NEW YORK Ever since 2007, when it plunked down more than $1 billion to buy storage provider EqualLogic, Dell has tried to move away from being a one-dimensional PC maker to become a full-fledged IT service provider in the mold of IBM and the companys main rival, Hewlett-Packard.
That 180-degree change in business philosophy was on full display in New York City this week, when Dell unveiled its 11th so-called solution center. The 5,200-square-foot space is located at One Penn Plaza directly across from Penn Station and gives the Austin, Texas-based company a foothold in a city that is the capital of the worlds financial markets, as well as home to a number of important businesses.
Later, Dell also plans to open a similar office in Silicon Valley.
These Dell Solution Centers offer what the company hopes to be a working laboratory for its customers, as well as potential customers, to test and refine different IT technologies for their businesses. The idea is for Dell engineers to offer advice and best practices for how to implement a new piece of technology, such as virtual desktop infrastructure, or help IT managers determine how they can get the best return on investment with certain products.
The New York City center, which Dell officially opened May 10, offers its own data center to allow IT administrators and developers to test and refine new applications, as well as hardware. The data center also highlights the best ways to create a more efficient space, with the latest in power-saving and cooling technologies.
In keeping with current trends, the Dell New York center is focused on areas such as cloud computing, big data analytics, data security and storage, networking and the data center, and issues related to end-user devices and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies.
For Dell and its customers, its about how all these different technologies work and what happens as it moves from the data center, through the applications to the employee who needs it.
As technology and all these solutions get more and more complex, its all about integration, said Lee Morgan, an executive with Dells Global Solution Centers division. So a customer doesnt necessarily have a storage problem or a server problem or an end-user computer problem. They have a problem of pulling all this stuff together and understanding how it supports a particular business function.
As Technology Gets More Complex, Its All About Integration
While technically any Dell customer or potential client can use the center, its actually set up to address four specific areas of information technology: banking and securitieswhich makes sense in New Yorkend-user computing, cloud solutions, and data and analytics solutions.
In addition to financial services and insurance, Dell is also looking to attract more customers in very specific markets, such as health care and education.
What we see in these centers is the very powerful ability to have our customers test, validate and prove out these different solutions before they spend the money on it or take a risk on it within their environment, said Morgan.
In an effort to expand its customer base, the Dell center not only allows for IT managers and administrators to test equipment, but it also gives to the company a chance to consult with CIOs and other executives.
This switch to services is no accident. As PC sales begin to slow and more competition enters the market, Dell, HP and others are looking for ways to differentiate their offerings. According to an April 9 Forrester Research report, the U.S. tech market is expected to grow 7.5 percent this year, with software and IT consulting services having the best prospects.
To capitalize on this trend, Dell has opened its wallet and started adding to its portfolio, especially when it comes to software and securitytwo areas the company is not known for, but where there is potential for growth. In the last two years, Dell has acquired more than a dozen companies, including SonicWall for security, Wyse Technologies for virtualization and cloud computing, and Make Technologies for application migration.
Now that Dell has all these companies at its disposal, it has to let the public and potential customers see for themselves what the company can offer.
Its already well along that road, but it takes time to change public perceptions about a companys traditional skills and reputationparticularly when theyre ingrained as Dells is as a purveyor of cost-effective PCs and laptops, said Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT. Thats where the value of the Solution Centers kicks in. Along with offering high-visibility venues in major urban markets where the company can show off its latest wares, the facilities also provide a means for potential customers to perform proof of concepts and kick the tires on Dell solutions, and for ISVs to have their applications certified.