Uncommon Wisdom

Aug 31 2011   10:54PM GMT

Dell’s major cloud move; Networks make cloud presence known

Tom Nolle Tom Nolle Profile: Tom Nolle

Dell has used a couple of software conferences as bully pulpits for some of its own cloud announcements. The company is making a major cloud move, one it obviously hopes will elevate them to the status of a “real” computer company (they rank number three in our surveys in terms of what users think of as a “real” player in the space, after IBM and HP, but it’s a distant third).  In its effort, Dell will partner with both VMware (one conference pulpit) and Salesforce (the other) to offer Dell-branded cloud technology, but it also intends to host open-source cloud offerings (a la Hadoop, perhaps) and even Microsoft Azure.

Dell’s greatest strength has been in the SMB space, and that is also perhaps the best target for cloud services in the near term. Enterprises secure good economies of capital and support scale in their normal data center build-outs, and it’s hard for public cloud services to compete. For the SMB, neither capital nor support economies are easily established, but the latter in particular is problematic because SMBs often can’t attract skilled IT technicians. Remember that Dell also has a professional services arm now, and that means its own support skills likely have a lower marginal cost — all to make their price potentially more attractive.

VMware, meanwhile, is advancing its own cloud position with a Data Director designed to create an enterprise DBaaS model that would also in my view facilitate cloud models where the application or its components ran in the cloud and the data stayed in the enterprise’s own repositories. This would help considerably in building a larger cloud TAM because it dodges the thorny problem of cloud data pricing and security.

In another initiative, VMware has joined with Arista, Broadcom, Cisco, and Emulex to create what they call the “Virtual Extensible LAN” or VXLAN. This is a strategy to add a 24-bit header to a VLAN packet and then encapsulate the whole thing in IP. It would allow the creation of more VLANs with more members and do so using scalable IP rather than Ethernet. VMware will be adding VXLAN support to its Hypervisor and the result would be a more scalable data center and cloud LAN architecture.  The four obviously hope this will become a new model for addressing distributed cloud resources.

The initiative is more important for its goal than its methodology. We’re seeing network technology adapting to the cloud. That shouldn’t be surprising, nor should it be happening only now. The network creates the cloud; it’s the binding force that makes not only the resource pool possible but also makes its access possible. The network is the business case, the network is the business. But the network has been silent on the topic of the cloud. Maybe this is a sign that the silence is finally over.

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