Dell buying EMC: Is this the end times, or the road to salvation?

In any case, the enemy is now Amazon


Tick, tick, tick and the job's a good'un

Don't underestimate the value of Pivotal or Virtustream. I realise that today's data centre nerds want nothing to do with either company, but that actually doesn't matter. Today's data centre nerds are already dead, they just haven't stopped going to work yet.

The future is going to be very different from what's in play today, and most of the vast numbers of infrastructure caretakers won't be needed anymore. Pivotal and Virtustream are key parts of that vision.

If you don't understand Openstack and why it's important, you aren't going to think the Dell/EMC merger makes any sense, nor why the efforts around it are informing the design of the next generation of computing.

You'll probably also be replaced by a script at some point.

Openstack may succeed or it may fail, but the key is that it is trying to bring together infrastructure from any and all vendors in a transparent fashion and provide automation, orchestration and self-service. Basically it lets you build a "cloud" of your own but isn't vendor-locked. It acknowledges the reality that today's data centres are heterogeneous environments.

Openstack abstracts away all the infrastructure nonsense (including the politics and the vendors) and lets you get on with the job of using it. Self-service is key and everything is based on policies and service tiers. This is a very important idea.

Don't underestimate the value of EMC II's experience solving hardware and software integration issues. EMC knows more about enterprise storage than any other company on the planet, and enterprise storage is – next to information security – the hardest thing there is to design and build in IT.

Thanks to EMC II (and its swarms of competitors) storage is relatively easy to use, but it's a complete mindfuck to design at any scale.

The storage bits don't matter so much. What matters is the experience of integrating complicated and outright miserable software with eleventy squillion odd quirks onto commodity hardware that falls over in a gentle breeze. Designing not only the hardware and software, but the development, support and business processes to put out equipment that the whole world quite literally bets people's lives on is what I'm talking about.

The future lies in building Infrastructure Endgame Machines (IEMs), and EMC II brings critical knowledge and experience to the table.

Revenue beyond shifting tin

RSA is critical, and was irresponsibly underused and horrifically mismanaged under EMC's stewardship. Over the next decade the hardware players (including Dell) are going to see their existing margins collapse. The price wars will be brutal.

The increased competition will lead vendors towards designing, building and selling IEMs in an effort to stay ahead of their competitors. Now that Dell owns all the pieces, IEMs will ultimately be a single source of revenue for the new Dell, but this is not enough for a megacorporation to live on.

Renting time on their own in-house IEMs to others as a public cloud service will be another source of revenue, but that's a crowded market right now and tough to break into. If you want to succeed you're going to have to undercut the cloud players on price and good luck doing that until your IEMs are rock solid and shipping in quantity.

Worse than that, the political situation around public clouds is tenuous right now, and despite all the optimistic projections from Americans, I don't buy that this will go away soon. Put simply: there are really good economic and national security reasons for every country in the world to nurture a cloud sector internally.

Dell is a global company and it can't simply rely only on Americans using what will inevitably be second tier public cloud offerings as their second main revenue stream.

Against this background consider that information security sucks and we are headed for the software defined moronocalypse. What we have been doing thus far isn't good enough and we need to start going about this in a completely different way.

The problem with security is that most of those working in IT today – either at the sharp end or the business end – treat it as an afterthought. People who actually live and breathe information security are their own category, separate and distinct from other nerds.

Dell/EMC will have to make some security purchases in the future to flesh out its security offerings, but it does need to get a security department going and have a business structure into which to fold those security outfits that actually understand how information security nerds think.

This is the value in RSA.

Information security is going to be one of the most important revenue streams of the next 50 years of computing, if not the most important. Though RSA is overlooked by almost everyone in this acquisition, it is the seed of the future for a large part of Dell's revenues. Properly cared for it may be to Dell what VMware was to EMC.

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