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New Dell infrastructure chief talks midrange, HCI, VMware

EMC veteran Jeff Boudreau takes control of Dell Infrastructure Solutions Group, with plans to 'out-innovate' hyper-converged and software-defined storage competitors.

Twenty-one years after joining EMC as a college intern, Jeff Boudreau in September became president of Dell Infrastructure Solutions Group. In his new role, Boudreau runs a $37 billion business unit that includes Dell EMC storage, Dell hyper-converged systems, servers and networking.

Boudreau has led Dell EMC storage since the Dell Technologies Inc. $67 billion acquisition of EMC in 2016. Since his days as an intern, Boudreau worked in EMC's shipping and receiving department before steadily advancing into executive management.

In his new role as president of Dell ISG, Boudreau assumes the leadership duties previously carried out by Dell veteran Jeff Clarke, now Dell Technologies vice chairman of products and operations. In terms of revenue and market share, Dell EMC leads the field in hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) and storage, while Dell EMC PowerEdge leads in enterprise servers, according to IT market research firm IDC. The Dell-EMC acquisition also included EMC-owned VMware, setting the stage for closer integration of the virtualization software giant on Dell hardware. We caught up with Boudreau to discuss Dell's infrastructure strategic roadmap, including a new midrange storage platform, VMware integration and data protection.

Dell EMC has vowed to consolidate multiple midrange arrays into a new platform. When will you formally launch the new midrange storage?

Jeff Boudreau, president of Dell EMC ISGJeff Boudreau

Jeff Boudreau: We've started to sunset VNX and PS Series midrange arrays and doubled down the last couple years on Dell EMC SC Series and Unity systems to help customers transition. You'll see our next-generation midrange storage system later this year or early next year. We're living up to our commitment to simplify that offering. As far as feature density, it will be a software-defined architecture that is container-based. We'll keep the features that customers need to enable their use cases: the best from Dell EMC SC, the best from Dell EMC Unity, the best from Dell EMC XtremIO, plus a bunch of cool new things. We'll be sharing more about that soon.

Since the Dell-EMC acquisition, you have integrated your storage with VMware much more closely than when EMC owned VMware. How much more will you integrate VMware and Dell EMC storage?

You'll see our next-generation midrange storage system later this year or early next year.
Jeff BoudreauPresident, Dell EMC Infrastructure Solutions Group

Boudreau: It gets closer every day. [VMware CEO] Pat Gelsinger has talked about it. Jeff Clarke has talked about it. Michael Dell has talked about it: How do we align VMware more closely to the strategic business within the Dell Infrastructure Group?

A recent example is how we've brought VxRail into VMware Cloud Foundation. We're also going to do the same with PowerMax, Unity and Isilon, having them be assets that plug right into the VMware Cloud. VMware is going to remain an open company that is agnostic, but if we find we can drive unique value from collaborating, then we'll lean into those opportunities.

Both Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Hitachi Vantara launched storage arrays to compete with PowerMax. What will Dell's response be?

Boudreau: We're obviously the clear leader in the high-end space, with nearly 50% market share. You could add the rest of those vendors together and they wouldn't come close to our market share in that space. But we'll continue to innovate to avoid growing complacent. We just did a major PowerMax revision that adds software features and functionality, and we added dual-ported storage class memory in PowerMax for reads or writes with our analytics, where others use SCM as only a read cache. We want to lead in areas like ecosystem iteration and media transitions for SCM and NVMe over Fibre Channel fabrics.

How have customers responded to the new Dell EMC PowerProtect? Is it cutting into your Data Domain and Integrated Data Protection Appliance products?

Boudreau: I don't have the numbers off the top of my head, but we're seeing really good response from customers on PowerProtect. Like with our storage, our data protection portfolio is transitioning from protecting a lot of physical assets to more software-defined cloud-based assets. But it's an ancillary thing: We won't leave any customer behind, but you'll see us innovate more around software-defined and the cloud.

Dell EMC VxRail orders soared nearly 80% last year, while VMware vSAN license revenues jumped significantly. What is your forecast for HCI revenue in 2020?

Boudreau: We had double-digit growth in HCI this year and we continue to evaluate that market. Our expectation is for double-digit growth next year as well. We are bullish on HCI. 

What has been the biggest challenge in rationalizing the Dell and EMC storage products?

Boudreau: We have a very large installed base of systems and solutions across the globe, with a lot of loyal and passionate customers. We've been very public about continuing to simplify things, and our customers tell us they love that. Enabling them to make that journey on their schedule is probably our biggest challenge, but also our biggest opportunity.

How does this challenge influence product innovation across the Dell infrastructure portfolio, including servers and storage?

Boudreau: Our innovation starts and ends with the SLAs and business outcomes our customers need to accomplish. The secondary focus is on our teams and talent. I ask my teams to innovate in everything we do -- our pricing, our products, our marketing promotions -- [to] provide a better outcome for our customers. We're going to challenge the status quo of everything we do. We win when we out-innovate our competition.

A big area of innovation for us across ISG is on having a simple interconnected portfolio of products and solutions. As the data era continues to explode, we want to make sure our customers can turn their data into useful insights. You will see us innovate to fill in the seams of our portfolio. Think of workload portability. Think of good data mobility. Think about management, think about analytics ... you're going to see a ton of innovation from us across that spectrum.

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