Reply to post: Pendulums swing

Michael Dell? More like Michael in-Dell-nial: No public cloud, no future

Steve Chalmers

Pendulums swing

C'mon Chris, you've been around the industry long enough to know that technologies and business models come and go, in a pattern where the new and exciting (well, the ones which don't fizzle, which is most of them) become darling growth businesses, reach maturity, and then gracefully decline over a period of decades.

Comparing public cloud (the current darling) with traditional server, storage, and network (all of which are clearly at maturity if not beyond) makes for good journalism if not click bait headlines (you're better than that), but it's just illustrating what we all knew 5 years ago playing out as expected.

Public cloud, if you look inside, is just the endgame for x86 processors, in server storage, and cheap networking, delivered not just with an extraordinarily sharp pencil on equipment cost, but also with extraordinary automation and economies of scale on the management side, beyond what Enterprise was ever able to achieve. But doing this has required investing an enormous level of capital in a narrow way of doing business, which will have to stay in place for a long time to earn the shareholders a proper return on that investment.

So what's next? What will leapfrog the thing that today's public cloud has fine tuned, causing the public cloud vendors to need to extract marginal revenue from their now captive customers, just as (say) IBM needs to in mainframes, or even Oracle needs to as on-prem Enterprise matures? Will the pendulum swing back from public cloud to on-premises, due to outages, or security risks, or attacks on the Internet backbone? Will byte addressable storage class memory chips enable new architectures which break the 50 year old boundaries between server, storage, and network as I have predicted? Will Intel make a series of pricing mistakes, ushering ARM into the data center? These are all hard to predict.

So I see three possible outcomes:

1. Dell is running the consolidation play, buying companies in mature segments for peanuts and then firing people and wringing profits out of them on the slow path to oblivion (I think you called this the Unisys play, but that takes a very backward looking view of what the Unisys folks have achieved over the last 30 years).

2. Dell is using the legacy businesses as a source of cash (as a private company cash flow is way more important than P&L), and will use some of that cash to fund carefully selected breakthrough technologies in fields its sales force can sell. Glances at the changes in storage which could come from byte addressable storage class memory chips, used wisely.

3. Michael Dell won the first time around not on product (they were OK, but nothing special) but by building the best, most efficient supply and distribution chains in the world. It may be that he intends to build a supply and distribution chain for private cloud, to make private cloud competitive with AWS...or for some new approach that hasn't occurred to me yet.

But don't listen to me, I'm just another prematurely retired ex-HPer.

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