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Dell schools net 'dolphins' in ways of Microsoft 'whale'

Lessons in custom iron

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Cloud computing has helped Dell carve out a healthy business building customized servers for the biggest and most fashionable web properties.

Feeding services like Bing and Azure, outfits like Microsoft have had Dell build them machines for their data centers that are smaller, faster, more powerful and consume less power then the servers you'd normally buy.

Now, Dell's preparing to target a new group of customers - organizations building public and private clouds that are smaller than the super service providers and who do not qualify for Dell's personalized engineering services.

Dell has told The Reg it plans a set of reference architectures built on a coming new range of servers and wrapped in software and services from third parties for this group of customer.

The reference architectures are due next year, once the new servers launch.

Dell's reference architectures will be built for organizations such as web hosts, educational institutions, national and regional utilities, and telcos building public and private clouds.

Barton George, Dell cloud computing evangelist, told us that organizations are queuing up for customized Dell machines from its data center services group but that the group can't keep up. So, the OEMs are moving to reference architectures delivered with hardware and software partners that customers can build and install themselves or along with partners.

George would not say what the architectures will contain or which partners Dell is talking to. Typically, though, reference architectures are a hardware and software blueprint for use in a specific scenarios.

George noted the architectures will be based on the experiences gained by Dell's data center solutions group in serving those biggest web names - companies he classified as "whales." Dell, he said, is now targeting the internet "dolphins" with the planned architectures.

Dell's been pretty coy about what it was doing with custom servers and its customers for some time. But the company has coughed up more information as the interest grew.

Dell this year previewed one of its custom machines: the XS23 Cloud Server.

The XS23 dispenses with unwanted features found in general purpose PowerEdge servers, such as redundant power, and pack in more computing power and local disk space in the same - or smaller space - for faster processing and rapid storage with a minimal increase in data-center footprint.

Also, machines like the XS23 consume less power than general-purpose PowerEdges so that Microsoft, for example, can contain the costs of the massive data centers running its Bing search and Azure cloud service.

Dell doesn't say how much money it makes serving the internet whales, but in a telling indication of just how much money the custom business is making, Dell has gone as far as calling it out in its annual statements.

According to Dell, its data center solutions group now builds machines for three of the top-five search engines in the US and the largest Internet portal in China in addition to social networking and new media sites. ®

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