RealTime IT News

Dell Targets Cloud Computing

Fewer than two months after Michael Dell resumed control of his company, things at headquarters are shifting again. Today Dell announced a new division focused on the needs of businesses operating "hyper-scale computing environments."

While Dell  is best known as a provider of computer products to the masses, the new Dell Data Center Solutions division is targeting a very select number of companies.

The division will build prototypes and custom hardware solutions, such as servers optimized for larger throughput, as well as improved latency.

The computer and datacenter requirements of Web 2.0-oriented companies such as eBay, Google and Yahoo can be quite different than traditional IT shops. With the new division, Dell thinks it can offer more unique or custom solutions than its competitors, including HP, Sun and IBM, typically provide.

"For a lot of these Web 2.0 companies it's all about performance; they're less interested in the same balanced systems anyone else can buy," Forrest Norrod, vice president and general manager of the new Dell division, told internetnews.com.

Norrod said that the new division builds on such Dell strengths as build-to-order manufacturing and support for industry standards. But he also noted it is different enough to stand out. "This is not a repudiation of standards; wherever possible we'll build using standard components.

"But we want to focus on the specific needs of the customer and that's different than, say, HP's 'blade everything' approach or IBM, which also thinks blades are the answer to every problem. We have a very technical team that is hyper-skilled when it comes to what Web 2.0 companies need."

If you went to a systems company with these kinds of requests, Norrod added, you didn't get very far, or they provided an extremely expensive solution. "Most general-purpose products are optimized to run a range of applications; that's not what these guys want. They want systems that are tuned for what they're doing."

Gartner analyst Martin Reynolds said the new division is "a very clever" move by Dell, but he's not convinced it's all about offering custom solutions. "I suspect the stuff they build will cost significantly less than what you'd have to pay HP and others," Reynolds told internetnews.com. "If not, if they don't address the price issue, it won't sell.

"Cloud computing is all about companies getting as many computers as they need to get as much work done as possible. These companies, the Second Life's of the world and others, are looking for an edge on how to lower the cost of operations."

Google  is the envy of the tech world and coveted by systems vendors for its enormous and highly efficient computing infrastructure. But systems vendors don't have a chance at Google's business because the company builds its own servers.

Reynolds said that Google gets about 10 times the compute power per dollar spent on IT than other companies. "If you're a Microsoft or a Yahoo, that's what you're competing with."

Dell's effort could pay off in other ways down the road, Reynolds added. "It'll be interesting to see how much of this technology makes its way to the general market."