Are Dell and EMC dead? An unclouded perspective.

Black Hand Coming Out from the Ground VectorCade Metz of Wired wants us to know that even with a $67 billion merger, Dell and EMC are doomed. The cloud will kill them. The reasoning is sophisticated, but the language is simple. You could learn a lot about powerful writing from this article.

Let’s break it down.

Titles and opening sentences are crucial when everybody reads on a screen. Here’s how the article starts.

Dell. EMC. HP. Cisco. These Tech Giants Are the Walking Dead

HP. Cisco. Dell. EMC. IBM. Oracle. Think of them as the walking dead.

Oh, sure, they’ll shuffle along for some time. They’ll sell some stuff. They’ll make some money. They’ll command some headlines. They may even do some new things. But as tech giants, they’re dead.

Clear and provocative. Rather than use weasel words (“most”, “generally,”), Metz raises the exceptions and immediately declares them irrelevant to his argument. There’s no equivocation.

How does he make the case that the cloud will kill these giants? As simply as possible:

The best way to think about The Cloud is this: It’s the way that the giants of the Internet—aka Amazon, Google, and Facebook—build their businesses.

These companies built Internet businesses so large—businesses that ran atop hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands of computers—they eventually realized they couldn’t build them with hardware and software from established vendors. They couldn’t use traditional storage gear from EMC. They couldn’t use servers from Dell and HP and IBM. They couldn’t use networking gear from Cisco.They couldn’t use databases from Oracle. It was too expensive. And it couldn’t scale. That’s another buzzword. It means “helping an online operation achieve world domination.”

So, Amazon and Google and Facebook built a new breed of hardware and software that would scale quite nicely. They built their own servers, their own storage gear, their own networking gear, their own databases and other software for juggling information across all this hardware. They streamlined their hardware to make it less expensive, and in some cases, they sped it up, moving from hard disks to flash drives. They built databases that juggled data using the memory subsystems of dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of machines—subsystems that can operate even faster than flash.

Then, of course, they productized these offerings and offered the same speedy and efficient cloud computing to everybody else. What does this mean for Dell and EMC?

All this is why IBM, HP, EMC, Dell, and Cisco are fucked. Yes, they can offer their own cloud computing services. They can offer software and hardware that works like the stuff Facebook has open sourced. And to a certain extent, they have. But the competition now stretches far and wide. And if they go too far with new cloud services and products, they’ll cannibalize their existing businesses. This is called the innovator’s dilemma.

You can quibble with the details here. Cloud experts will doubtless tell me that Wired’s explanation is simplistic. And in my experience (which goes back decades), big companies suffering disruption end up, not dead, but as services companies. That’s where IBM thrived and it’s where HP, EMC, and Dell are headed.

But learn from this writing: Next time you need to explain something complicated, break it down into simple steps and use simple language and simple sentences. That’s the best way to get your readers to follow you to the end, and to believe you.

Graphic: Getty Images via Wired.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

One Comment

  1. “…big companies suffering disruption end up, not dead, but as services companies…” – that’s exactly right. The margins are significantly higher as well anyway.