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Dell woos Yahoo! and Amazon with cloud making service

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Dell's "evolution" apparently includes the growth of fins, scales, and a tail, because the vendor has started swimming upstream with a new custom server and storage design service aimed at the hungriest data center customers.

The company has dubbed its latest effort the Dell Cloud Computing Solution, although constructing models of Cumulonimbus has rather little to do with the service. Rather, Dell has pledged to craft custom hardware for service providers looking to purchases thousands or tens of thousands of systems. The bespoke design and installation attack breaks with Dell's traditional no fuss, no muss model and has the company looking a lot more like services fiends such as IBM, HP and Sun Microsystems.

There's precious little information on Dell's website about this service and only a dollop more in a video done about the new service by Dell VP Forrest Norrod.

Dell has discovered over the last year or so that a certain class of customers find its standard line of servers and storage to be either "over-engineered or under-engineered." So, Dell will push out custom systems with, say, lower-end chips to meet a particular customer's power requirements or perhaps construct a data center with an insane amount of super cheap storage.

The company plans to bring in a services crew to map out exactly what the customers want and then have its engineers start hammering away on the data center design.

The Dell Cloud Computing Solution is a shot at Rackable Systems, which has been chewing through the service provider crowd. Norrod made the Rackable attack rather obvious by calling out Microsoft, Yahoo! and Amazon by name as targets for the new service. Rackable counts all three companies as its premiere clients.

Norrod spun the cloud building effort as "an evolution of our heritage". Like Jack in the Box, Dell doesn't begin building your PC or server until you order it. Now it's simply having a chat with customers about their order first instead of relying on a mail order catalog or its website, as Norrod tells it.

In reality, however, the new cloud creation service takes Dell in a very different direction. We're talking about Dell courting the most demanding customers around and doing a significant amount of engineering to satisfy them.

Dell, of course, must move in this type of direction if it hopes to pull out of the long-term enterprise lull haunting its overall business. Companies building massive data centers such as Microsoft and Amazon have found Dell's constant "lowest hardware prices!" pitch unappealing, particularly since they're paying more for electricity than hardware by quite a margin. So now Dell has to do more work to attract their business by proving that it can develop low-cost systems which also consume less energy than its mainstream hardware line.

It's good to see Dell wriggling and fighting the "direct model" current. Signs of life, friends. Signs of life. ®

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