Dell continues its march into cloud services with VMware support

IT managers may not think of Dell as a cloud provider, but this could change with the company's deepened relationship with VMware.

AUSTIN, Texas – IT pros know Dell as a hardware vendor but the company has worked hard to transform that image as it moves deeper into the cloud services market.

And with the help of VMware and Microsoft, enterprise IT shops interested in cloud computing may even give Dell a shot.

Dell's stance is that since cloud providers, such as Amazon, use commodity hardware, and Dell's x86 business is just that, cloud services are a natural market for them. The company has made significant cloud service investments this year, and used its first worldwide conference here this week to evangelize cloud.

One of Dell's recently released products is a cloud-based integration platform called Boomi that connects Software as a Service to on-premises clouds and legacy systems.

The company claims it has thousands of customers using Boomi to link payroll services, such as ADP, to in-house payroll systems.

"It's all about making cloud services practical," said CEO Michael Dell.

Useful as it may be, Boomi needs work. Jason Burkett, a Louisiana-based solutions architect, said his clients are interested in using Boomi After their evaluation, however, those customers found it lacking. "In both cases there were one or two things missing," he said.

Other IT pros at Dell World said they are interested in cloud services, particularly for email and archiving, but they aren't quite ready to trust the cloud with critical data.

This week, Dell showcased its cloud customers, such as the United States government, in an attempt to convert cloud skeptics.

VMware's Dell connection

VMware's CEO Paul Maritz also mused about the value of cloud computing. "[Cloud] is a major change for IT to wrap its mind around and these wheels will ground slowly -- but in the end they will be ground fine," Maritz said.

We have to make cloud the new hardware, so you simply plug it in, let it run and get rightfully upset if it breaks down.

Paul Maritz, CEO, VMware

The problem with cloud -- besides being a major change in the way IT works -- is that there are legacy applications that can't be easily re-written and moved to the cloud. Server virtualization gives companies a way to decouple the data and applications from the hardware layer with server virtualization -- a practice now widely used in enterprise IT. But for cloud computing to gain the same acceptance, all applications and data need to be supported on cloud platforms, Maritz said.

"We have to build an infrastructure to be fundamentally boring," Maritz said. "We have to make cloud the new hardware, so you simply plug it in, let it run and get rightfully upset if it breaks down."

That type of platform is VMware's Cloud Foundry, an open Platform as a Service product that is now in beta. It's a scalable cloud platform that supports multiple frameworks, cloud providers, and multiple application services.

The alternative to cloud, according to Maritz, is to move backward "to the days of building one stack and being stuck with it forever and a day."

Dell hopes IT pros will choose one of its cloud platforms, which include the Dell OpenStack Private Cloud, the recently released public Cloud for Business Applications and a Dell's public cloud service based on VMware vCloud.

Dell's cloud infrastructure

To support its cloud platforms and deliver cloud services, Dell has opened two new data centers -- one in London and a green data center in Quincy, Wash. The company said earlier this year it would eventually open 10.

The company also recently launched vStart, "a cloud in a rack" that lets IT drop in preconfigured Dell server racks and load up hundreds or thousands of virtual machines to build a cloud quickly.

Conceptually similar to Cisco's Unified Computing System, the vStart hardware stack includes Dell servers, storage, networking, power and cabling. There are Dell vStart versions for VMware and Hyper-V, the latter of which comes with Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 Data Center edition.

Dell's Professional Services are included with every vStart for initial setup and deployment and three-year Dell ProSupport services are also included.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho or follow @BridgetBotelho on Twitter.

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