While Dell (Quote) is best known as a provider of computer products to the masses, the new Dell Data Center Solutions division is targeting a very select number of companies.
The division will build prototypes and custom hardware solutions, such as servers optimized for larger throughput, as well as improved latency.
The computer and datacenter requirements of Web 2.0-oriented companies such as eBay, Google and Yahoo can be quite different than traditional IT shops. With the new division, Dell thinks it can offer more unique or custom solutions than its competitors, including HP, Sun and IBM, typically provide.
Norrod said that the new division builds on such Dell strengths as build-to-order manufacturing and support for industry standards. But he also noted it is different enough to stand out. "This is not a repudiation of standards; wherever possible we'll build using standard components.
"But we want to focus on the specific needs of the customer and that's different than, say, HP's 'blade everything' approach or IBM, which also thinks blades are the answer to every problem. We have a very technical team that is hyper-skilled when it comes to what Web 2.0 companies need."
If you went to a systems company with these kinds of requests, Norrod added, you didn't get very far, or they provided an extremely expensive solution. "Most general-purpose products are optimized to run a range of applications; that's not what these guys want. They want systems that are tuned for what they're doing."
Gartner analyst Martin Reynolds said the new division is "a very clever" move by Dell, but he's not convinced it's all about offering custom solutions. "I suspect the stuff they build will cost significantly less than what you'd have to pay HP and others," Reynolds told internetnews.com. "If not, if they don't address the price issue, it won't sell.