“As a service” business models are nothing new in the world of enterprise IT. With software-as-a-service evolving into storage-as-a-service and even infrastructure-as-a-service, it would be fair to say that when it comes to dynamic, flexible, consumption-based subscription products, IT has become a mature market.
In fact, according to research firm IDC, more than 75 percent of infrastructure at the edge and over 50 percent of all data center infrastructure will be consumed as a service by the year 2024.
So few were surprised when Dell, with its long history of innovation, entered the as-a-service fray with Dell APEX, its transformative portfolio-as-a-service offering. But what observers may not have predicted was that Dell APEX is more than just an expansive vision of what as-a-service enterprise IT can be.
APEX represents what may be the most comprehensively customer-centric offering in the industry. The $94 billion Round Rock, Texas-based infrastructure and PC giant officially launched APEX in May 2021. APEX unifies Dell’s as-a-service and cloud offerings into one consistent experience.
“It is both an internal and external vision that is essentially the flag we’re planting in the ground on where we’re going from a technology and solutions standpoint for Dell over the coming years,” said Sam Grocott, senior vice president of product marketing at Dell Technologies.
“This is how we sell products, how we market products, how we build products, how we finance products—the whole end-to-end value chain is moving toward Project Apex.”
The major components of APEX are:
Apex Data Storage Services, an on-premise as-a-service portfolio of scalable and elastic storage resources.
Apex Cloud Services, as-a-service hybrid or private cloud infrastructure with integrated compute, storage, networking, and virtualization resources.
Apex Custom Solutions, offering flexible payment and IT management services.
The APEX Console, a self-service, interactive environment that lets enterprises manage their entire APEX life cycle.
Partnership with Equinix, which provides APEX customers with 220 data centers across 5 continents through a single Dell invoice. As impressive as the suite of capabilities are, the principles that drive APEX are actually more crucial because they place the customer at the center.
Let’s take a look under the hood.
Flexible, usage-based subscriptions
With usage-based models, the increase in flexibility may seem obvious, but the rubber hits the road when customers actually start making decisions. APEX is intended to meet customers on their own terms.
“Our goal is to simplify the procurement and ordering for customers with predefined configurations that are based on our most popular offers. So configurations include everything from the hardware, the system software, essential deployment capabilities and support services, while still giving them the flexibility and choice to customize because one size doesn’t fit all,” said Grocott.
Part of making the process easy is simply speed. In most cases, customers will be able to deploy APEX IT resources in 14 days and expand their APEX footprints in as little as five days. Another aspect of APEX that delivers flexibility is the pricing and packaging model.
“The simple ordering process will enable our customers to avoid complex procurement cycles,” Grocott said. “Customers can increase their agility by scaling up and down within the buffer that we have on hand to respond dynamically to business needs. They also pay only for what they’re using on a single rate with no surge pricing and no overage penalties.”
Delivering outcomes, not products
APEX operates on an outcomes-based basis, removing the need for customers to manage a particular product line, version of a technology, or specification.
They choose the technology services they need, with Dell and its partners owning, operating, and managing the infrastructure. An IT administrator then provisions and manages the storage resources through a cloud-based management portal.
Customers pay only for the storage consumed. With this model, customers no longer have to guess how many nodes or storage arrays they’ll need to run their environment.
“They’re going to focus more on their workload requirements. This is delivered with a single price,” Grocott said.
Putting the customer in control APEX customers may not own the infrastructure, but they certainly control it, thanks to the APEX Console. This cloud-hosted management platform enables customers to manage the procurement, deployment, and monitoring of its deployed APEX solutions.
Customers use the Console to identify and subscribe to services in a catalogue; then Dell matches the technology and services to deliver the desired outcomes. The Console provides the customer with usage and spending reports, status insights, and predictive analytics to forestall problems. “Customers will be able to browse a marketplace, choose which cloud products and services and solutions they want, then actually order and transact an as-a-service solution for their business,” said Grocott. “Our customers can also deploy workloads and manage multi-cloud resources, including monitoring their costs in real time and adding on cloud and as-a-service solutions with just a few clicks.”
Dell’s partnership with Equinix is all about their customers, who want the ability to store and manage their data when and where they need it.
Enterprise IT departments increasingly operate a hybrid IT infrastructure, with data spread across data centers, at the edge, or in public and private clouds.
APEX Console-managed IT capabilities can be deployed at 220 Equinix data centers around the globe. The equipment is owned, deployed, supported, and billed on a single invoice from Dell.
So the service works hard for the customer without adding any complexity.
A good time to be a customer
The proliferation of as-a-service models among enterprise IT providers is a good thing for everyone.
Customers get enhanced flexibility and control, while companies like Dell find new opportunities for recurring revenue growth. But in a crowded marketplace, usage-based subscriptions built around the customer have the potential to be a differentiator.
“We believe the simplicity, agility, and control we’ll be providing IT with from an APEX perspective will help accelerate our customers’ digital transformation,” Grocott said. “So far, the customer feedback has been absolutely tremendous.”