The Business Value of Storage Solutions from Dell Technologies

Executive Summary

In the era of digital transformation — the evolution toward much more data-centric business models — information technology (IT) organizations of all sizes are challenged to meet higher performance, agility, availability, and scalability requirements while staying within strict budgetary constraints. Adapting to the demands of digital transformation is not a choice — it is an imperative that organizations ignore at their own risk. To best support the business on its digital transformation journey, IT must be able to respond faster to take advantage of changing market conditions and new business opportunities, all the while enabling increasing use of big data and analytics (real time and otherwise); more personalized interaction with customers, around-the-clock operations; and better use of innovation to drive competitive differentiation.

Prompted by the demands of digital transformation, almost 70% of organizations are planning to modernize their server, storage, and/or data protection infrastructure in the next several years and are looking to specific technology to help streamline IT infrastructure while meeting all these new requirements. Those technologies include software-defined storage (SDS), cloud, cybersecurity enhancements, NVMe, and artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).

Dell Technologies offers a broad IT infrastructure portfolio that differentiates it from its competitors that just sell storage. The vendor has taken advantage of its server, data protection, and storage infrastructure offerings to create well-integrated solutions that can be easier to deploy and manage than a customer-assembled IT infrastructure built from point products. To cater to increasing customer needs to choose from both capital expenditure (capex) and operational expenditure (opex) consumption models, Dell Technologies provides both outright purchase and subscription-based pricing models across its entire portfolio. IDC undertook a primary research project, commissioned by Dell Technologies and Intel, to identify key storage infrastructure requirements among Dell Technologies’ customers undergoing digital transformation and determine what factors were important in selecting Dell Technologies as their enterprise storage supplier during infrastructure modernization.

The results were illuminating. Existing Dell Technologies’ customers identified five aspects of the vendor that, in their view, differentiates it from the competition: proven, mature, and high-performance solutions; a strong reputation for delivering a positive customer experience; responsive and high-quality tech support; deep cross-product integration that heightened the value of IT infrastructure solutions; and the availability of multiple consumption models (both capital and operating expenditure oriented). For Dell Technologies’ customers, those aspects were instrumental in selecting the vendor for their storage infrastructure modernization. As part of the research project, IDC also looked at the financial implications of choosing storage solutions from Dell Technologies.

IDC interviewed organizations that are using Dell EMC PowerMax, PowerStore, PowerScale, PowerFlex, and Unity XT storage solutions powered by Intel and about their impact on storage-related costs and operations. Study participants reported achieving significant benefits by optimizing and upgrading their storage environments to meet changing expectations in terms of cost, agility, and performance.

Based on interviews with Dell Technologies’ customers, IDC calculates that they will realize benefits worth an average of $267,200 per 100 usable terabytes ($3.96 million per organization) by:

Enabling development and business activities through enhanced storage availability and agility

Improving employee productivity levels by delivering better application performance

Reducing storage costs for running equivalent applications by leveraging increased access to flash storage, enhanced data compression and data deduplication capabilities, and extended storage life spans

Requiring less IT storage staff time for day-to-day activities by improving performance levels and delivering new software-based management capabilities

Research Methodology

With most enterprises undergoing digital transformation, IT infrastructure purchase decision metrics are changing. Dell Technologies and Intel commissioned IDC to conduct extensive primary research to better understand not only the nature of these changes but also how enterprises buying storage solutions from Dell Technologies make infrastructure decisions. This research included a United States–only survey and an extensive round of in-depth interviews with organizations in both the United States and abroad. The survey portion of the research explored evolving storage and data protection infrastructure purchase criteria in the era of digital transformation.

Survey respondents were IT managers with purchase decision responsibility for storage and data protection products that were already existing Dell Technologies storage customers, had existing hybrid cloud environments, and self-identified as working for enterprises that were currently undergoing digital transformation.

The survey included small and medium-sized enterprises (firms with 500–999 employees), with 60% of the respondents hailing from these types of organizations. 20% of the respondents worked at companies that had fewer than 500 employees, and 20% of respondents worked at companies that had more than 1,000 employees. The sample size was 208.

