By Kathy Gibson – Dell Technologies is hoping to shake up the data centre market with APEX, its scalable consumption-based infrastructure solution that can be hosted in any data centre – and, a major plus in today’s uncertain economy, priced in rands.

Adrian McDonald, president of sales for Dell Technologies EMEA.

The move to digital transformation has seen many organisations moving to cloud infrastructure and services, but this is not always the optimum solution, says Adrian McDonald, president of sales for Dell Technologies EMEA.

“To win in the digital age,  organisations are looking to use digital technologies to increase their market share, achieve their business goals, drive better citizen services or better health outcomes,” he says.

“The potential for digital is immense. But it’s important that it’s done in a cyber secure way, and that it’s cost-effective.”

The fact that the world has embraced the digital economy cannot be disputed, McDonald adds. “The Covid-19 pandemic had the effect of accelerating digital outcomes and we all became increasingly digitally-dependent during the last three years.

“The digital economy has changed the way we work, play, do business. Indeed, in the last three years we have achieved possibly 10 years of digital development.”


Pace of change

As an aside, McDonald points out that the pace of digital development is constantly accelerating. “When you consider digital innovation over the rest of time, the slowest development day is today. We have never seen a scale of change like this before. And it’s not just that the technology is accelerating, but in how it is interesting, compelling, and essential to so many parts of our lives.

“We used to count the development of new things in industrial ages, but the pace of change we are seeing now has made that obsolete.”

He describes momentuous innovations that change the way people work as iPhone moments. “We didn’t realise it at the time, but the launch of the iPhone changed our lives, introducing a digital communicator that attaches the user to the world.

“And, in the 15 years since that event, the pace of innovation and development in the consumer world has taken off.”

In the business and government environment, innovation has also been happening, but not on the same scale as consumer technology.

For instance, McDonald points out that the mass use analytics – able to perform in the blink of an eye – is a common feature of consumer-facing technology.

“And now these innovations are being applied to business problems, and to gain business insights,” he says.


Technology drives business innovation

Companies – and governments – face a number of challenges to remaining relevant in the digital age.

“They need to use data and analytics to better understand their customers, and to get products and services to market quickly while delivering great customer services,” McDonald says. “There is a ton on mind space being focused on that.”

Another challenge is how to free up software developers to create new and innovative services. “The old way of developing aps was slow. The objective now is to free developers from restrictions placed on them by IT; to allow them to quickly develop new products and new platforms.

“If we can achieve these aims, we are winning.”


Make it all secure

While the speed of innovation is increasing, the threats are mounting up as well.

McDonald points to a number of clear issues in the realm of cybersecurity.

“There used to be able to build a clear perimeter that wouldn’t allow the bad guys in. But now we have to accept that they are in, and the focus is on how they can be neutrlised.”

Not that this has stopped the cybercriminals from cashing in: with 6 000 or more ransomware attacks a day, cybercrime is becoming more profitable than drug dealing, McDonald says.

“Attackers have become very sophisticated – and the state actors even more so. Cyberthreats are not able to take out critical infrastructure, threaten banking systems and more.”

The result is that, while organisations are poised to reap the benefits from digital technology, by doing more less expensively, there are many downsides, he says.


Cloud computing

Along with the rapid move to digitalisation, cloud computing has come to the fore in recent years. Today, organisations can choose from a growing array of cloud services, delivered via public, private, hybrid and multicloud.

“Cloud platforms allow orgasations to run smaller systems on-premise, so they can lower the cost of running IT,” McDonald  says.

Cloud also allows for mass automation, so fewer people are needed to run the system. This is important worldwide because of the global skills shortage, but more specifically in South Africa where the talent crisis is more pronounced.

“Organisations are having to draw a value line, with their talented resources focusing on things that enable digitalisation, security and efficiency,” McDonald explains. “Below the line are the tasks that can be automated, and the scale of these has escalated immensely.”

While cloud computing initially revolved around the public cloud, the trend now is multi-cloud. “Organisations are looking to cloud computing to give them the choice, price and resilience they need to keep their businesses competitive.

“But we are also seeing more interest in the areas of cybersecurity, edge, 5G and telecommunications,” McDonald says. “And these are all accelerated by artificial intelligence (AI).”


The Dell position

Although a traditional hardware business, Dell has developed solutions to address client requirements on any platforms,

“Ultimately we are in the be-useful business,” McDonald says. “We have also always, since Michael Dell formed the company in his dormitory room in Texas, been about value.

“So what we have done, and are doing, is revolutionising many markets to bring real value. But the more important aspect of this, is that we are shortening the journey to value.”

As digital transformation touches every aspect of every business, McDonald points out that it is becoming less about technology than ever, and more about the business outcomes. “And what customers want it the shortest journey possible to those business outcomes.”

To this end, Dell offers customers the architectures and services for multi-cloud that allow customers to be agile and run their workloads in any cloud, and to do it as quickly and painlessly as possible.


The APEX value proposition

“And now, in South Africa, we are supplementing that with the APEX Data Storage Services Platform, which gives customers cloud-like economics without having to commit to public cloud.”

Customers can use APEX with a public cloud service if they want – or they can use their on-premise system, a private cloud or any combination of these.

“Basically, you can use whatever is the appropriate cloud for you: we wrap it up and automate it to  you can run your workloads where it makes sense,” McDonald explains. “And you can do it with complete transparency.”

A major selling point for APEX in the South African market is the fact that pricing is set in rands, and won’t fluctuate over the life of the contract.

Doug Woolley, GM of Dell Technologies South Africa.

Doug Woolley, GM of Dell Technologies South Africa, is excited to be offering the APEX solutions in the local market. “APEX customers can scale up or down, and add or remove capacity on the fly,” he says.

“There are so many great features: customers can break out and spike their usage without being billed; they get access to all the agility and modernisation available on a host of platforms offering compute, storage and cybersecurity.

“Essentially they can look to APEX to do a full refresh of their enterprise systems – but only pay for what they use. And they can budget accurately because the licencing is in rands, so there will be no unpleasant surprises.”

McDonald points out that the solution set solves a number of challenges that South African organisations are facing. “All companies need people and skills, and this is not going to change soon. They all need technology, and the right technology going all the right things.

“Then they need a financial wrapper that allows them to consume that technology in a way they want to consume it. We have been offering financial services in South Africa for decades, and now there is more choice than ever. Customers can still buy or lease their systems, but they can also utilise APX and its cloud-like ecomomics.”

For Dell partners, APEX offers an opportunity to offer flexible managed services without any risk to either the partner or the customer.

“APEX is very scalable and very flexible,” McDonald says. “It is a one-stop shop with no lock-in. It gives customers the ability to make strategic choices.”

It turns out that choice is what business wants, he adds. “Sometimes organisations don’t want to put their data in someone else’s box. Data sovereignty, compliance and data interchange are all big issues; and CIOs can’t always predict what technology they are going to need in the future.

“With APEX, you don’t have to bet the company on these types of questions. Rather, you have the strategic flexibility to adopt the right technology for you needs when you want it – with or without Dell.”

Chief financial officers find the APEX value proposition a compelling one too. “It lets customers scale up or down, and gives them predictability in cost,” says Woolley. “When you talk to the CFO, you are talking to all their hot buttons: limited risk, predictability, rand-based pricing and no lock-in. And we will even give them money back for their old kit.

“I am so excited about this model and what it means for South African organisations.”