As the vice president of Dell Cloud Solutions, Ricky Santos has a lot on his plate. Dell has spent nearly $2 billion in the last year acquiring firms to bulk up its cloud computing offering. As the executive in charge of that strategy, Santos is clearly one of the leaders in this emerging technology.
In a wide-ranging interview, I spoke with Santos about what companies need to know about deploying to the cloud, the hybrid-public-private cloud combination, and other cloud-related topics:
What are some key things that companies need to be aware of as they deploy assets to the cloud? I think there’s a certain amount of confusion among many different sizes of companies, in terms of “what do we need to be thinking of in this process?” What sort of advice would you give on this?
RS: Before even deploying any assets to the cloud, it’s important to know what those assets are doing for the company, so you can see if it fits a purpose. If it’s data, then our thinking is, definitely, the hybrid cloud is where companies are going to get the most benefit.
In terms of core assets, the thinking is, build on that company’s private cloud – regardless of the size of the private cloud. You can focus on a smaller, highly optimized, efficient private cloud footprint, while taking advantage of the public clouds – the different cloud types out there, community clouds – to extend that footprint for capacity, scalability, that kind of stuff.
There’s a whole governance aspect to this, right? – having a strategy for service management and governance. Because besides having an awareness of what assets to deploy and how to manage that, it’s a question of how it’s to be used and what falls out of policy, enforceable policy.
Dell's Ricky Santos
For example, it is very easy to go to the cloud today, not just the IT [department] but in particular the business units that IT supports. It’s very easy for them to circumvent IT. And if you don’t have any governance around that, it means that services are being used that are not easy to understand. The business units will circumvent IT – it takes a credit card, that’s all it takes. The next thing you know, you’ll have many different instances of public clouds that are outside the realm.
Q: You mean different divisions in a company are setting up their own departmental cloud computing infrastructure?
RS: Absolutely. And this is an actual example, without naming any customers, there’s a company that did an audit and realized there were close to 300 American Express accounts at public cloud providers.
At its most basic, that means hundreds of cloud architectures that I have no control over, with no visibility to, with 200+ variances of risk for my company.
Q: If you were an IT manager choosing a cloud vendor, what sorts of things would ask if you were weighing the pros and cons of various prospective vendors? What do you recommend for this selection process?
RS: I would want to understand how that prospective vendor is going to integrate those services, those functions, with the rest of my IT. Meaning, my legacy traditional environments, right? Because the last thing I want to do is have the different operating environments, [including] my traditional legacy environment, and have a completely different for cloud services that’s completely disconnected. This is an example of Level One monitoring – problem management, incident management, request change.
So I’d like to understand what are the integration points that vendor would provide and identify for me. Give me the criteria so I can plug into that. It all comes down to a strategy around the service management, the governance and the integration of those services.
Otherwise, I better be just be using that vendor for a project to test things out. Because if I’m going to take advantage of the cloud, I want it to be an extension of IT and not treated separately.
Q: How would you describe Dell’s focus as a cloud computing provider? What aspects does the company target the most among the many aspects of cloud computing?
RS: There are four key attributes of Dell Cloud. First is enterprise security. Embedding what we do with SecureWorks. So we can protect the cloud, information in the cloud, etc.
Next is cloud infrastructure and hybrid integration. So this is the advantage of Dell servers, storage and networking, and actually having a cloud component in each of those products. A good example I like to describe is “cloud ready solutions” – take the PowerEdge C and our plans to integrate the ability to burst to the public cloud from that server, and hybrid integration. So, tying them very closely together, the software and things that we’re doing with VIS, have a cloud integration component to it. Again, the focus is extending that private cloud.
The third is application integration, aggregation. This is a huge challenge today, if you’re looking to develop the most value from the cloud. The most value in the cloud starts with being able to enable that hybrid cloud for our customers. And when they have a hybrid cloud, there’s more flexibility, there’s so much richness to the data. That [helps] my ability to do analytics, because I can move data from one location to the other, whether it’s my private cloud or it’s a multi-tenant cloud, to do the kind of analytics I need to do, to get the trends that I was limited from before, and also understand risk. I can now do this with a Boomi solution.
