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Dell: 'Yes, we will offer multiple Amazonian public clouds'

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Dell director of storage strategy Carter George has confirmed that the company will offer at least two "public clouds" – one based on Microsoft's Azure platform and another based on, well, something else.

Speaking with The Register on Friday, George declined to provide specifics on the second service, saying he did not want to "pre-announce" a product. But presumably, this wil be an Amazon EC2–like "infrastructure cloud" based on the open source OpenStack platform. Dell is an official partner of the OpenStack project, which was founded last year by Rackspace and NASA.

In other words, Dell will become an internet service provider – along the lines of Amazon or Microsoft – offering online services that anyone can use to build, test, and host applications. An infrastructure cloud provides online access to raw computing resources, including processing power and storage. By contrast, a platform cloud – such as Azure – lets you develop and host applications without juggling the underlying resources.

In January, a tweet from a Dell "cloud technology strategist" named Logan McLeod indicated that the company would offer both a public infrastructure-as-a-service cloud and a public platform-as-a-service cloud. "Dell as a public cloud end-to-end service provider?" he tweeted. "Yes. IaaS & PaaS. Coming soon. Dell DC near you."

Dell DC is a Dell data center. Thanks in part to the acquisition of Perot Systems, Dell runs 36 data centers around the world. Today, these serve up old-fashioned software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications for more than 10,000 Dell customers – i.e., they merely host applications on behalf of others. They're not providing on-demand access to readily scalable computing resources as a public cloud does.

Yes, his name is Logan McLeod. Dell has confirmed that he's a real person, but the company's Services Division – where McLeod works and where the Dell clouds will be run – has not provided specific confirmation of the infrastructure service, let alone explained what technologies it will be built on.

While George did not specifically confirm a Dell infrastructure cloud, he made it clear that the company will not stop with Azure. "We will have a public cloud. There will be multiple ones," he said. "The one that has been announced publicly is a partnership we have with Microsoft around the Azure platform. But there will be an additional cloud."

In July, Dell told the world it had teamed with Microsoft to build server appliances that would let businesses build their own Azure-compatible clouds, and it said that these Azure appliances would initially show up in Dell data centers.

On Friday, George explained that the company is building a "cloud interface" that will allow customers to store data on local hardware as well as on cloud services operated by both Dell and third parties. "Each product in our family [of storage products] will be able to back up to the cloud, replicate to the cloud, and tier to the cloud," he said. "By default, that will be our Dell cloud, but it will also work with other public clouds."

Microsoft Azure is not specifically designed as a storage service. But it does have a storage component, and George indicated that Dell's "cloud interface" will dovetail with Dell's Azure service. "Azure does have a basic storage service in it, and we can use it," he said. "I don't think Dell's cloud ambitions stop with just Azure. There will be more there."

OpenStack, by contrast, is built specifically for storage. The project includes two basic platforms: OpenStack Compute, for serving up on-demand access to readily scalable processing power, and OpenStack Storage, a similarly scalable storage platform.

Dell's efforts mirror those of rival HP. Earlier this week, HP said it was getting into the public cloud biz – but like Dell, it declined to provide specifics. Both of these old-school hardware providers are feeling the heat from new-age outfits such as Amazon and Rackspace, whose cloud services threaten to replace local infrastructure.

Dell and HP are looking to mimic Amazon's offering while at the same time continuing to offer hardware and services for private data centers. In cloud marketing-speak, this is known as the "hybrid approach". But you might just as well call it the "cover your ass" strategy. ®

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