What is the Cloud?

December 20, 2011

Earlier this year Dell and Intel did a series of videos around key topics like cloud computing, IT reinvention, the consumerization of IT, social media etc.  Within these there was a mini-series that dealt with cloud computing that I participated in.

Here is the first one that features Dell’s CIO Robin Johnson, John Pereira, Intel’s director of data center and hosting, Forrest Norrod who is the VP and GM of Dell’s server platform group and myself.

Some of the topics we hit on:

  • How cloud relates to grid compute
  • How start-ups and smaller companies leverage the cloud and how that may change as they grow
  • The benefit of velocity and near instantaneous deployment that cloud brings
  • The federal government’s “Cloud First” initiative and how that will promote adoption
  • We’ve only just begun

Pau for now…

GigaOm names the top 50 Cloud Innovators

May 23, 2011

As a run up to next months Structure conference,  GigaOm has put together a list of the top 50 companies “that are influencing how the cloud and infrastructure evolves.”  Those who made the list, entitled The Structure 50, are described as follows

These are the ones to watch — at least in 2011. You’ve heard of some – such as Amazon or Dell. Others – such as Nicira or Boundary – are probably not yet on your radar. But they should be. All of these companies, big or small, have people, technology or strategies that will help shape the way the cloud market is developing and where it will eventually end up.

Dell’s Bio

For each of the 50, GigaOm has put together a short “bio.”  Here is the entry for Dell:

Founded 1984
Investors Public Company
Structure50 Topic Data Center
Description Dell is among the world’s biggest server, storage and PC vendors, although the company has turned much of its focus to cloud computing software.
GigaOM’s Take Dell has made heavy investments in cloud computing, ranging from dense, low-power servers for cloud data centers to software acquisitions and OEM deals that provide cutting-edge management capabilities. Going forward, Dell has plans to provide both Windows Azure- and OpenStack-based cloud services.

Looking forward to Structure 11

Members of the Dell cloud team, including myself, will be out in force at Structure 11.  We will have a booth and Forrest Norrod, the GM of Dell’s Next Generation Computing Solutions division will be speaking on a panel.  Forrest’s panel, entitled “The Economics of Open Everything,” will focus on OpenStack and Cloud Foundry as two specific initiatives built around open source.

If you find yourself at Structure swing by the booth or seek one of us out.  Its a pretty intimate conference and we shouldn’t be too hard to find.

Pau for now…

Extra-credit reading

A walk thru Facebook’s HQ on Open Compute day

April 12, 2011

Last Thursday a group of us from Dell attended and participated in the unveiling of Facebook’s Open Compute project.

Much the way open source software shares the code behind the software, the Open Compute project has been created to provide the specifications behind the servers and the data center.    By releasing these specs, Facebook is looking to promote the sharing of data center and server technology best practices across the industry.


The unassuming entrance to Facebook's Palo Alto headquarters.

The Facebook wall.

Facebook headquarters at 8am. (nice monitors! 🙂

Words of wisdom on the wall.

The Event

Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerburg kicks off the Open Compute event.

The panel moderated by Om Malik that closed the event. Left to right: Om, Graham Weston of Rackspace, Frank Frankovsky of Facebook, Michael Locatis of the DOE, Alan Leinwand of Zynga, Forrest Norrod of Dell (with the mic) and Jason Waxman of Intel.

Post-event show & tell: Drew Schulke of Dell's DCS team being interviewed for the nightly news and showing off a Dell DCS server that incorporates elements of Open Compute.

Extra credit reading

  • GigaOM: Bringing Facebook’s Open Compute Project Down to Earth
  • The Register:  Facebook’s open hardware: Does it compute?

Pau for now…

Forrest Norrod of Dell on Open Compute

April 7, 2011

This morning, at Facebook’s headquarters in Palo Alto, the company unveiled the Open Compute project.  Also on hand to support the announcement were partners such as Dell and Intel, who served on a panel alongside representatives from Rackspace, the Department of Energy, Zynga and Facebook.  Forrest Norrod, GM of Dell’s server platform division represented Dell on the panel.

I caught up with Forrest after the event to get his take on the Open Compute project and what it means for Dell.

Extra-credit reading

Pau for now…

Dells Data Center Solutions group turns Four!

March 28, 2011

Dell’s Data Center Solutions group (DCS) is no longer a toddler.  Over the weekend we turned four!

Four years ago on March 27, 2007 Dell announced the formation of the Data Center Solutions group, a special crack team designed to service the needs of hyperscale customers.  On that day eWeek announced the event in their article Dell Takes On Data Centers with New Services Unit and within the first week Forrest Norrod, founding DCS GM and currently the GM of Dell’s server platform division, spelled out to the world our goals and mission (in re-watching the video its amazing to see how true to that mission we have been):

The DCS Story

If you’re not familiar with the DCS story, here is how it all began.  Four years ago Dell’s Data Center Solutions team was formed to directly address a new segment that begin developing in the marketplace, the “hyperscale” segment.  This segment was characterized by customers who were deploying 1,000s if not 10,000s of servers at a time.

