Advancements in Computing Architecture
The Prime View is delighted and honored to welcome Brad Maltz to the show. Brad is a recognized industry leader in the enterprise infrastructure space being a featured speaker over his career, supporting government funded cloud computing activities, and thought leader across multiple technology disciplines.
Brad is currently a Senior Director of Advanced Development in the Dell Technologies Chief Technology and Innovation Office in the Infrastructure Solutions Group. He has been with Dell for 7 years starting at EMC pre-merger and always playing a strategic role in the CTO office through his tenure. In Brad’s current role he strategically drives innovation concepts and trends through to advanced development prototypes while also enabling cultural transformations within Dell.
Prior to joining Dell Brad was the CTO for a leading consulting firm focused on helping businesses drive to cloud adoption, virtualizing workloads, and building robust infrastructure solutions. Through his years in the field delivering customer outcomes, Brad was early into many technology fields such as virtualization, cloud offerings, and End User Computing. Brad’s passion lies in pushing the boundaries of what has been done with what can be done and encouraging others to think outside of the box.
Senior Director of Advanced Development in the Dell Technologies Chief Technology and Innovation Office
Brad, you held leadership roles for Converged and Hyper-Converged Infrastructures. Can you briefly describe for our listeners the difference between these two approaches, and which one is more applicable for modern enterprise data centers?
The notion of converged infrastructure was tied back to marrying together a storage technology with a set of computing technologies, servers, mixed with networking technologies, and delivering them as an integrated stack from the manufacturer with the promise to accelerate performance in the data center and give them quicker time-to-value.
When the hyper-converged market came out, it was playing off of three trends. One trend was the virtualization trends, the ability to embed virtualization into an appliance, giving us the ability to automate more things. The second trend was software-defined X – software-defined storage, software-defined networking. The promise was to take a storage layer and not have it as a separate physical box, but with co-residents inside the same box running the execution framework, whether virtual machines or whatever. The third premise of hyper-converged architecture was making IT admins’ jobs simple by giving them the easy button to deploy full-stack, to be able to be up and running with the virtual machines in X number of minutes or hours. You were able to automate that to an extreme degree compared to a converged infrastructure stack that typically had a separate storage array from separate compute, even if it had a virtualization layer, which is very common. The management of that stack became super simple because it’s all software-defined now.
The HCI market took off once it became more mature. In the CIS space, it always went after the notion that if you need a higher-performance storage layer, extra storage services, or extra ways of scaling the two layers independently, many times converged would satisfy those use cases. Today, the two markets are still very viable.
Originally, HCI was going after the low-hanging fruit, the dev machines. Today, HCI is in the tier one production game and it is catching up with a CI market for the type of workloads; it becomes an active discussion for customers and how they want to consume the two of them. Suppose the customer has matured into a market with full autonomous infrastructure and infrastructure as code. In that case, I wish that you have the ability to use both CI and HCI.
What differentiates Dell EMC in the HCI market?
First of all, it’s our maturity. We’ve been around for a long time; we have the number one hypervisor built into our stack. VxRail for HCI has been our de facto go-to-market platform. The fact is, we have put in so much automation and innovation within the actual tooling and the architecture of VxRail that it can solve almost anybody’s problem from a use case perspective. That’s what makes VxRail one of the best hyper-converged offerings out there now.
Dell showcases many examples which use open-source big data products like Hadoop, Spark, Kafka. Do you contribute to open-source projects? If so, does it help you to accelerate the pace of building innovative products?
My team and Dell, in general, are huge advocates of open source. We’re constantly contributing to open source. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel – if the technology is available and will accelerate our vehicle of delivery, we’re going to try to consume the open-source solutions. We might often need something to be updated on it, and we are open to making pull requests within the communities to contribute back to open-source projects.
Open source is a strategic part of Dell’s growth in the future.
We’re going to have a more significant presence within the open-source space as we advance. We’re definitely going to be big consumers as well as contributors back into those spaces; on top of our Apex offering, you’re going to see Kubernetes strewn through many pieces of the Dell portfolio in the future. So you’re going to see us contribute to the Kubernetes ecosystem.
