Channels key to Asia play, 70% of commercial business here comes via partners
Looking at IoT, especially as governments in Asia keen to explore the technology
RESEARCH firm IDC has given Dell Inc a clean bill of health, reporting that a year after the tech giant became a privately-held concern again after a de-listing exercise, it has recorded six consecutive quarters of growth in its PC business, has taken up pole position in the storage space, and has retained its No 2 spot in the x86 server space.
The de-listing exercise saw the company upping the ante on its drive to become an end-to-end solutions provider, with the Asian market a key component. In line with this, a key area of focus for Dell is on building up its channel partner ecosystem in the region, according to Dell South Asia vice president and managing director Ng Tian Beng.
“Historically, we’re more well known as a direct sales company, but over the last couple of years, the culture at Dell has changed. Now, the channel is an integral part of the company and a core element for when we plan, be it in marketing, compensation structuring or go-to-market strategies,” he told Digital News Asia (DNA) in Singapore recently.
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According to Ng, channel partners are accounting for an increasingly larger chunk of Dell’s commercial business. And while globally that stands at about one-third of all business, in South Asia, that percentage of revenue is closer to 70%.
“Globally we have about 167,000 channel partners, with 667 added in the first half of this year alone. Of that total, about 4,200 are certified partners and that number is increasing rapidly as we ramp up our partner engagement with more training and rebates,” he said.
Asked about how Dell is faring in catering to small and medium businesses (SMBs), Ng claimed that the segment is a "good market" for the company, as it is in line with its long-time strategy of taking high-end technology and making it available to a wider range of customers.
“Dell has always been at the forefront of this," he proclaimed. "We take that high-end technology and make it affordable, and the way we do it is via open standards – there is nothing proprietary. For the price of performance we offer, the SMB market has really been receptive,” he said.
IDC Asia/Pacific research manager Handoko Andi told DNA that Dell has fared better than its competition in the SMB space in the Asia Pacific region (excluding Japan) in selected markets, especially China.
Within South-East Asia, Dell has had some significant client wins, following the last year’s completion of a project for the Singapore Exchange (SGX).
With a market capitalisation of more than US$6 billion, SGX is among the world's largest exchanges and is Asia’s second-largest listed exchange. Dell Services – its services arm – had been selected to 'future-proof' the technology underpinning SGX’s depository business and enhance operating efficiency.
Ng shared that one recent client win was StarHub, a telecommunications company providing a range of services over mobile, Internet and fixed services in Singapore.
“StarHub is leveraging on Dell Enterprise solutions, from servers to storage products, as part of its IT infrastructure and one of its key reasons for going with us was because of our open platform as StarHub moved from Unix environments to Intel,” he said.
Another new client that was announced in July was Cartoon Network Amazone, the world’s first Cartoon Network-themed waterpark located in Bang Saray, 15 kilometres south of Pattaya on Thailand’s eastern seaboard.
The company opted to go with Dell to power operations in the park and create an immersive entertainment experience for its visitors.
The park employs a cashless payment system, backed by Dell infrastructure, which allows customers to pay for products and services or top-up the value on their radio-frequency identification (RFID) wristbands wirelessly at various checkpoints throughout the park.
The open-standard platform enables interoperability across the waterpark’s multiple attractions and ensures a seamless experience from point-of-sale (POS) and ticketing system to radio-frequency identification RFID-enabled cashless system, interactive kiosks, closed-circuit television (CCTV), WiFi network, as well as automation of backend IT systems, including finance and accounting applications, Dell claimed.
All Dell systems on the park are supported by Dell Services for preventive maintenance, ensuring onsite rapid response time and issues resolution, saving valuable time for the park’s IT team, the IT company added.
In a statement announcing the project, Ng had noted: “It’s easy to forget the technology that goes behind all that high-octane energy when you’re having fun.
“And that’s how it should be – high-compute power residing out-of-sight in a data centre that enables flawless operations of a complex environment such as this, so visitors can experience what they came for.”
Moving to meet the IoT age
Like every player in the technology space, Dell is also making manoeuvres in the Internet of Things (IoT) space.
“That’s what I’ve seen as the big trend that has really come to the forefront in the last 12 to 18 months. In the past, there was some discussion about IoT but that’s changed – there’s a lot of talk amongst chief information officers about it and it’s an area they are starting to seriously look into," said Ng.
Frost & Sullivan's latest 'Analysis of The Internet of Things Market in Asia Pacific' report expects the market to be one of the fastest growing segments in the Asia Pacific technology industry.
Total Asia Pacific spending on IoT is forecast to reach US$9.96 billion in 2014 and will continue to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 34.1% to reach US$57.96 billion by 2020, the research firm said.
Countries that adopted IoT technologies early include Japan, Singapore, China, Australia and South Korea. However other countries in Asia Pacific like India, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia are expected to be some of the fastest growing Internet of Things markets in the region between 2014 and 2017, according to Frost & Sullivan.
Andrew Milroy, vice president of the Asia Pacific ICT Practice at the firm, said that there are several factors driving the adoption of IoT in the region, such as government efforts to improve competitiveness in their economies and city planners' efforts to address social demographic challenges.
Dell's Ng said he himself has observed heavy interest in IoT from governments.
“Looking at the different types of customers getting into IoT, there are more in the government space. A lot of this is driven by governments in the region, for example Singapore’s Smart Nation vision under the IDA,” he said.
The IDA or Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, is the country's lead agency on ICT policy-making, and has been tasked with leading initiatives that will deliver the Smart Nation vision which seeks to combine government policy, businesses, people and disruptive technologies in a concerted effort.
However, even with a national-level will to leverage on the advantages of IoT, Ng believes two areas may prevent mass adoption: Security and information privacy.
“These are the concerns of ordinary citizens – for example, how GPS (global positioning system) can be used to track their location and how their data is being used.
"That’s why at Dell we are actively involved in these discussions, even joining a consortium to help define standards on interconnecting devices, both in [the] consumer and enterprise [space]. It’s frankly a work in progress, but by having this consortium we can help address issues and establish frameworks,” he said.
In July, six companies formed the Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC). Founding members are Broadcom, Dell, Intel, Samsung, Atmel, and Intel-subsidiary Wind River.
In September, Dell also established an IoT Lab in the Dell Silicon Valley Solution Centre in Santa Clara, California. Jointly funded by Intel and Dell OEM Solutions, the facility is intended to help customers explore, test and deploy IoT solutions.
“IoT covers such a broad spectrum with significant impact on how we function in our daily lives, so ... we are very focused on this,” Ng said.
Preparing for the next wave is something that Ng is quite familiar with, having been with Dell for 16 years and counting, with the evolution of the company being the most enjoyable aspect.
“I think it’s been a tremendous experience. Obviously I wouldn’t still be around if it wasn’t. What’s the most interesting thing about Dell is how we’ve evolved from where we started 30 years ago as a PC company to now – it’s totally different.
“That’s been really exciting, transitioning from a build-to-order company, which was the source of success for many years, to what [founder] Michael [Dell] has been doing through acquisitions to become the leading end-to-end solutions provider. It’s the right way if you want to succeed in the technology space,” he declared.
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