Outsourcing vs. DIY: Think of Your Data Center like a Toaster

I am curious by nature, particularly about how things work. I remember taking apart my parents’ VCR and the lawn mower (the lawn mower even worked when I re-assembled it). My curiosity has enabled me to build many things, like hovercrafts and servers from a bag of parts, and eventually, develop a propensity for the workings of complex IT infrastructure.

So, I can appreciate the story of Thomas Thwaites, who was an MA candidate at the Royal College of Art. In 2009, he set out to replicate from scratch an appliance that has become synonymous with simplicity: a toaster. Pretty basic, right? An enclosure, some heating wires, a plug.

Thwaites’ first surprise came when he took apart a cheap toaster and found that it was made up of over 400 parts. This led him on an adventure across the world to collect the required raw materials, even “mining” usable plastic from a landfill. After many months of research, travel, speaking with experts, and a lot of trial and error, Thwaites finally created a machine that browned bread…for about 5 seconds. All that time, effort and money and Thwaites still couldn’t make toast to enjoy with his morning coffee.

Doing it yourself doesn’t always make sense.

More than ever, we are dependent on technology in almost every aspect of our lives and the choice to “do-it-yourself” is shifting down the value chain. Today, there are a multitude of options when selecting goods and services where we can choose to have those with more expertise or more resources in a given area handle things for us. In exchange, we gain more of the things that are high on our value chain, such as more time to spend where we want to spend it, and/or peace of mind to focus on what’s most important to us.

Many Companies Choose to Outsource Deployment and Support for Complex IT Infrastructure

For most businesses, customer value is built on top of IT infrastructure, and the software developers, database administrators, and data scientists creating this value — while reliant on their company’s underlying infrastructure — are not directly involved with it. What these users care about is system reliability and performance and having the right tools to do their job.

A colleague, Tom Giuliano, said in one of his recent blogs: “IT infrastructure…is the business enabler. Infrastructure must support constant business demands for new applications and services with limited budgets and resources… Administrators don’t have time to constantly evaluate and integrate hardware, software, and networking solutions to meet continuously evolving requirements.”

Take High Performance Computing (HPC), for example. HPC has evolved from traditional research and lab environments to more mainstream computing, and companies of all sizes are seeing the need for it. Instead of splitting up servers into many virtual machines, an HPC cluster consolidates many servers into a more powerful, singular machine. HPC clusters require a variety of specialists to build such a complex machine and ensure optimal performance. However, once the HPC cluster has been designed and built, it’s reasonable to expect it to happily crunch numbers for years to come.

With technology becoming more sophisticated and complex, it’s often more cost effective for companies to outsource the specialist expertise required to build and maintain HPC systems. This allows their “value makers” to focus on business outcomes – driving innovation and discovery — rather than the mechanics of the systems that enable their work.

Introducing Dell EMC Services for High Performance Computing

We’ve helped build some of the world’s fastest compute machines, and our HPC service experts are fully focused on the deployment, integration and optimization of foundational HPC infrastructure. As part of our HPC solution expertise, we recently expanded our ProDeploy and ProSupport Enterprise Suite offerings to include services that specifically address the complexity of HPC systems. ProDeploy for HPC and ProSupport Add-on for HPC make the process of implementing an HPC solution simple, flexible and worry free – from installation and configuration to ongoing, comprehensive, single source support.

ProDeploy’s standardized deployment methodology ensures predictable outcomes and minimizes risk. It includes the installation of cluster management software, configuration of HPC nodes and switches, design validation, benchmarking and product orientation. And customers will know what is happening every step of the way with comprehensive project management by our experts.

With the addition of the ProSupport Add-on for HPC that customers can purchase in conjunction with either ProSupport or ProSupport Plus, we deliver a true end-to-end support experience across the HPC environment. The HPC add-on provides a primary point of contact for technical support across the entire solution and access to HPC experts who help optimize performance and get things back up and running quickly if issues arise.

A key differentiator of our services for HPC is the seamless transition from implementation to support. When ProDeploy and ProSupport are purchased together, our deployment team engages our support team from the start, making them aware of the customer’s requirements and then transferring all knowledge and documentation to our support tools to ensure the cluster will meet or exceed expectations throughout its life. The result is better overall customer satisfaction with their HPC solution as they realize faster time to value and are able to minimize downtime if an issue occurs.


Like Thwaites learned, there’s value in purchasing a tested, fully-functional product. And there’s no reason to think you have to go the DIY route, staffing in-house experts with deep knowledge of every piece of technology, particularly if there isn’t an ever-present need for that expertise. It pays to have a service partner that you can trust.

About the Author: Douglas Woolcock

Douglas Woolcock has been with Dell for the 10 years, primarily focused on complex system integration. As a consultant Douglas led projects for both large and small organizations in every corner of the world. A strong technical background in conjuction with a deep understanding of business drivers enabled him to design systems that are not only technically optimized, but also drive the business forward. This passion led Douglas to product management in the Dell EMC Support and Deployment Services division. Applying lessons learned in the field to our global portfolio of services has enabled Douglas to create unique consulting and deployment services for highly complex systems. In his free time, Douglas’ winning attitude is also used in yacht racing and mountain bike racing. Both passions are shared by his family and they can often be seen on the water or in the woods.