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Enterprises Looking to the Clouds, Dell Says

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SAN FRANCISCO — As more enterprises incorporate cloud computing (define) into their IT infrastructure, the number of clouds will proliferate, and there will be “thousands of clouds deployed out in the world,” Dell executive Forrest Norrod said at a press briefing here this week.

Many will be owned by enterprises on their premises, and others will be offered by smaller cloud service providers, “in the thousands or tens of thousands of servers, not millions,” said Norrod, vice president of Dell’s data center solutions division. These will be deployed in specialty services or for customers that have regulatory, privacy or other concerns, he added..

These clouds will require customized stripped-down servers with the bare minimum of capabilities because “advanced graphics, flashy plastics, or lots of PCI slots waste power because they won’t be used by a large-scale infrastructure,” Facebook vice president of technical operations Jonathan Heiliger said. Facebook has its own cloud of 10,000 servers distributed through several locations in the United States.

That’s the kind of servers Dell’s data center solutions division specializes in. “We support customers building out the largest clouds,” Norrod said, adding that his group “provides customized storage, server and data center infrastructure solutions to the 50 largest customers worldwide.”

Exxon Mobil (NYSE: XOM), Shell, BP (NYSE: BP), Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS), the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM), and graphics chip maker Nvidia (NASDAQ: NVDA) are among the Dell customers with their own private clouds, Norrod said.

There’s no doubt that cloud computing is hot and getting hotter. Third-party cloud providers like Amazon, Google and Joyent have been joined by the likes of giant IBM (NYSE: IBM). Big Blue is creating a hub for its computing infrastructure in the cloud that clients will be able to access any time from anywhere. This will be based in two data centers, in North Carolina and in Tokyo, Japan.

IBM has also teamed up with Google to create three data centers for academic computing using data-intensive parallel programming. In another recent noteworthy development, HP, Yahoo and Intel have teamed up to create cloud computing labs.

The need for standards

Oil and gas companies and the financial markets, among the early users of clouds, want to deploy clouds in two forms — on premise as well as off-premise at a third party cloud service provider, Norrod said.

Enterprises that adopt both forms of cloud computing want their application frameworks and infrastructures to be compatible “so they can exchange and move workloads from one to the other,” Norrod added.

For example, one company in the oil and gas industry has “a very large hyperscale cloud deployment in their own data center, but asked us to help build out a cloud deployment at a third party provider for flexibility and additional capacity,” Norrod said.

However, full compatibility is still some way off because the market is so new that standards are still emerging, Norrod said. “There’s quite a number of players offering different pieces of the stack,” he added.

Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) is taking the pragmatic approach. “We offer practical and pragmatic solutions on the problems people face today rather than focusing on consultancy,” Norrod said. “We believe standards will emerge over time.”

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