Dell Turns 30, Looks to Data Center for Long-Term Future

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Print this article Print

After three decades in business, Dell sees the future as the data center—not of server, storage or networking silos.

On May 3, the business now called Dell Inc. celebrated three decades of providing, selling and maintaining personal and enterprise computing devices to its customers. Those devices now take numerous forms of hardware IT, including desktop and laptop PCs, servers, tablets, gaming devices, storage controllers/arrays, and networking equipment.

Dell is listed at No. 51 on the Fortune 500 list. In 2013, it was the third-largest PC vendor in the world after Lenovo and HP. Dell is currently the No. 1 shipper of PC monitors in the world.

The company is highly regarded for its innovations in IT supply-chain management and e-commerce, particularly its direct sales model and its "build-to-order" or "configure-to-order" approach to manufacturing—delivering individual PCs configured to customer specifications.

Hardware-only for many of its years

Dell was a pure hardware vendor for much of its existence, but a few years ago, with the acquisition of Perot Systems, Dell entered the market for IT services. The company has since made additional acquisitions in storage (EqualLogic, Compellent) and networking systems, with the aim of expanding its portfolio from offering PCs only to delivering complete solutions for enterprise customers.

In the 2014 marketplace, the speed of change in business continues to accelerate, and the pressure to transform data centers and keep them up to date has never been greater. Dell has stepped into this business big time. Buying Quest Software for $2.4 billion in 2012 and then making it the company's new software arm was a huge decision that is serving as the foundation for the company going forward.

In this new IT economy, information is quickly becoming an organization's most valuable asset—and often among its most costly. Quickly storing, securing, accessing and analyzing information can mean the difference between business success and failure. Because Dell now offers a full range of data center hardware and software, it has morphed into a major player in this sector, alongside IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle and Cisco Systems.

"Not that long ago, it looked like intelligence was getting sucked out of the server and it was going somehow into the network, but actually now it looks like it's going the other way," Michael Dell said. "The server is becoming the epicenter of the data center, and you're seeing the switches get embedded inside the server. I'm sure there are plenty of other opinions out there."

2014: year of the data center

Thus, Dell sees 2014 as the year of the data center, and not of server, storage or networking silos. Dell also predicts that 40 Gigabit Ethernet (40GbE) will become mainstream sooner rather than later.

Key data points and milestones in the 30-year history of the Round Rock, Texas-based company are as follows.

--On May 3, 1984 as a 19-year-old University of Texas freshman, Michael Dell founded a new computer business with $1,000 under the name of PC’s Limited. He had a game-changing vision for how technology should be designed, manufactured and sold.

--Dell left UT at the end of his freshman year to devote all his time to growing the business, which completed its initial public offering in 1988 and was a full-fledged Fortune 500 company by 1992.

--In 1985, Dell designed and built its first computer system, the Turbo PC, featuring an Intel
8088 processor running at 8MHz, a 10MB hard drive and a 5.25-inch floppy drive.

--In 1989, Dell launched its first laptop, and by 1997, the company had shipped its 10 millionth computer. Currently, Dell has a portfolio of mobile products ranging from laptops, desktops, gaming devices and tablets.

--In 1987, Dell opened its first international subsidiary in the United Kingdom. Today, the
company operates globally and has six major manufacturing facilities in South America,
Europe and Asia.

--In 1994, Dell entered the enterprise market with the introduction of the Dell Power Edge
server line. Today, Dell has grown to be an end-to-end solutions provider with a portfolio
of software, servers, storage, networking and management.

--The company that started in Michael Dell’s dorm room had topped the list of "America’s
Most Admired Companies" in Fortune Magazine by 2005. Today, the company employs about 103,300 people in dozens of offices around the world.

--In 2013, Dell fought off several corporate takeover attempts, returned to its entrepreneurial roots and returned to be a private company under the leadership of Michael Dell.

Originally published on www.eweek.com.