Dell Cloud Manager hedges enterprise bet with Azure support

Dell Cloud Manager added Azure Pack Support, custom catalogs and auto-scaling features as the company tries to meet the demands of hybrid IT environments.

Dell Cloud Manager users got a handful of new features this week, including additional Azure support, as the vendor tries to gain traction in a still-emerging hybrid cloud market.

Last year, Dell extended its cloud management strategy to include a cloud brokerage service. And though the company  already offered Azure public cloud support, it has extend that to Windows Azure Pack this week, allowing customers to manage the full range of Microsoft's cloud products from one console. Other updates in Dell Cloud Manager Version 11 include new custom catalogs and an auto-scaling feature that can handle workloads across platforms.

The market for cloud management tools for hybrid environments is still in its infancy, and there are many vendors in this space, including RightScale, Inc., Computer Sciences Corp. and Gravitant, Inc. All do just enough to check that box, but the lines blur as they expand their scope, said Mindy Cancila, a research director for Gartner, Inc., based in Stamford, Conn.

The biggest thing Dell must do is drive integration across multiple providers, she added.

"Everybody claims public cloud integration and they all say they manage hybrid environments, but the reality of what they do and how they do it is very different," Cancila said.

Many cloud management vendors have served in IT management for years, but there is a transition that needs to happen to cover the needs of enterprises using multiple cloud vendors, Cancila said. This can include comparison tools, governance, operations management across platforms and cost optimization. But none of the vendors, including Dell, are really able to deliver on all those fronts yet, she added.

Once a cloud provider, not always a cloud provider

Dell has always followed a different drummer.
Charles Kingprincipal analyst of Pund-IT Research

Dell made several early efforts to develop its own cloud, but eventually backed away completely when it scrapped plans for an OpenStack platform in 2013. Since then, the focus has been on cloud management, which was smart given the traction of early vendors such as Amazon Web Services and the glut of other legacy vendors trying to flood the market, said Charles King, principal analyst of Pund-IT Research, an independent IT analysis firm.

"Dell has always followed a different drummer," King said.

Dell looked at the cost of supporting private cloud services and decided it could carve out a position as an objective broker of services, he said.

Part of the problem Dell and other legacy vendors face is that while its hardware and management services should be complimentary, it's not always the case due to internal competition, Cancila said.

"The biggest concern is the solution gets lost in an enormous hardware-centric portfolio," Cancila said. "For those seeking a management solution, it's not that there's anything wrong with Dell, it just isn't the vendor that often comes to mind."

Most of Dell's cloud management users are existing customers, but the company faces challenges in extending its reach, she added.

"They've got to expand that footprint beyond those Dell customers," Cancila said. "When I talk to customers talking public cloud, whether Amazon or Azure, they may not be Dell customers today, but that doesn't mean Dell wouldn't be a good situation for them."

Mid-sized enterprises are really the best suited for these kinds of tools due to a lack of resources, and Dell is in as good a position as anyone to succeed in this space because of its relationships with existing vendors, King said. The Microsoft extension is a prime example of extending that existing relationship, and customers should expect Dell to methodically progress its management strategy as more customers push into this space, he added.

"At this point, it's incremental and we'll continue to see probably every six months new announcements and new features," King said.

Trevor Jones is a news writer with TechTarget’s Data Center and Virtualization Media Group. Contact him at [email protected]

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