Dec 17, 2012 (04:12 AM EST)
Dell's 'Transformation': Customers Speak

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Having completed its transformation from a hardware-focused maker of PCs and servers to an all-encompassing IT service provider, the new Dell has finally arrived -- or so Michael Dell and the rest of the Dell leadership team asserted during the company's Dell World conference, which concluded Thursday in Austin, Texas. But do its customers agree?

InformationWeek spoke to several Dell World attendees to gauge reactions about the tech giant's evolution and future.

Nate Byrnes is VP of technical operations at Collective[i], an analytics-as-a-service start-up based in Manhattan with about 25 employees. He said his company isn't yet a Dell customer but "we're looking to establish a pretty good partnership with them and things are definitely proceeding along those lines." He was interested in the PowerEdge C8000 servers because they'd "double my capacity and cut my footprint in half."

[ How is Dell broadening its product offerings? Read Dell Boosts Storage Portfolio With New Hardware, Software. ]

Byrnes seemed mostly impressed with Dell's growth. "I get the sense that Dell is finally a junior IBM," he said, elaborating that IBM has a "much richer" knowledge and pedigree but that "Dell is moving in that direction." In Dell's favor, he said, it's less expensive and that "for a lot of scale-out shops, those extra bells and whistles are irrelevant."

He also said Dell's standards-based offerings are attractive because they allow customers to avoid proprietary lock in, and that Collective[i] also has considered products from companies such as Cisco, which he said "fits 80-90% of use cases, but we're one of those fringe ones."

Benito Salinas, a systems engineer with South Texas College, was enthusiastic about his institution's relationship with Dell, which he said includes using its storage and server products. He praised the scalability of Dell's offerings, remarking, "To meet our budget, I can start slow and then grow it up to where we need to be."

On the topic of Dell's transformation, he said the company has "really done a great job" diversifying its services, and that, thanks to sales teams effectively communicating the expanded capabilities, most of Michael Dell's statements from the conference "were not news to me."

Salinas said he appreciates Dell's customer service in particular. "Our relationship is a very important part, and 'relationship' is really the key word," he said.

Brian Anderson was at the conference with Turner Construction, one of the largest construction contractors in the United States. He said his company uses Dell for "pretty much everything -- desktops, laptops, all the way to everything in the data center," although Turner also employs storage products from EMC and networking equipment from Cisco.

Anderson said that little from the Dell World sessions was new but that "it's nice to see it all in one place." When asked, however, if the company has successfully transformed itself, he paused for several seconds before remarking, "I suppose. It's hard to tell if they're there yet. It's a work in progress."

Jorge Dominguez, a network administrator with Odebrecht, a Brazil-based organization that works in engineering, construction and chemicals, said that he "never imagined" Dell would become so large but that the new software and services offerings seem "very good." Odebrecht currently uses a "wide range" of Dell hardware, and has experienced "excellent" customer service, said Dominguez. He wasn't certain what additional steps Dell should take but offered, "I'm sure that in the future we're going to see more of Dell -- more service, more innovation."