SXSW – The ‘Dell Experience’ and open source panel

A couple of months ago I was sat in the EMC-Pivotal Cloud Foundry dojo in Boston with the rest of my team at our yearly kick off meeting when I was introduced to Jonas Rosland. Jonas is the open source community manager at {code} by Dell EMC and, as it turns out, he has known and worked with my manager for years. I quickly realised that Jonas is a pretty charming and persuasive guy and within an hour or two of meeting him I found myself volunteering to help support the Open Source Panel at SXSW in Austin this year. Honestly, I had no idea what I was volunteering for at the time but he made it sound pretty exiting at the time and it was SXSW, I mean, what more excuse did I need to head back to Austin? Clearly this was going to be a pretty cool event and, as it turned out, it was both inspiring and fascinating too.


For those of you that haven’t experienced SXSW, it’s a pretty unique festival and after ten years of travelling to Austin and slowly falling in love with the city I knew it was going to be something special, but until you experience it, it’s hard to understand why. Unlike traditional festivals, it is broken up into sections, Interactive, Film and Music all spread over 9 days in March. Better still, this isn’t just a bunch of hippies in a muddy field, the backdrop for this festival is downtown Austin in all it’s wonderful, quirky glory. For us at Dell EMC, this is our home town, where it all began back in 1984 when Michael Dell started building and selling PCs in his UT dorm room, it’s part of the fabric of who we are, even now as the World’s largest technology company. This year felt like a true celebration of our connection with Austin and SXSW but, most importantly, a stage was set for us to showcase who we are as a company today having successfully combined Dell and EMC to create the technology powerhouse we have become.


The Dell Experience has been set up in the Sunset Lounge right outside the Austin Convention Centre at the heart of SXSW. It’s a fantastic space full of technical delights and beautifully executed details, it’s bold, innovative and full of delight. It captures the essence of Dell EMC today and from the moment I walked in I felt uplifted, everyone I spoke to, visitors and staff were all smiling and clearly thrilled to be there. I spoke to visitors who wanted to know everything from how we could help their companies embrace cloud native and agile methodologies to simply moving from their Macbook to a new Project Sputnik XPS13 running Ubuntu. I loved our Audiophile Room that tied us in so well with the wider event, the live broadcasting on the deck and the sensory experience area, but there is so much more to see and if you’re in Austin this week you should definitely take the time to check it out, grab something from the bar and have a chat, we’d love to speak to you!


What struck me most of all, however, was our opening panel. As I mentioned, this was an open source panel and what an inspired way to kick off the event, reflecting with absolute clarity who we are as a company today. There was a time when we would have led with a discussion about new client devices or infrastructure innovations, but we are a significantly more confident and complete technology company today and this meant we were able to lead with something much more relevant to our audience and to do so with confidence and experience. The panel was led by Chris Aniszczyk, COO of Cloud Native Computing Foundation and featured Conrad Whelan, First Engineer at Uber, Steve D’Aurora, Software Engineering director at GE, Maggie Ambrose, Partner Solutions Architect at Pivotal and Josh Bernstein, VP of Technology at Dell EMC. Quite an impressive line up!


The panel discussion focussed on why open source was important to both our business and to the business needs of our audience, I jotted down some inspired quotes along the way, first of all from Josh Bernstein who, along with Steve D’Aurora use to work at Apple “Yes”, he said, “People like us left Apple and came over to work at Dell EMC!” Referencing the importance of open source to our business he continued with “Open source gives you power”. Now that’s an interesting point, surely this is just a bunch of free software? Not at all says Josh, “Just because it’s open source, that doesn’t mean it’s free” by this he means even if the code is open, to use it effectively in enterprise it has to have appropriate levels of support, after all reliability is critical to everyone’s business. Is it really the foundation of the future though? Josh went on to say, quite unequivocally, “Even in the World’s largest tech company, you can see the mindset starting to shit”. I’ll take that as a firm yes then! Conrad Whelan made a great remark at this point, drawing on his personal experience at Uber he said “You can pretty much build a legitimate business today using just open source software”, something that really underscores Josh’s early remark about open source giving you power.


Steve D’Aurora went on to underscore this point, stating that “In order to be agile, we have to adopt open source code” and this is coming from GE, a company that we naturally associate with old school engineering. It’s clear that the industry is shifting and that businesses like ours and GE are adapting to this change. Talking about Dell EMC businesses, Maggie Ambrose from Pivitol Labs made a great point about how we are helping customers embrace this new direction, stating that “Could Foundry is about enabling innovation”. Well, isn’t that what it’s all about? We are in a time of technology disruption and we are all having to adapt to this change, we know that and as a company, we’re here to help you. It ties back really well to our connection to SXSW and to Austin, we have always been a company at the forefront of change and disruption in the industry and since Michael started the company in his dorm room in 1984 our philosophy has always been about simplifying this for our customers and helping them adapt. In some ways, 33 years later, whilst everything may have changed, some things haven’t changed at all.


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