The Cloud Strategy Powering Dell’s Digital Transformation: Flexible IT Delivery, Next-Generation Software

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Transforming your IT to accelerate your digital journey is like building the car of the future. Modern infrastructure in the cloud gives users the horsepower and agility to get where they need to go faster and more efficiently. Increased automation and self-service open up new frontiers to maneuver the twists and turns of the next data decade. And emerging business intelligence helps keep you on course.

At Dell Digital, Dell’s IT organization, we began an effort to modernize and converge two traditional data centers into a new cloud environment. The evolution of this project is our hybrid multi-cloud strategy we call the Dell Digital Cloud. This cloud is the engine that powers our ongoing digital transformation.

Our modern data center, using Dell and VMware technology—including VxRail hyper-converged infrastructure—provides more flexible IT delivery with standard processes, more efficient architecture and seamless access to multi-cloud environments. That has enabled us to forge the next-generation software development practices to deliver a much better experience for our customers—developers and application owners.

Our next-generation infrastructure is also helping us to deliver more advanced analytic capabilities to leverage our enterprise data to map where we are headed on our transformation journey.

A Modern Infrastructure is Key

Several years ago, we decided to build a brand-new private cloud infrastructure platform across the newly combined companies to respond to both application and process needs with new and modern capabilities. Our hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) standard provides well-balanced, ready-configured compute, networking and storage as building blocks for our cloud. With HCI, IT can focus on creating new services for application teams rather than spending time building core infrastructure.

We use this cloud infrastructure to host our next-generation applications as well as to modernize and host our legacy applications. Thus far, we have modernized some 32 percent of our apps, with more than 60 percent at least partially running on modern platforms.

While we use our private cloud for most workloads, we do use public cloud services as a tool in our toolbox when we need added capacity or a capability we don’t yet have available. Overall, however, we find that running workloads on-premise is more efficient, more performant and more cost-effective.

As we deploy our modern infrastructure, platform teams use VMware automation and orchestration capabilities to enable a much-improved infrastructure platform and application provisioning experience. The components of our VxRail-based environment include vSAN and PowerFlex for software-defined storage and NSX for software-defined networking riding on an all-Dell, PowerSwitch-based Leaf-and-Spine Network  Architecture, as well as cloud management and automation with the vRealize Suite.

With the resulting reduced provisioning time and increased agility, we are able to deliver capabilities to developers in minutes rather than weeks. And with the automation of many of our processes, we have increased the number of capabilities we offer via self-service, including a number of platform, database, compute, storage, and networking services and more.

Right Stuff, Right Place, Right Time

Our modern, multi-cloud environment lets us run the right stuff in the right place at the right time and gain efficiencies and flexibility. Like a car of the future, one advancement links to the next, giving the driver better performance, speed and agility.

The bottom line is you have to build a fully automated infrastructure stack to enable your developers. When you enable your developers, as long as they embrace modern development practices, they move faster for the business.

When they move faster for the business, the business gets what they want with more accuracy and precision. We can adjust our solutions based on the analytics going forward, but our adjustments are fast. That lets us narrow in on the target much, much more quickly.

We connect our infrastructure and services with application program interfaces (APIs), through which developers can automatically access infrastructure via an API marketplace. That API-driven system has enabled us to create a fully automated testing, provisioning, application deployment framework that drives our continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline. And that is helping us modernize our software delivery practices with the Dell Digital Way, which is our agile people, process, technology view of how to deliver software that enables the business.

By automating many of our processes, we have also begun to give our developers direct choices over which of the infrastructure services they consume and the ability to consume them without involving infrastructure engineers. They include CI/CD pipelines and APIs, as well as a front-end portal to manage the infrastructure elements.

Our transformation is about more than technology and process. It requires people to evolve in their roles as well. To that end, we have adopted an API-first culture to educate and encourage developers to use existing APIs and create new ones from their code development to expand our API marketplace. At the same time, we are working to expand developers’ use of the automated CI/CD pipeline.

Overall, we have worked closely with developers to determine what they need to be productive, using our agile Dell Digital Way methodology in which they are directly involved in the customer-centric and iterative process. And that has led us to being able to deliver next-generation services to the business that will drive the business innovation, improved customer experience and reliability and security to prepare us for the next data decade.

Be sure to check out a presentation by Kevin and Jaynene Hapanowicz, SVP, Digital Acceleration and CTO, on Dell IT: IT Transformation as the Foundation for our Digital Future​. This session was presented at the Dell Technologies World Experience October, 2020.

Find out more about how Dell is reimaging how IT does business at Dell Technologies: Our Digital Transformation

About the Author: Kevin Herrin

As Vice President of Dell Digital’s (Dell’s IT organization) Infrastructure Platform & Engineering organization, Kevin Herrin is responsible for global data center, platform, database, public and private cloud, network, voice, and call center telephony infrastructures. He is also responsible for the financial management of those infrastructure platforms. Kevin is a strategic, multi-dimensional technology executive, with a proven track record of delivering profitable growth and organizational impact through large-scale, disruptive technology and its business applications. He is an energetic change agent and visionary respected for his skills in structuring and growing complex teams, operating in chaotic environments, and developing relationships with colleagues, clients and executives. Prior to joining Dell, Kevin was founder and CEO of Technology Pathfinders Consulting, a consulting firm offering client organizations DevOps, Cloud Engineering and Transformation, and Operational Optimization. He has also held a variety of engineering and leadership roles at Virtustream, EMC, VMware and AT&T.
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