The Power of Infrastructure-as-a-Service: Simplifying Your Multicloud Management | Futurum Tech Webcast

The Power of Infrastructure-as-a-Service: Simplifying Your Multicloud Management | Futurum Tech Webcast

On this episode of the Futurum Tech Webcast – Interview Series, host Daniel Newman welcomes Dell TechnologiesChris Burkhart, Director, Outbound & Partner Marketing for Dell APEX for a conversation on the power of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and the challenges Dell is helping its customers overcome in multicloud management, scalability, compliance and sustainability.

Their discussion covers:

  • We discuss the current state of multicloud management, and the key challenges Dell’s customers are facing
  • How IaaS helps businesses overcome their scalability and flexibility challenges
  • What benefits organizations can expect in regards to budgets and staff efficiency, and why this is critical in today’s workforce
  • We learn some ways that IaaS can help organizations with their sustainability efforts
  • How the Dell APEX solution can drive innovation within organizations

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Daniel Newman: Hey everyone. Welcome back to the Futurum Tech Podcast. I’m Daniel Newman, your host, chief analyst, and CEO at the Futurum Group. Excited for today’s interview series where I’m going to be talking to Chris Burkhart. Chris comes from Dell, and we’re going to be talking a little bit about some research that we recently did in a partnership talking multicloud management.

So without further ado, first timer to the show, I expect a great conversation ahead. Chris, how are you?

Chris Burkhart: Good, good. Thanks, Dan. Really appreciate y’all inviting us here to talk about multicloud and all the things that you’ve discovered in your recent report.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, it was really interesting work. Something that I think both us on the research and analysis side, and then of course Dell with your broadening infrastructure portfolio, have been spending a lot of time thinking about, and of course in your case, building products and services including your APEX portfolio to really deliver on what customers need.

For two decades, the cloud is almost 20 now in terms of its age and we’ve seen this kind of pendulum. It first came and people thought, “Oh, everything’s going to go to the cloud.” Then over time I think people have realized, CIOs and IT leaders and businesses is that it’s going to be a hybrid thing, and in many cases it’s going to be a multi-thing.

We’re going to talk about that today, but before we jump in and talk about the research and the data and get your perspectives, let’s just start off and talk a little bit about your favorite thing, you. I’m joking by the way. Well, maybe I’m joking, I don’t know. But Chris, just for the sake of everybody out there wanting to maybe get to know you a little bit, give a quick introduction, tell them a little bit about the work you do over at Dell Technologies.

Chris Burkhart: Yeah, thank you Dan. So, I’ve been at Dell a combined time of just under 14 years. Very common at Dell, we’re called Boomerangs where we leave Dell for a bit and come back, so I’ve most recently been back just under eight years. I’ve been in the ISG infrastructure APEX environment for about a year and a half now.

My team is responsible for basically content activation around the multicloud and APEX portfolio. So, what that means is making sure that we’re getting basically the right messages to the right audiences at the right time about, again, our services and our products to make sure that it resonates and it addresses the different needs of the audiences that we’re talking to.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, it’s a really interesting time too for Dell and Dell Technologies. I’ve followed the company very closely. You’ve had some really good progress you’ve made with Dell APEX, and I think the company was doing a little bit of figuring its role out in the cloud, meaning that over the years there was Dell Tech On Demand, there was a couple of other things that had sort of come to the market, but I think APEX has really landed, and I’m excited about that and I’ve been following it very closely.

Of course with Dell’s massive global customer base and its worldwide sales force, I expect this to become actually a really fast scaling business. I’ve spent time with Michael, I spent some time with Tom Sweet before he left, and now your new CFO talking about everything from how revenue’s recognized in order to really show growth in the cloud for your business, all the way to just talking about how the pendulum swings between public cloud driving the buying and control plane, and then the private and OEM being more of a support to the private and OEMs being more of the lead.

It’s been really interesting to watch for different enterprises, but what I’ve seen emphatically to be the case is that you’re going to have both. Every enterprise is going to have both, I think that creates a really, really great opportunity.
Now, let’s talk a little bit about the research. So, we set out together to work on gaining a better understanding of multicloud management. We talked to 1,000 IT decision-makers and focused mostly on companies of a greater size, more than 500 FTEs. So not only large enterprises, but bigger companies that likely have IT departments, have a mix of spend.

We did this in 10 countries across eight industry verticals, and we asked them a lot of questions, but one of the ones we asked them was to characterize their current experience with multicloud management. The impact that IaaS has on their experience for those that have used IaaS on-prem or private clouds versus multicloud management.

