I was honored to be a delegate for a special Tech Field Day a few weeks ago that was focused on Dell Technologies’ Storage offerings. Many of the other delegates have already written about the event, so be sure to check out the main Tech Field Day page to read those and to view the recordings of the event. In this post, I will review the “What Does Seamless Technology Integration Mean for Dell EMC VxRail” session. However my post has a twist: it’s focused on the space between marketing and product reality.
Why is there a gap between marketing and product reality?
Marketing for technology products can be very tricky. The messaging must serve different audiences. There is a story to tell to grab attention. In most cases this message is enough for executives. The C-level folks will mostly be interested in things like:
- Can this product fill a technical need in my portfolio?
- Will it be difficult to install and maintain it?
- Will the price and labor needed to install and manage this new technology be worth whatever solution the product promises?
There is also a story to tell the technical people who must install and manage the product. They will focus on the nitty-gritty of the product, and want to know things like:
- Does this product do (technically) what it claims to do?
- Will this product work with what we have now, and what we plan to implement?
Sometimes we talk about the marketing to technologists being “feeds and speeds”, while the marketing to the C-level is the big picture story. However, this is where the gap starts.
The big picture story
David Glynn was the presenter for this session, and he did a great job. We get an idea of the big picture story in the title of his presentation: “What Does Seamless Technology Integration Mean for Dell EMC VxRail”. We know he is going to talk about seamless tech integration for VxRail.
He started out by reminding us that the only thing for certain in tech is that change is constant. It was his warning to us that he was about to go over lots of hardware and software changes for VxRail.
So where does the Seamless Technology Integration term come from? This is from the product page:
“Seamless technology integration” is part of the “innovate pillar” of VxRail messaging. Dell Technologies wants you to know that if you use VxRail, you’ll drive faster business development with seamless technology innovation.
The feeds and speeds story
This was really a performance presentation, so we got lots of speed and feed information. There has been lots of technology advancement included in the VxRail refreshes over the last 18 months.
I love hearing about the new server technologies that enable new VxRail features. For instance, PMem’s App Direct mode and memory mode (nice Intel paper on the modes here) as well as using Optane as an SSD as a cache layer has so much to dig into! But this is definitely a speeds a feeds take.
The missing middle between the C-level messaging and this tech messaging would ask: Why use PMem? And what mode should be used for which application? Spoiler alert: In general these methods will reduce costs and increase workload density (which is also a cost reducer).
I also love seeing graphs like the one below. VxRail is built on VMware vSphere, and vSphere being able to keep up with chip manufacturers’ innovations has always amazed me. Once vSphere 7.0 was released, the performance value of NVMe drives is very evident.
The presentation is quite good. David goes on to cover networking innovations (10G doesn’t cut it for vSAN anymore), RDMA (I was pretty surprised the benefit for RDMA is one less VMware license!), and how improvements in vSphere 7.0 U1 work with RMDMS for latency (see below).
Finally, David covered how the AMD Rome chips did with the vSphere 7.0 U2 CPU scheduler enhancements. This graph shows the same hardware with just vSphere updated:
This is great technical content, backed up with the work of a performance team that makes the technical claims rock solid. But it feels like the middle of the story is missing.
The space between marketing and product reality
I enjoyed catching up on the Dell Technology Storage portfolio as a Tech Field Day delegate. They packed so many speakers into our time that I think the story suffered a bit. It felt like the speakers didn’t really have enough time with us. Because of this, the gap between marketing and product reality made me feel like I just had drinks and dessert, but no main meal.
It’s important to tie high-level messaging, in this case tying how VxRail’s seamless technology integration can help companies innovate faster, to all the truly amazing technology improvements that have happened over the last 18 months. To do that, you need to fill in the missing middle.
I think giving the speakers more time to dig into their presentations a bit more would have helped. It would be good to know why you’d use App Direct Mode over Memory Mode and when that choice should be made. It would just nail home the point that you should feel confident you’ll always be innovating with VxRail.
Also, the technical improvements were all chip vendor or vSphere-based. If you know me, you know I believe it all begins with vSphere. But it makes me think – if all the VxRail improvements are about the HCI hardware and software, why aren’t we talking the entire Dell Technologies portfolio? Surely for some customers, it would be better to just run VMware on Dell servers. When is purpose-built HCI the answer, and when should I choose something else?
I realize (from experience) the reason why this isn’t really discussed. But customers who are making decisions on how to build platforms for their next-gen applications need to know. If they can’t find the answer, maybe they’ll just decide not to build at all.
David is right, the only thing for certain in tech is that change is constant. We’re in the midst of another industry-wide shift. The only way to bring your customers with you to the other side is to make sure they understand the story you’re trying to tell. And that story needs to have a high-level aspiration, meat in the middle, and be supported by valid technical claims.
I’m currently helping companies express the important middle part of their story. I’d love to know how I could help you too!