Dell Revamps Cloud Strategy, Again

Dell has been flip flopping on its cloud strategy for years, but now says it’s finally settled on one that relies on nearly a dozen major cloud partners instead of building a standalone public cloud of its own.

Dell launched a private beta last week called Dell Cloud Marketplace, inviting select customers and a handful of channel partners to try it. The marketplace will do for buying cloud services what Priceline did for researching and buying airline tickets, said Nnamdi Orakwue, vice president of Dell software strategy, operations and cloud.

Central to the Dell Cloud Marketplace, which opens up to all later this year as a beta program, is a web-based marketplace tool that allow customers and partners to shop, compare and configure cloud networks through a one-stop-shop website. Orakwue said this eliminates sometimes weeks of working with engineers to test and configure cloud networks to work seamlessly together.

Related: Ingram Micro's Cloud Marketplace Goes Global

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"When it comes to the cloud, the question is always 'build it, buy it or partner?'’ said Lisa Larson, chief cloud officer at Tampa, Fla.-based Dell partner Vology. For partners picking a cloud solution it comes down to ease of use, she said.

’Dell is getting into a crowded arena of cloud brokers, but it can deliver hassle-free tools for comparing offerings and a single-pane of glass for cloud management. At least on paper, I’m interested,’ Larson said.

Orakwue said Dell knows how to do ecommerce and has carved out a sweet spot in the mid-tier IT market that thrives on web-based, turnkey services for buying everything from storage, servers and now cloud services.

’Just like a partner will configure a storage solution through, now they will able to configure a cloud service. The way the cloud is being purchased today, it’s online and frictionless. By the end of the year Dell Cloud Marketplace will be just that,’ Orakwue said.

Dell’s cloud strategy, Orakwue said, capitalizes on spaces between other company’s clouds and act as glue connecting public, private and hybrid clouds with one unifying dashboard to manage them all. So far, Dell said it’s working with 11 cloud partners from AWS, CenturyLink, Google, Azure and Zerolag.

’HP, Cisco and IBM are building very expensive public clouds to compete with Amazon and Google. We are the only ones that are saying we don’t want to get into that fight,’ Orakwue said. ’We think we can better serve our customers by avoiding the sales pitch on replacing this cloud with that cloud. Instead, Dell is going to help you facilitate best-of-breed cloud solutions and help our customers with growing their cloud from where it is today.’

Dell has waffled over the years on a number of cloud strategies. The company said in 2012 it would build an OpenStack-based public cloud. The following year Dell backtracked, and said it would work with select cloud partners including Joyent, ScaleMatrix and ZeroLag, explaining that more choices for customers reduced the risk of getting locked in with a specific vendor.

The Dell Cloud Marketplace takes Dell's cloud strategy to the next level, according to the company, streamlining the cloud procurement and configuration process. Dell said it will act as the single-source supplier front-ending all these diverse clouds. Powering the marketplace is Enstratius, a startup Dell purchased in May of 2013 that provides tools and dashboards to manage hybrid and private clouds.

Dell enters an increasingly crowded space of cloud brokerage companies who have opted not to build out their own expensive public clouds, but rather act as a facilitator of others. Santa Ana, Calif.-based direct market reseller Ingram Micro in April launched a Cloud Marketplace that it said was a one-stop-shop for cloud services. A host of smaller companies, such as one called Jamcracker, offer similar cloud brokerage services.

Meanwhile, Dell competitors Cisco and Hewlett-Packard have launched their own public clouds that also rely heavily on leveraging network third-party public clouds. HP unveiled in June its Helion Network public cloud that has 20 data centers of its own with bridges to wide array of other public and private clouds. Cisco announced a similar initiative in April, called Cisco Intercloud, which relies on its own six data centers and claims to work seamlessly with partner clouds.