48% of our respondents said that they use private, so meaning at least about half of companies are using a private cloud, and 78% of the respondents said that they’re using hybrid cloud. Is the findings of our data and research in line with what you, Chris, are seeing in the market?

Chris Burkhart: Yes, very consistent. Again, as we continue to talk to our customers, we find that one of the terms, and I’ll probably use this a couple times a day, is a lot of companies have gone into a multicloud world by default. So they may have started off many years ago being solely private and on-prem, maybe a little bit of colo, and then all of a sudden, as you alluded to earlier, then cloud. It was the next big thing, we’ve got to get everything in cloud, so they put certain workloads in cloud.

What they’ve discovered is now they’re trying to understand what’s the right way to actually balance and optimize their full IT infrastructure. What we think we can help them with is really optimize that and understand that. But yeah, our customers right now, they’re a little bit everywhere, so to speak. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s something that we want to help make sure that they’re actually optimizing their manpower, their spend and everything else. APEX we think really fits in nicely to, again, the current state of these IT basically organizations.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, I tend to agree with your points. I don’t know if you happened to see Andy Jassy from AWS did an interview, and I think it was really interesting to hear when he was talking about numbers, ’cause I think there’s something along the lines, you’ll hear different numbers about how much is in the public cloud. In his recent he did on CNBC, in his recent interview he talked about how about 10% of enterprise workloads, that’s it, are actually in public cloud.

I think it’s about as high as maybe 30% of all, but a lot of those, you’re talking about your SaaS and applications and web apps and things like that, so realistically the enterprise is still really heavily dependent on the on-prem capabilities of cloud. So of course public can be a bit of an operating model, and I think for a lot of CFOs as well as CIs I’ve talked to, the cloud made a lot of sense from the way they spend dollars, meaning more on an operating, less of a CapEx, and that drove some of the spend. But this whole opportunity to solve that by treating the on-prem a little bit more like public cloud from a subscription and a software and a constant SLAs, and the things that you’re doing, for instance over at APEX tends to provide some real value.

In the research, we looked to try to understand better, Chris, some of the challenges for multicloud. Some of the things that we were really seeking to understand better was compliance, scalability, flexibility, efficiency. I mentioned budgets and of course equipment disposition, or disposal, I apologize, of the equipment. How do we get rid of the equipment, because that’s a sustainability issue, that’s a balance sheet issue.

So, a lot of companies are going to IaaS to address these things. I think in our data it said about 87% of respondents believe that it’s driving more flexibility. So, let’s dive into this a little bit more about why you think IaaS is a promising option, and maybe let’s start with compliance and security. So, 46% of respondents suggest that purchasing IaaS would improve security. Are you getting that same vibe from the customers and the interactions you’re having with partners and users and with your sales force?

Chris Burkhart: Yeah, fully. Yeah, security continues to be basically the number one priority for our customers, and that can mean a lot of different things to different customers, but it absolutely is a critical piece that needs to be addressed. They want to make sure that, again, they have the security that they feel that they need, but also as you talked about as well, that they can still scale and flex basically their IT infrastructure and maintain that security envelope that they need for their different workloads. So absolutely, it’s a critical aspect of them, and I think we always almost start conversations around the security aspect and what their concerns are there.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, and security’s going to continue to rise to be a bigger and bigger concern. Things like generative AI, which I know we’re going to do the world a service here and talk about cloud, and we’ll talk a little bit about AI, but we’re not going to … what the world needs is another podcast on AI right now.

Chris Burkhart: Right, right.

Daniel Newman: By the way-

Chris Burkhart: [inaudible 00:09:18].

Daniel Newman: Doing cloud right, Chris, actually makes AI possible, meaning you have cloud right, infrastructure right, data right, storage right, networking right, you can do AI right. So there’s a lot about getting this right that’s important, but I kind of joke, but in a more serious way, security’s incredibly important, because with generative AI tools, you’re going to see better spearfishing, you’re going to see better more attack surfaces, you’re going to see more sophistication.

A lot of attacks right now have been limited by language, meaning because a lot of our nation state actors are not fluent or not first language English speakers, and so you can often detect some of the phishing activity, because of the … but with generative, all that’s going to go away. It’s going to instantaneously go away and create more realistic looking. So there’s a lot of concern, so getting security right is really, really important.

But another thing that’s really important, I think, has always been the driver of cloud has been flexibility and scalability. Meaning the idea that you can kind of tune up, you can tune down. In what you’re seeing in multicloud and IaaS, how are you seeing this help create more flexible, scalable businesses in solving these problems?

