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Dell doesn't believe in The Big Switch. Company man Andy Rhodes denies the notion that the entire world will move its IT infrastructure onto so-called cloud computing services along the lines of Amazon's EC2. As you might expect.

But Dell does believe in cloud computing. Rhodes and company just announced the general availability of some stuff it calls Dell Cloud Solutions. Because it doesn't believe in The Big Switch, you see, Dell has joined that long list of traditional IT giants who have co-opted the cloud metaphor and reshaped it to suit their own needs. Dell Cloud Solutions are prepackaged and pre-tested hardware and software bundles that help people "build efficient and affordable IT infrastructures that are easy to deploy, manage, and run."

Some are designed to feed Amazon EC2-like "public clouds." But others are meant to drive "private clouds" behind the firewall. Rhodes believes some businesses will make the Switch. Just not all. If they all did, well, that wouldn't be good for Dell.

Using software from San Francisco-based outfit Joyent, Dell offers one Cloud Solutions bundle for telcos and other service providers looking to build their own Amazon EC2-like service, something that serves up on-demand access to readily scalable computing resources, including processing power and storage. Another bundle, based on software from San Carlos, California, outfit Aster Data is aimed at those looking to build an infrastructure that lets them analyze large amounts of data. And there's a third — based on database software from San Mateo-based Greenplum — for building enterprise data warehouses.

Yes, Dell is referring to in-house data analytics and data warehousing as cloud computing. But at this point, we expect nothing less. Aster Data taps the sort of MapReduce distributed computing techniques made famous by Google, and Greenplum uses a similarly parallel setup. And cloud computing can mean distributing computing, because, well, cloud computing, can mean anything.

"It's important to use the word cloud to describe not just where the computing takes place but how computing is done," VMware boss Paul Martiz said earlier this week. "The very techniques [used by public clouds] can also be applied within the enterprise. There are new architectures and new ways of doing things that are being incubated in the public cloud that I think are going to be very disruptive to the way things have been done in the traditional enterprise, that need to come back into the enterprise as well."

The salient point here is that Dell is working to offer far more than just hardware. These Cloud Solutions are offered by Dell's Data Center Solutions (DCS), the bespoke iron unit the company set up to chase server orders with big online outfits such as Google, Salesforce.com, and Amazon. "Five or six years ago, we noticed a shift in the market," Roy Guillen, Dell DCS general manager, said this morning at a Dell press event in San Francisco. "We started having customers who...looked at different architectures. They weren't just looking at the type of general purpose server you could buy off the shelf. They were looking at the architecture of their data center beyond the box."

According to research outfit IDC, if Dell DCS was its own business, it would now be the third largest server-maker on earth. The company says it truly customizes hardware and data centers for about 10 to 20 very large customers. But it server hundreds more with pre-tested bundles based on this custom work. The Dell Cloud Solutions, the company says, builds on the lessons DCS learned in helping to erect massive online services with OnLive, Microsoft, and Facebook. ®

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