I've been too many press events but it's not all that often that something strikes an immediate chord.
But I had such a eureka moment at the all-day Dell event where it launched a host of new products including its new 11g range of PowerEdge servers. More specifically, Dell's demonstration of its Lifecycle Controller had me nodding in vigorous agreement.
It was when demonstrator Mark Maclean said that many systems administrators spend a great deal of time hunting for disks or trying to locate drivers that I started to pay particular attention. This was sweet music to the ears of someone like me who has been trying to load an operating system on a server for the past few days. Anyone who's ever seen my desk will know that the idea of my locating something instantly is probably beyond me - but I'm not unique in that - and I know that server administrators can often struggle to lay their hands on the exact software they need at exactly the right times,
Dell's efforts to ease the pains of server administrators represent are sure to be appreciated by its customers. It's often the less-heralded features that persuade customers and a features like the lifecycle controller and Imagedirectmaker will mean more to sysadmins than the performance benchmarks achieved by the new servers. The company's VP for software solutions, Rick Becker said as much, although he then spent much of his speech talking about performance gains.
The SPEC benchmarks are impressive but every server company on the planet will have similar benchmarks and a few seconds here and there make little difference. But ease of loading of operating systems and the ability to store images with Dell, for ease of reordering, are impressive advances, ones that are probably more practical than any speed gains.
The new management console, DMC (which is sure to inspire several Run DMC headlines in the coming years) is also an impressive package - although it had to be as Dell's management has been a long way behind HP and IBM's and could have fallen behind Cisco's following its data centre announcement of last week. We'll have to wait to get our hands on the servers and DMC to ascertain how much it matches Dell's hype but it's a step in the right direction.
Attending the Dell launch day was a strange experience. Dell executives spoke excitedly about the advances and performance gains in the new servers but as much of those are down to the performance of the Nehalem chipset, those were precisely the areas that Dell was staying tight-lipped about. The whole effect was rather like those legendary peep show booths that used to bedevil Soho - the ones where punters paid their money to get a glimpse of women taking off their clothes, only to find that a shutter went down after a few minutes. Punters at the event were given tantalising glimpses of detail before the metaphorical shutters went down.
There was plenty to try to keep us engrossed. There was a demo that didn't work - which is the nature of demos at these sort of events. There were lots of facts and figures displayed in type face too small to see, as revealing them would have broken Intel's embargo and there was even a brief glimpse of the new servers.
We'll have to wait for next week for the full details but the immediate impression was that Dell had done a decent job. The emphasis on energy efficiency and maximising resources is sure to interest managers in these straitened times and the ease of configuration and deployment is going to save much admin time. As I said, it's not always the headline features that make the difference.
It's going to be tough though. Enterprises are cutting budgets and enterprises, both London and outside, have to work at keeping costs low. Dell is already in third position in the server market, and according to IDC had a declining share of a declining market and now has to face Cisco's push for this space and a possible Sun/IBM tie-up that could serve to strengthen IBM's presence. Under such pressure, Dell is going to need every neat feature and every cost advantage that it can muster.