Chris Burkhart: Yeah, again, it’s great question, and again, it’s kind of a big part of what we put forth as our excelling points here too, is again, that scalability and flexibility that allows your business to grow as you grow. We want to make sure, again, and I’ll use it again, we want to make sure that you’re building your multicloud environment by design rather than by default, so let’s talk about the different workloads that you have.

If you’re an eCommerce business, maybe it makes sense to have a portion of that in the cloud, but if you’re running HR workloads in the cloud, that’s probably not efficient. So, let’s make sure that you’re putting the things on-prem in your private cloud that make the most sense, and also those where you really want to gain that flexibility and need to have that kind of burst capacity up and down essentially, let’s make sure that we’re addressing that the right way and build this infrastructure that actually addresses that in those ways.

Again, throughout this, again, will always be the security and protection, right? So making sure that the storage data protection, cyber recovery services, all of those, we can align basically Dell’s top of the line products along with software layers that actually interact with our private cloud partners, and we can really build you a best in class environment that allows you to scale and flex.

Daniel Newman: All right, so with that in mind though, I want to pivot just momentarily over to the budget part of things and people. So, this year we’ve kind of had a roller coaster ride. Pandemic drove a surge of tech, hiring like crazy, inflation went through the roof, interest rates rose, earnings dropped, tech companies started cutting, other industries started cutting. So tech has always kind of had the promise, and I’ve been a big proponent to it being deflationary, meaning really tech should be deflationary.

While we did grow fast, in many cases we threw bodies at things, ’cause we just didn’t have the time to put processes and automation and these things in place, but cloud is one of those areas that certainly has the opportunity to be deflationary. I’m not suggesting by any means we don’t want to hire great people to orchestrate and network and build our clouds, but I have to imagine that the big part of the IaaS, whether that’s prem-based or in the hyperscale cloud has to be related to creating staff and budget efficiency to make sure that workforces are right-sized and companies are operating profitably.

Chris Burkhart: Absolutely. Yeah, one of the terms we use is talk about business value, because what we don’t want to necessarily talk about is just straight up cost savings, because that implies that there are cuts. What we want to talk to our customer about is the value that they’re getting out of their infrastructure. So, making sure that they’re, again, optimizing that.

Some companies may actually want to spend more in the cloud, because they think it makes more sense for different reasons, so they’re getting more value out of that. So, we think about this in, again, terms of business value and what the customer will get in terms of cost optimization. So again, companies will always look at making sure that they have the right cost model in place, so that’s a critical part of it.

Then there’s productivity, right? So, making sure that how can we reduce the time and resources dedicated to managing IT infrastructure? Digital resilience, enhancing performance availability, integrity of mission-critical applications, and the data with SLAs that align with your needs too. Of course, business acceleration. How do we make sure that you have an infrastructure in place that deploys provisions, IT services faster, you can react, capture new business opportunities?

As some of the things you talked about of all the headwinds we’re facing right now in the past three years off and on, businesses had to adapt quickly and they had to make sure that they had the right basically infrastructure in place when their workforces went fully remote. Now when they’re all coming back, do you have the right things that you can do that to address that? So, we recognize that there are multiple variables here. It’s not strictly about just cutting costs, it’s about getting that business value right for your business that optimizes and gives you the flexibility you need.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, I’m glad you brought that to everyone’s attention, because I did mention a lot of things about cost constraint containment, automation, but inside that I genuinely do not believe there’s a path to growth through saving. Those two things are mutually exclusive, but optimization’s important and optimize to scale is important. So you really brought some light to scale, which is something I think is really, really important.

Another thing that we found in the research, I truly believe I spent a good amount of time with your head of sustainability, Cassandra Garber, is sustainability, ESG, but specifically sustainability. Dell was early often, it was something that the companies talked about, whether it’s recycled materials all the way through more efficient, lower power utilization, optimized work that can help companies meet sustainability requirements. I believe it’s a big factor for organizations everywhere. Talk a little bit about how you are thinking about IaaS as a way to help companies meet sustainability goals.

Chris Burkhart: Yeah, as you touched on, sustainability’s been in Dell’s DNA for a long time and we’re proud to be seen as a leader in this area. As you mentioned, the materials that we ship our products in, they’re from fully recycled materials and they are fully recyclable.

So taking that a step further into the IT data center world or the infrastructure world, we see that basically infrastructure as a service allows companies to really rightsize, again, the actual hardware that they have on premises, and making sure that their environment is optimized from an efficiency and it reduces waste, both in terms of energy usage. That they don’t have basically systems that are running in the background that aren’t necessarily needed at certain times, and also the hardware itself, right? So when that hardware basically hits its end of life, that again, they’re responsible for actually trying to get rid of that.