For the business value component of the study, the interviews were designed to understand the impact of Dell Technologies customers’ use of these storage solutions from both a quantitative perspective and a qualitative perspective. Interviewed organizations were large in terms of both average and median employee bases (27,474 and 5,250, respectively) and annual revenue ($6.11 billion and $1.59 billion, respectively) Interviewed organizations were mostly based in the United States but also in Canada, Italy, Switzerland, and Australia. They offered perspectives on the impact of Dell Technologies’ storage solutions from a variety of industry verticals, namely higher education (4), manufacturing (3), healthcare (2), insurance (2), agriculture, entertainment, fintech, government, IT services, legal, professional services, transportation, and utilities.

Situation Overview

Enterprises of all sizes are going through what IDC defines as digital transformation — the evolution toward much more data-centric business models. This evolution is changing the world; IDC expects that by 2022, 65% of global gross domestic product (GDP) will be digital. Businesses are capturing, storing, protecting, and analyzing more data than ever before and using that data to glean insights that drive better business decisions.

How IT organizations use data to innovate and guide business decisions is becoming a competitive differentiator in most industries. Innovating with data is encouraging significant changes in business processes and workflows to meet much more dynamic business conditions. The need for better performance, higher availability, improved security, increased scalability, and nimble agility is driving significant changes in how IT infrastructure is architected, deployed, and managed as well as in what types of workloads are deployed. Clearly, one of the goals during digital transformation is to create a more flexible IT organization. From primary research conducted in 2020, we know that roughly two-thirds of IT organizations traversing the digital transformation journey will modernize their server, storage, and/or data protection infrastructure as part of that evolution, and that of those organizations, 91% deem technology modernization as a critical factor in their overall digital transformation success.

For enterprises undergoing digital transformation, several key objectives stood out. Almost 45% of organizations sought to improve the efficiency of IT infrastructure. Newer technologies can help IT managers meet this objective through systems that deliver increased performance and/or capacity density using less energy and floorspace to meet evolving requirements. Lower storage latencies can drive up CPU utilization in application servers, reducing the number of servers required and lowering application licensing costs. Storage efficiency features such as compression and deduplication, combined with thin provisioning and space-efficient snapshots, can significantly lower raw storage capacity requirements even as they enable increased scalability and are particularly interesting when they can provide these benefits without imposing any performance penalties. Orchestration tools can automate repetitive workflows and processes, making them more reliable while driving higher administrative productivity. All of these factors contribute to improved IT efficiency.

Cloud-based data protection options are of interest for several reasons. They provide a convenient, easy-to-use location to store backup data while offloading infrastructure management responsibilities, allowing administrators to focus on more strategic tasks. Public clouds can provide a very cost-effective alternative to maintaining multiple datacenters when disaster recovery strategies require one or more remote sites. And they can provide literally unlimited capacity scalability at low cost that make it easy to handle high data growth environments. Many public cloud providers also offer additional data protection–related products, such as disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS), that provide options for meeting increasingly stringent RPO and RTO requirements. Backup and disaster recovery were one of the first use cases for public cloud, and over the past five years, cloud technologies have proved themselves very adept at providing cost-effective data protection options.

With malware and ransomware attacks making headlines on a regular basis and privacy regulations (e.g., General Data Protection Regulation [GDPR]) evolving, IT organizations of all sizes are very focused on protecting both their data and the privacy of their customers. Encryption is a desirable feature to protect data and should conform to AES 256 standards. Administrators will need to decide whether they need data encryption for data both in flight and at rest and evaluate storage systems options appropriately. Some organizations such as federal agencies may require validated encryption capabilities (i.e., FIPS 140-2). When administrators also want to use compression and/or deduplication capabilities to maximize storage capacity utilization, they will need to ensure that their storage platform of choice can use all three capabilities simultaneously (if and when that is needed). Air-gapped data protection uses a combination of snapshots and replication to ensure that data can be recovered even in the event of data corruption or ransomware attacks and is a must for most organizations today (regardless of whether the data they’re “air gapping” is going to a corporate facility or the public cloud).

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