AUSTIN, Texas-While some in the IT industry may still think of Dell as a low-cost PC maker, CEO Michael Dell remains on a mission to change those perceptions. In a free-flowing conversation the day before his company's annual investor and financial investor conference here, Dell on June 28 held forth on a numbers of subjects, including cloud computing and data management, and how his namesake company plans to compete.
Since his return as CEO a number of years ago, Michael Dell has fought to change his company. When he first returned to the helm, Dell focused on PC design and other smaller issues, such as offering more technology to small businesses. Since then, Dell has been pushing his company not only as an IT innovator, but also as the type of technology provider that can compete against the likes of IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Oracle when it comes to offering a wide range of services.
One area that Dell has focused heavily on in just the past year is cloud computing. However, Dell sees the company not only growing as a vendor that offers cloud technology, but also as a business that can offer a complete solution for the complex problems that IT managers face.
"We're focusing a lot on data integration," Dell said during a conversation with analysts here. "You have these very complex ideas of running a cloud application with a legacy application or running two cloud applications together. How do you handle the integration of those types of applications?"
For Dell, the idea of storage is to move away from the traditional model and into new areas where companies like his actually manage the data itself. This is part of the reason the company has invested heavily in storage acquisitions such as EqualLogic and more recently Compellent. During other meetings, Dell executives spoke about the concept of "fluid data," where stored information moves seamlessly through different platforms on different systems and even from physical to virtual environments.
In order to achieve these goals, Dell is willing to invest in additional acquisitions, but Michael Dell declined to comment on anything specific. However, analysts believe the company is looking to buy a networking company, possibly Brocade or a small, privately held firm. Again, Dell declined to comment on a Brocade acquisition.
For now, Dell has agreements with Brocade and Juniper Networks, as well as its own line of networking products. However, Michael Dell said the switch to the more powerful 10 Gigabit Ethernet would shake up the industry.
As for the types of customers that are looking to invest in these types of integrated stacks of storage, networking and servers, Dell is not necessarily focused on large enterprise customers. Instead, executives placed a lot of emphasis on how the technology is focused on midmarket customers that have an IT staff, but not IT workers with specific skills sets. Dell is essentially looking to create "out-of-the-box" technology that nearly any IT administrator can use.
Dell is also looking to invest much more in mobility. While the company has offered its own version of a tablet-the Android-based Streak-Michael Dell indicated the company is not simply interested in producing another device. The idea, which follows his overall company strategy, is to offer more to customers than just smartphones and tablets, and it clearly has Dell's enterprise customers in mind.
"We are very much focused on that business and offering a total solution to customers, not just devices," said Dell. "We're looking to offer systems management, application development, security and other types of integration."
Michael Dell also talked about the growing presence of ARM chips in the market. While these processors have helped accelerate the growth of tablets and smartphones, several ARM makers are also working to offer chips for servers. Dell said he welcomes the competition within a market dominated by x86 processor makers such as Advanced Micro Devices and Intel.
"I think that right now ARM chips can perform some basic tasks and they are going to get more and more powerful, and I think the x86 guys are going to fight back and fight back hard," said Dell.