What Dell offers with our infrastructure as a service model is the ability to actually we own that hardware, so that’s on us to make sure that we manage it. We look for opportunities to make sure that it’s a sustainable energy usage in those models, but it allows you as the customer to, again, look at the ways to make sure that you’re using the equipment the right way, that you’re not, again, wasting that energy, wasting those services.

Dell, at the end of the day, we also offer full lifecycle management of these products. We can actually do asset recovery where we come in and we’ll basically take back any assets you do have, we’ll turn those into recyclable as well. So kind of, again, full cradle to grave of all your infrastructure needs. We feel that really enhances the sustainability model much better.

Daniel Newman: So, our data confirms that companies really understand that IaaS and multicloud are key going forward strategies for their business. This is the moment where I say, Chris, put your Dell cap back on. You’re talking to an analyst and you’re trying to convince me that Dell has a winning formula for driving growth that’s going to be the driver of APEX, it’s going to be the supportive enterprises across industry, and it’s going to be a great connector and partner to hyperscale clouds. Talk to me about what Dell Technologies is doing and what should our listeners know about?

Chris Burkhart: Yeah, I mean, kind of put simply, Dell APEX delivers multicloud by design. We want to make sure that you’re optimizing your multicloud, your hybrid environment to address the workloads that you have. Let’s make sure that those workloads that you have that need that scalability and flexibility in the public cloud, we can help you manage that.

For those things that you want to have on-prem or in a colo, if there are security requirements you feel better as a customer about having that on-prem, let’s talk about that and make sure that you can actually, again, build this multicloud by design. It helps future-proof as well, and I love the fact that you brought up gen AI too, right? I think that’s important as, again, it’s kind of the word of the day it feels like these days to make sure that we can build you the infrastructure that will scale with that as we continue to all learn about what that means.

We’ve connected technology innovation of the public cloud with the on-prem environment and bring together the best of both worlds. Quite frankly, Dell APEX, we basically give the customers the simplicity, agility, and control in their IT investments to manage their business the right way, optimize it, and grow it with their business.

Daniel Newman: I think that’s a good summary, Chris. I mean, my take as an analyst on the outside has been looking at there is a convergence of forces to the multicloud. The hyperscalers are going more and more to the prem, the prem is going more and more to the cloud, so it’s going to be a total value proposition that companies are going to have to think about Dell as a legacy of capabilities, as well as net new comprehensive services that are going to be very interesting to watch.

So I continue to watch your story evolve, I continue to listen to the customer cases. These are always a good way as an analyst for us to better understand the growth, capabilities, competencies, development, and of course the revenue uptake. It seems to all be heading in the right direction. Seems from our research that we did together this year that the data suggests you’re very well-positioned.

So I want to wish you good luck, I want to continue to watch the progress for Dell APEX. I will be talking about it quite a bit here, as will the Futurum Group team, both through this research and through our general coverage of the industry. Chris, thanks so much for joining me here on the Futurum Tech Podcast.

Chris Burkhart: Thanks, Dan. Really appreciate it. Great conversation.

Daniel Newman: All right, everyone hit that subscribe button, join us for all of our Futurum Tech Podcasts. This one was a great conversation. Download the research, we put that in the show notes, learn more about what’s going on in the multicloud space. Of course, we appreciate the partnership with Dell in doing this large global survey on such an important topic. For this podcast, it’s time to say goodbye. Thanks for tuning in, we’ll see you later.

Other insights from The Futurum Group:

Dell Tech World: Perspectives on the Strategic Shifts at Dell

Dell APEX Platform Advancements Empower Customers to Optimize Multicloud Strategies and Streamline IT Operations

The Six Five Insider with Dell’s Adam Glick, Sr. Director of Portfolio Marketing for APEX and Multicloud

Author Information

Daniel is the CEO of The Futurum Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise.

From the leading edge of AI to global technology policy, Daniel makes the connections between business, people and tech that are required for companies to benefit most from their technology investments. Daniel is a top 5 globally ranked industry analyst and his ideas are regularly cited or shared in television appearances by CNBC, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal and hundreds of other sites around the world.

A 7x Best-Selling Author including his most recent book “Human/Machine.” Daniel is also a Forbes and MarketWatch (Dow Jones) contributor.

An MBA and Former Graduate Adjunct Faculty, Daniel is an Austin Texas transplant after 40 years in Chicago. His speaking takes him around the world each year as he shares his vision of the role technology will play in our future.


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