These customers saw their data center as their factory and technology as a competitive weapon.  Along with the huge scale they were deploying at, they had a unique architecture and approach specifically, resiliency and availability were built into the software rather than the hardware.  As a result they were looking for system designs that focused less on redundancy and availability and more on TCO, density and energy efficiency.  DCS was formed to address these needs.

Working directly with a small group of customers

From the very beginning DCS took the Dell direct customer model and drove it even closer to the customer.  DCS architects and engineers sit down with the customer and before talking about system specs they learn about the customer’s environment, what problem they are looking to solve and what type of application(s) they will be running.  From there the DCS team designs and creates a system to match the customer’s needs.

In addition to major internet players, DCS’s customers include financial services organizations, national government agencies, institutional universities, laboratory environments and energy producers.  Given the extreme high-touch nature of this segment, the DCS group handles only 20-30 customers worldwide but these customers such as Facebook, Lawrence Livermore National Labs and Microsoft Azure are buying at such volumes that the system numbers are ginormous.

Expanding to the “next 1000”

Ironically because it was so high-touch, Dell’s scale out business didn’t scale beyond our group of 20-30 custom customers.   This meant considerable pent up demand from organizations one tier below.   After thinking about it for a while we came up with a different model to address their needs.  Leveraging the knowledge and experience we had gained working with the largest hyperscale players, a year ago we launched a portfolio of specialized products and solutions to address “the next 1000.”

The foundation for this portfolio is a line of specialized PowerEdge C systems derived from the custom systems we have been designing for the “biggest of the big.”  Along with these systems we have launched a set of complete solutions that we have put together with the help of a set of key partners:

  • Dell Cloud Solution for Web Applications: A turnkey platform-as-a-service offering targeted at IT service providers, hosting companies and telcos.  This private cloud offering combines Dell’s specialized cloud servers with fully integrated software from Joyent.
  • Dell Cloud Solution for Data Analytics: A combination of Dell’s PowerEdge C servers with Aster Data’s nCluster, a massively parallel processing database with an integrated analytics engine.
  • Dell | Canonical Enterprise Cloud, Standard Edition: A “cloud-in-a-box” that allows the setting up of an affordable Infrastructure-as-a-Service (Iaas)-style private clouds in computer labs or data centers.
  • OpenStack: We are working with Rackspace to deliver an OpenStack solution later this year.  OpenStack is the open source cloud platform built on top of code donated by Rackspace and NASA and is now being further developed by the community.

These first four years have been a wild ride.  Here’s hoping the next four will be just as crazy!

Extra-credit reading


DCS Whitepapers

Case studies

Meet Roy Guillen — GM of Dell’s DCS group

February 11, 2011

In case you’re not familiar with it, Dell’s Data Center Solutions (DCS) group has been around for nearly four years, acting as a “custom tailor” to some of the largest internet superstars and scale-out leaders, organizations like Facebook, Microsoft Azure and Lawrence Livermore national labs.  A year ago DCS added to this custom capability by bringing out a line of specialized servers paired with software solutions targeted at the tier of customers right below these “biggest of the big.”

A changing of the guard
Last March, Roy Guillen took over the helm as the General Manager of the DCS group when the then current GM, Forrest Norrod was promoted to run all of servers at Dell.  Near the end of the year I sat down with Roy to get his thoughts on what made DCS, DCS and learn what success looked like for him.

Some of the ground Roy covers:

  • His Background
  • [0:49] What makes DCS unique within Dell and the industry
  • [2:01] The customer story that best sums up DCS
  • [3:25] The one thing that isn’t well known about DCS
  • [4:18] What does success look like for you?

Extra-credit reading:

Pau for now…

InfoWeek: Dell DCS unit racking up cloud sales

January 18, 2010

There was a good article in Information Week last week with our GM, Forrest Norrod.  Forrest talked to Charlie Babcock about the success that Dell’s Data Center Systems unit has had in the cloud space.

You should check out the whole article but here are a few bits I’ve pulled out for your reading pleasure:

  • Dell’s Data Center Solutions unit, has only 20 customers, but would be the third largest supplier of x86 servers in the U.S. if it were split out from Dell, said Forrest Norrod, the unit’s VP and general manager, in an interview. The only companies ahead it in shipping Intel or AMD servers would be HP and Dell itself.
  • This foray into cloud computing is somewhat contrary to Dell’s previous pattern of applying sophisticated supply chain logistics to well-worn grooves in the business and consumer computing markets. For one thing, Dell, until recently, hasn’t talked about it. For another, it’s built a business unit that refuses to address the mass market at all.
  • Norrod acknowledged what other Dell officials said as well: the lessons learned in producing servers for the big Internet service providers will be used when enterprise customers knock on Dell’s door to discuss how to build out their private clouds. “Dell will bring the capabilities from DCS to the mass market,” he said
  • “Interest [in private cloud computing] is spiking through the roof,” [Norrod] said, and he predicted most new enterprise applications will be designed to run in the cloud, whether public or private. Such applications are built with scalability in mind and can take advantage of the ability of the cloud to generate more virtual machines on demand.

Stay tuned for more 🙂

Pau for now…

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