Dell Investing A Billion To Grow Cloud Expertise

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With data centre expansion plans, Dell is vying to join the large players in the highly competitive cloud market

This year, Dell is spending $1 billion  (£613 million) on new data centres, solution facilities and technologies designed to broaden its capabilities in such areas as cloud computing, virtualisation and converged infrastructure.

Dell’s strategy over the next two years includes building 10 new data centres around the world – including Europe, the United States and Asia – that will be stocked with its equipment and will offer help to customers adopting and deploying desktop virtualisation and cloud-computing environments, either on their own premises or hosted by Dell. Through the data centre, the company will eventually offer cloud services based on Microsoft’s Azure platform.

In addition, Dell plans to open 12 Global Solutions Centres this year, plus another 10 over the next 18 months, where customers will be able to learn about Dell offerings and work with experts to figure out which technologies work best within their budgets.

Aggressive Push Into The Market

As part of its aggressive cloud-computing/virtualisation push, Dell is also rolling products and services designed to make it easier for businesses to adopt cloud-computing models. Key among those is vStart, a pre-assembled hardware and software package of Dell PowerEdge servers, EqualLogics storage and PowerConnect switches that can be delivered as a single unit and easily deployed with initial deployment services from Dell. Each vStart package will enable businesses to immediately run 100 or 200 virtual machines. Eventually, Dell will offer vStart packages that provide virtual-machine capabilities below 100 and above 200, according to Steve Schuckenbrock, president of Dell Services.

Dell’s vStart initially will support VMware virtualisation technology, but over the next few quarters will expand the number of hypervisors it will offer.

“Customers are really now more interested in buying [virtual machines] than they are in buying physical hardware that they have to put together,” Praveen Asthana, vice president of Dell’s Enterprise Solutions and Strategy unit, said during a press conference April 6. “Customers spend far too much time integrating and trying to optimise software for deploying virtual machines.”

Dell’s announcements are part of a larger strategy to grow beyond its roots as a PC and server maker and become more of a solutions provider, with an emphasis in such areas as virtualisation and cloud computing. Dell officials have been aggressive in buying companies that enable it to grow its capabilities rapidly, including several storage technology vendors and services firm Perot Systems.

However, it is moving into a highly competitive field. Dell’s large OEM rivals, such as IBMHewlett-Packard and Cisco Systems, all are pushing converged infrastructures, as well as data centre and cloud services. In addition, as Dell looks to become more active in cloud computing, it will run up against public cloud giants like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and Rackspace.

During the press conference, Schuckenbrock said that Dell’s new data centres would be primarily focused on hosting customers’ data centre infrastructures. Dell is committed to bringing in the appropriate staffing, and he said that while Dell’s ambitions are large, the company has experience in cloud computing. He pointed to the OEM’s Data Centre Solutions business as a proof point.

“You’ve seen some of the things we’ve done with our DCS business, and you can expect to see that kind of architecture with a highly scaled-out infrastructure,” he said. “I think we’ve proven our ability to do hyperscale data centres that support some of the largest cloud capabilities in the world.”

Dell’s new data centres will “largely be modular and oriented toward hosting cloud capabilities, whether it’s desktop as a service or private and public cloud capabilities”, Schuckenbrock said.

Along with the data and solutions centre build-outs and the vStart offering, Dell also announced a three-year partnership with Microsoft that is designed to help businesses get up and running with virtualisation and cloud technologies more quickly. It will be offering management solutions based on its Virtual Integrated System and Advanced Infrastructure Manager, and Microsoft’s System Centre. The virtualisation offerings will be based on Microsoft’s Hyper-V.

Dell also showed off a new email and fire archive package, which includes a pre-configured reference architecture, ongoing maintenance and support, and storage products that offer high scalability and ease of use.

The OEM also is expanding its desktop virtualisation capabilities, offering a portfolio that includes pre-packaged services, and configured and tested hardware and software for fast deployment. On the virtualised desktop front, Dell is also looking to accelerate the time it takes for businesses to deploy systems and to support any computing endpoint anywhere.

“We do a lot of the pre-work for customers” in cloud and virtualised environments, Schuckenbrock said.

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