Dell Technologies made a series of announcements related to its numerous new and updated infrastructure solutions and services at the Dell Technologies World conference held at Las Vegas last week. With its latest offerings and updates, Dell aims to maximise the value of its customers’ IT investments while providing them maximum agility, flexibility, scalability, control and power to innovate. In a freewheeling chat with businessline, Peter Maars, the company’s president for the Asia Pacific & Japan (APJ) region, and Alok Ohrie, who leads Dell Technologies India, delved into Dell’s APEX Cloud Platforms advancements, the developments on the data centres front and factors that are shaping and guiding the enterprise IT world. Edited excerpts:
You [Peter] have been talking about how multicloud storage can be an architectural revolution that can transform businesses. But it [multicloud] is also far from being perfect with unnecessary complexities and risks. So how do we go forward?
Peter: I’ll just give you an APJ (Asia-Pacific-Japan] context…70-80% of our customers are already doing multiclouds. Now they might have a specific workload in one cloud and another one in another cloud. And obviously, they’re using SaaS (software as a service). Whether it’s Office 365 or Salesforce, which is quasi... like a cloud... what they really want to ask is “where should I put my workload from a financial perspective, security perspective?” Obviously, you have a lot of rules and regulations in some of these countries about data sovereignty. I think all that the customers are saying is “I want a cloud-like environment where I can easily deploy my workloads in the right place, for the right cost and, with right security.” What we’re going to be giving them is the agility to put it anywhere and anytime. We were in India and all the customers were saying, “I want help on where do I put my workloads that’s going to be most efficient.” And now this whole thing with AI is even expanding it. Because data is the life bread of your company, right? How do you use that as an IP of the company?
Alok: To that extent, it [data] needs to be managed and protected.
Peter: And it could be, again, in a public cloud, on-prem, in a colo... Dell has created a data layer which will allow all services to be offered seamlessly irrespective of where the workload is sitting.
Alok: Just to add to what Peter is saying, we are going a step beyond what the market otherwise may have seen or done so far. We are saying multicloud should be by design. By that what we mean is, it should be driven through the lens of each and every workload that is being run within the organisation. And there are different parameters on which we look at where would that workload be best suited to be run from. It could be on-prem; it could be public; within public, it could be a hyperscaler; it could be a co-location; it could be a CSP (cloud service provider). And, all of these have to work seamlessly for the user..for the services that are being provided to the user.
The lens that we usually like to see or consider to assess any of the workloads through is, number one, performance characteristics. What is the performance demand from that particular application? The second lens that we put on is the overall application landscape. How would each application interact, engage with the other to ensure that there is a delivery of a service that is good content. What are the compliance requirements? There are customers who have to maintain their data for a certain number of years because regulators want it back. That becomes a very strong consideration of moving workloads into a particular cloud. Costs [too] have become extremely important to be considered.
In fact, many of the companies who in the initial years of cloud adoption landed up moving all their workloads into hyperscaler cloud are now reconsidering that because they realize that the costs are prohibitive when it comes to usage of all workloads on hyperscaler cloud. That’s the reason why many of these customers are looking at repatriation of their workloads back on prem or in a co-located environment. Fifth is the latency. Latency as in where do you want the data to be sitting? You can’t put the data too away from the source where it gets created or generated because then you are not really aligned to real-time decision making. Finally, it is about environment in which you are running all of this infrastructure. Somewhere it goes back to your sustainability question.
Yes, we cannot talk about sustainability without talking about what is happening at the data centre level. Can you tell us what Dell is doing here? Also, we know that you have also set up a green data centre for PhonePe. Can you just throw some light on it?
Peter: Yes, there are a few things we are doing. One is, internally, what we are driving is called a Get Efficient campaign. You know what is happening in Europe… the power costs have almost tripled. We have not seen that in Asia, but obviously power prices are increasing. So we have a team that works with customers which analyzes their current data centre infrastructure and comes forward with recommendations on how to save power on cooling. PhonePe, as you said, was our first foray in Asia. We have a very good pipeline moving forward across all of Asia.
Alok: In data centres there is this metric called power usage effectiveness (PUE). Now, a typical traditional data centre would have a PUE of 1.5 to 1.6. Usually, traditional data centres would have servers which would be air cooled. Subsequently, there was this new technology that many of the customers implemented, which was water cooled…the PUE dropped down from 1.5-1.6 down to something like 1.3 to 1.4. But with PhonePe, what we tried doing is defining the future environment for their deployment of servers through what we call LIC — liquid immersed computing servers. What that does is that, it pulls down the PUE to almost 1.08 to 1.09. Now in case of PhonePe, because investments have already been made in the traditional environment...that can’t be written off. These are very much active servers that are supporting their requirements from an infrastructure point of view. So we expect a hybrid environment which includes the air cooled, the water cooled and the LICs to now deliver something like 1.27 in a hybrid environment. That translates into savings for the company, not to mention a whole lot of benefits and advantages that come on the sustainability side. As the older servers get to be refreshed, all of that will move into LIC. So there would be a day when it will be down to 1.08, 1.09 as we refresh the older queue.
