Dell hopes to grab a bigger slice of the cloud infrastructure market with a new line of PowerEdge servers that the company announced on Wednesday.
The new PowerEdge C servers are aimed at service providers running busy Web sites and public cloud computing services, as well as enterprises building "private clouds" to deliver application services on demand internally.
Dell said it would "take the guesswork" out of building public and private clouds by selling the servers in "turnkey cloud solutions" that include packages of hardware, software and implementation services.
The servers are an outgrowth of Dell's Data Center Solutions division, which works closely with Web giants like Microsoft and Facebook to build custom servers for their online operations.
The DCS group works only with very large customers that buy tens of thousands of servers. To reach a wider audience, Dell created a few servers similar to the designs it built for those customers and is offering them for the first time as standard, listed products in the form of the C servers launched Wednesday.
It announced three PowerEdge C servers initially: the C1100, for high-memory configurations, the C2100, for data analytics and storage, and the C6100, a "four-node cloud and cluster optimized shared infrastructure server." Pricing and configurations weren't available early Wednesday. Dell was due to introduce the systems as part of an overall briefing about its enterprise strategy with reporters in San Francisco Wednesday.
The systems are not typical servers and won't appeal to all customers. They strip out some features, like redundant power supplies, in order to reduce power consumption and thus operational costs, but that also makes them less reliable than typical rackmount servers. They are designed to run in specialized cloud environments with software that can route around hardware failures and keep applications running.
That means selling them will require education for both Dell's sales teams and its customers. But they could help Dell to compete better with rival cloud offerings like HP's Extreme Scale-Out systems, IBM's iDataPlex servers and power-optimized cloud products from SGI and others.
"We're going to be very clear to our sales force and our customers that these are for those rarefied environments where you have this type of software infrastructure," Barton George, Dell's cloud evangelist, said in an interview last month. "If you were to run SAP or a database or a file server on one of these systems it would be a disaster. It wouldn't work."
Dell's first turnkey cloud package is a platform-as-a-service offering that addresses "the key issues around web application development and deployment," which Dell says are unpredictable traffic, the fear of under-provisioning and migration from development to production. The package bundles Dell's C series servers with cloud software from Joyent and some implementation and support services.
Other new software partners in its cloud program are Canonical, Aster Data and Greenplum. Dell will also offer services to help companies design, deploy and maintain a cloud infrastructure.