The fourth one is around services integration. [This] allows us to extend cloud to the rest of IT. If I go back to my example of Level One monitoring, I can see incidents, I can see requests, manage them, handle them, across the different environments that IT supports today: Legacy, additional IT, and now the cloud component.
Q: You talked about hardware, software and services. Let me play the skeptical customer for a moment. I’m going to say ‘I know Dell is a hardware company, and services, okay, I can buy that, but Dell as a software company? I’ve never thought of Dell as a software company. And for cloud services, you have to be pretty savvy in the software world.
RS: There’s two [points] to that. One, part of Dell’s legacy on the hardware side is [software], which has been tightly integrated into Dell products. And of course you’re very well aware of our software organization led by John Swainson. And that’s a major focus to now build on an enterprise-class portfolio for both horizontal and vertical software as a service.
You mentioned Dell as a hardware company. Yeah, for skeptical customers, they’re surprised when we start talking about services and service integration, and our ability to deliver these types of solutions. We have a 40,000 [employee] strong services organization – people who are focused on delivering Dell services.
Obviously we’re leveraging that, and the capabilities delivered out of that group to create Dell Cloud Services – infrastructure through application modernization, migration, and of course security.
Q: I know that Dell is an active participant in the OpenStack community. Why has Dell chosen to focus on open solutions for the cloud, what’s the advantage there?
RS: We’re focusing on both, we’re definitely committed to open solutions. We’re also still driving our solutions with VMware. We announced last summer our public cloud offering with VMware, Vcloud. [Open solutions] enables us to be much more flexible in terms of solutions, in terms of managing the cloud.
And also in allowing us to tap into the cloud ecosystem even better. We understand, again, it’s a multi-sourced environment, and if we’re looking to deliver on what we see as the two biggest benefits and reasons for the cloud – cost is a big component of that, and efficiency – the next thing is enabling new businesses, right? Allowing new businesses, start-ups, to innovate, without being hindered with capacity and costs, etc.
Now there’s also the medium-sized business and enterprise level – obviously there’s significant cost efficiency there. The business opportunity for them is identifying new revenue. If there were services they had planned, or were in the works, but were hampered because of scalability requirements or elasticity for compute, that now is available via the cloud, and it makes the business viable. So it’s new revenue opportunity.
Q: Dell has spent almost $2 billion in the last year or so acquiring cloud companies. What’s the focus behind this strategy?
RS: I’d like to be selfish [laughs] because I’m responsible for Dell and cloud. But there are, at least, the five or six acquisitions where it enhances our cloud portfolio, and our ability to create IP and deliver cloud end to end.
And I’m going to go back to delivering those four attributes: service integration is hard. To get true integration of these different environments and deliver interoperability, we need the IP, we need the management solutions to be able to deliver that, securing the cloud, protecting information with SecureWorks. And then the other aspect of integration with Boomi.
Add to that, other acquisitions we’ve made, like, Clerity, which enhances our ability to do application modernization, which underpins why customers would want to move to the cloud. SonicWall for network security and again I’m going to data protection, it enhances what we’re able to do with SecureWorks.
And also understand what we’re doing with these companies, and I’ll use SecureWorks as an example. Like our Vcloud offering, we are providing options to that offering. Now it is a fully managed service, right? A fully managed public cloud service that we offer customers today. But we add enhancements to that. Customers can elect to increase the security aspect of the managed service. So think of your car, what other upgrades can I get with this service?
Q: Anything you’d like to add?
RS: Going back to the legacy that Dell has built, we have the credibility and the capability to deliver these services, not just within each of their areas, but actually deliver them in an integrated fashion for our customers. So it is an end to end solution for our customers for the cloud.
I think, if anything ,we’re very sensitive to the fact that, yup, you can gain efficiencies by going to the public cloud solution, and we have that. But also thinking of, what’s next? Where can we take our customers, how can we transform their environment so they get the most advantage from cloud? That is really looking at all four [of the Dell points] and delivering that kind of value to our customers today.