As far as sustainability is concerned, is it the pull from the customers or the push from you that make these things happen?
Peter: I would say it’s really both. It’s a combination.
Alok: I think sensitivity amongst everybody today has gone up dramatically when it comes to sustainability. All of the companies are looking at this as their corporate responsibility… not so much as just a good thing to do, nice thing to do. And in that context, I think India is definitely coming onto the forefront. If you really look at it, the alternative sources of energy has taken off big time in India. Solar power, alternative sources like wind power, etc. has taken off pretty much ahead of many of the other advanced and matured countries.
Peter: In that context, I would say that there is a high level of sensitivity, a high level of commitment from all of these customers. And the unique thing about India in the emerging markets is they are building new data centres. They are building from ground zero now and designing the data centres of the future with a green mentality... some of the other places don’t have the real estate or the landscapes to do that. So that’s an exciting thing for us because we can actually make a difference in APJ.
Alok: Look at the corridors that are being set up by the Indian government encouraging customers to come in and set up data centre infrastructure which then would be utilised by different sizes of companies. There are many corporates who are looking at this as a diversification of their businesses.
You mentioned about Telcos. The natural extension of that thread is the 5G and what it could do to the industry. There are people on both sides of the divide with some saying that it’s kind of hyped up and some talking highly of the potential that it holds…
Peter: I would just say some countries are ahead of others. In some places, surprisingly, the 5G private networks are not taking off like some of the Telcos expect to. Some of the customers are happy with just having a wireless infrastructure. But I think India is going to be different... just because of the infrastructure built out and the size and the number of industries across the country, versus a Tokyo…[where] 80 per cent of the economy is driven out of one big city.
Alok : In India, the ones that seem to be in the lead of trying to look at creating use cases is number one, manufacturing. Number two, to some extent, I would say, healthcare and medicine.
And number three, in the most recent past, I’ve seen people getting interested in banking and finance. I think, I think there is an acceptance of the fact that there is latency that has come in the way of allowing the IoT, and in some ways, Industry 4.0 to take off over the last few years. IoT as a concept, as a deployment strategy, was pretty much the topmost priority of many of the manufacturing companies. Unfortunately, the latency issues came in the way of deploying and implementing something that was truly fully automated, all run through IoT and a data centre that could manage real-time decision-making. But with 5G coming in, bandwidth being there, and with Edge being a reality, the data centres could be brought closer to the data source. So, Edge essentially gives you physical proximity of having your decision-making made through all the analysis that could be done in the data centres that are sitting at the Edge. We have seen a couple of pilots being done, and it should take a little longer for it to start to take off. Once these pilots achieve success more and more customers will adopt. We are working very closely with the ecosystem.
So, what is the verdict? Still 5G retains its charm?
Alok: Oh, absolutely. 5G, from a data and content point of view, is the best thing that could have happened. Streaming will become much faster. All of that we are consuming on our smartphones will become that much easier to deploy. So, all of that is there.
So what does India mean to Dell?
Alok: I think, India as a country, when it comes to economic growth, is an outlier. That’s very well established. There is data to prove it. If we continue to be on that path of growth, then this economy is going to become the fourth largest economy in a couple of years. By 2030, they are saying we will probably be the third largest economy. What that will do is that it will bring in more prosperity to the country, and at the same time, a lot of business. To my mind, when it comes to businesses, there is a well-established fact that IT plays a very integral role in the growth and continuity of the business. What happened during the Covid period… even the smallest of the businesses realized the importance of IT infrastructure and IT products deployed.
As far as we see the market, from an IT point of view, opportunity point of view, it’s huge. It is definitely going to grow. As the economy grows, with more and more employment, there is definitely going to be more opportunities for us to engage. There is another thing that’s happening in the country simultaneously, which is adoption and embracement of IT. More than IT, digital. A common man on the road today is using, in some form and shape, all of the IT infrastructure that has been built in the background, offering different kinds of services. UID, anything to do with direct benefit transfer and all of that is actually nothing but riding on the IT infrastructure. And with Open Network for Digital Commerce coming in, there is going to be more and more adoption of IT across even the smallest of the business entities. So, future is really, really very promising. We are very, very positive and excited.
Peter: Do you want to talk about the manufacturing and the things we are doing in the country...
Alok: Yes, of course. We have had presence on the manufacturing side in the country since 2007. We are very proud of the facility that we have in India. We were the only OEM, I would say global OEM, who participated in PLI (production linked incentive scheme) 1.0. We are happy to report that in the very first year, we could not just meet the targets that were set but actually overachieved. So, we’ve had a great experience with PLI 1.0 and we continue to invest in the country with regard to expanding our manufacturing. We are looking forward to exciting times with PLI 2.0.
This Correspondent attended the Dell Technologies World conference in Las Vegas at the invitation of the company