Brad, in your current role, you can see many innovative ideas. What is the most exciting technology innovation for you? And where do you see the most significant commercial impact on the market?
That’s a tricky question. Personally, I think artificial intelligence is the technology that excites me because it has so much promise in our personal lives and the industry.
When we look at AI, we often talk about autonomous infrastructure; we talk about self-driven, infrastructure stacks management, and orchestration stacks. We’re going after the notion of helping people eliminate mundane tasks where the systems will take care of patching themselves, take care of basic configuration, and triage tasks to manage the low-level things we’ve been doing for many years in technology. So that’s one thing inside of Dell that we focus on, and that’s one thing that excites me as we look at building technology and innovating.
Can you tell us more about the incubation program you drive? Is it a program created to bootstrap creative ideas from Dell’s employees?
We’ve built a program called Eureka, which allows anybody internally with a dell.com email to go and submit an idea. This program gives us the ability to pick the diamonds in a rough out and drive those ideas forward into different use cases and potential products. Because when you have a company as large as Dell, everybody has ideas, but the problem most people have is getting their voice heard. So, to ignite the innovation gene and drive incubation inside the company, we needed a mechanism, a process, and a tool to help the general population of the company to be able to get their voice heard better.
What is the verification process if somebody’s got a bright idea and you see potential there?
We have a process in the company that we call Curation – it’s an ability to check whether an idea has any merit through a sniff test. Once the idea passes that initial gate, the assigned group takes that idea further into validation. Then it has to get prioritized within the company, and that’s the most challenging part with any innovation because you have competing priorities in most large companies. That’s where you see the funnel stripping down from a thousand ideas, down to hundred ideas down to ten ideas that can make it through implementation.
Could you share one idea that developed into a separate project within Dell that initially came from the Eureka incubator?
I can give you one of the earliest examples that made it to market. It was our data protection portfolio idea. It was submitted, ran through the process, got validated, prioritized, and made it out to market within roughly a year and a half. It wasn’t going after Kubernetes or containerized workloads back then. It was a brilliant idea, it was a problem we had to go after, and the implementation suggested was novel.
How can you inspire innovation culture at your company?
There’re different ways to inspire innovations. One of them is to exemplify a mentality of innovation by being open to discussion, willing to listen, and have empathy. If you don’t instill a culture that allows people to work together, you will shoot innovation down a bit off the bat.
Secondly, you need to show the willingness to transform as a company and as a person. Because the fact that we have been operating a certain way for a specific timeframe doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the way for the company to work for the next five years.
The third one is an evangelization discussion. If you think you have a fantastic idea, then push hard to get your idea heard. I’ve had people that have submitted ideas that initially weren’t well thought out, but because they persisted, thought it through, modified it, it would get some merit. That is a personal type of drive that we try to instill in people to keep pushing forward.
Brad, is there anything that I should have asked you?
We’ve talked about CI and HCI and a bit about Apex and open source. At Dell, when we’re moving into the cloud space, hitting on Apex, we’re enabling multi-cloud with hybrid-cloud and on-premises type technologies, ensuring that the experiences that we get into our customers’ hands are the best.
Some people think about innovation on a very technologically roadmap-oriented basis. On the contrary, I am a big advocate for innovation within the user experience space. When you look at the value of the cloud of Apex and the public cloud providers, you might ask where the innovation they’ve delivered is? Is there innovation under the covers? Are there innovative sets of technologies that are enabling different outcomes? The answer is – yes.
Though, the biggest thing that people associate when they think of the cloud is the experience. We’re pushing hard down this experience road at Dell to deliver what we believe our next-generation experiences from an innovative way across this multi-cloud world. And that’s one area I want to make sure people understand – it’s not just about a server, a storage array, and a networking switch. It’s about all of those things coming together to deliver an outcome. And when we design infrastructure applying AI and autonomous technologies to a full-stack experience, you’re going to see many cool things coming out of Dell over the next five to ten years that will align across these domains.
Brad, it’s been a delight having you on the show! Thanks for your insights, encouragement, and lessons.
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