the best place to go for that reason. And again, data locality, governance, security rules have something to do with that. What we’re finding is a lot of organizations across the globe are increasingly adopting the zero trust model, right, of security. Dell certainly advocates for that, right? It’s this notion of trusting, but verifying as an approach, where the idea is if I know what is running where right down the user and instance level, I can sort of create a stronger moat on the security front and that can also help meet data locality and governance concerns.

Steven Dickens: Well, I mean it’s interesting you mentioned it there. As we talked to lots of clients and a lot of vendors, Cloud is not a destination, it’s a model. So people have this view in their mind that, “Oh, Cloud means public Cloud. That means AWS.” I think we’re getting to a point where the industry’s starting to think differently about that now. They’re starting to think Cloud’s a model that’s consumption, it’s scalable, it’s CapEx being in the past, and OpEx being linked to sort of infrastructure scalability. It’s how do I consume my infrastructure as a service? And then where do you put that infrastructure? Maybe that’s sovereign Cloud reasons, maybe that’s sort of compliance frameworks, maybe that’s data sovereignty. Whatever the reason is we’re starting to see those more evolved pieces. So I mean, as we see this, obviously you are talking to a lot more customers than we are. Where are you seeing that from a sort of customer testimonial point of view? We hear about Telco, we hear about healthcare, we hear about lots of other sectors. What are you hearing and what are some of those stories that you can share?

Clint Boulton: Yeah, Telco, healthcare, FinServes, right? Those are some of our primary customer bases that we enjoy working with. So overall, I’d say APEX customers have reported efficiencies related to capacity planning and procurement, gains of performance, time savings, and direct support that they received from Dell. One example is a Telco company, and obviously we’re not naming names here, but consumed APEX hyper-converged infrastructure. And the kind of benefits that they received was sort of access to telemetry data, including diagnostics about how their systems were performing, as well as availability metrics and other important KPIs and healthcare organization, which is typically pretty strapped for resources from an IT perspective, as you know, Steve used APEX to improve capacity planning, which in turn helped them cultivate a more proactive and responsive IT organization.

And just a more general data point for what we’ve seen collectively across several customers in our base is, that customers have found that access to capacity has been reduced from six months to less than 30 days while using APEX. And again, this is pretty much focused on their IT staff to focus on generating more value for their business partners and constituents. So again, it’s this notion of APEX providing that Cloud experience, but offering the simplicity, agility, and control that IT leaders really view as important for their business.

Steven Dickens: So Clint couldn’t agree more. I mean, it’s always good to get some of those customer testimonials. I think people watching this are going to be really interested. I think talking about healthcare, you talked about regulated industries, you talked about time to value getting the equipment in and commissioned up. What would be your sort of key takeaway as we start to wrap up here? What would be that kind of key takeaway that people listening to the show can take away around APEX?

Clint Boulton: Yeah, it’s like getting sort of the consistency or the simplicity, agility of a Cloud service, but with greater control, right? I said this at the top of the call, I said this in the middle. I’m going to say this towards the end. You know look…

Steven Dickens: Repetition, Clint, repetition. It works.

Clint Boulton: So consider some of the challenges that we’ve seen over the public Cloud over the years. Sure, organizations spin up virtual machines and storage capacity with a few clicks of a button. But as several IT leaders have learned over the years, their developers, God bless them, would leave compute workloads running overnight and into the weekend even when they weren’t actually working with them. So what’s the result of that? The result is they’ve blown through their allotted monthly Cloud budget over the course of a single weekend. And really that’s kind of a nightmare scenario that’s fueled the FinOps explosion that you alluded to earlier, right, Steve? The subsequent rise of Cloud cost management as a market category. But on the other hand, you’ve also got the startups that were born in the Cloud, right, and raving about how great it’s been for their business in terms of their ability to scale, ability to be agile, and ability to innovate.

But as they scaled intact on more user seats in the public Cloud, many of these organizations hit a wall because they realized the cost of operating there began to sort of eat into their bottom line. So then we’ve begun seeing some repatriation on that front and sort of rolling back from infrastructure of service assets out in the public Cloud to running them on-premises. And we think APEX actually provides a great on-ramp for those customers that might have sort of struggled to find their financial coding in the public Cloud, but we’ve got a soft landing spot for them at APEX.

Steven Dickens: Well, Clint, that’s a fantastic summary. We’re wrapping up here. Thank you for joining me on the show. Great discussion today.

Clint Boulton: Hey Steve, thanks for having me. Really appreciate it.

Steven Dickens: So you’ve been watching another episode of Futurum Tech webcast. Please click and subscribe and do all those things to boost the algorithm, and we’ll see you on the next episode. Thanks very much for watching.

Author Information

Steven is Vice President and Practice Leader at The Futurum Group, responsible for the Hybrid Cloud, Infrastructure and Operations Practice. Operating at the crossroads of technology and disruption, Steven engages with the world’s largest technology brands exploring new operating models and how they drive innovation and competitive edge for the enterprise.

With experience in Open Source, Hybrid Cloud, Mission Critical Infrastructure, Cryptocurrencies, Blockchain, and FinTech innovation, Steven makes the connections between the C-Suite executives, end users, and tech practitioners that are required for companies to drive maximum advantage from their technology deployments.

Steven is an alumnus of industry titans such as HPE and IBM and has led multi-hundred-million-dollar global sales teams Steven was a founding board member, former Chairperson, and now Board Advisor for the Open Mainframe Project, a Linux Foundation Project promoting Open Source on the mainframe.

As a Birmingham, UK native, his speaking engagements take him around the world each year enabling him to share his insights on the role of technology and how it can transform our lives going forward.


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