Dell's Pitch: You Can't All Use Amazon

Dell Inc. CEO Michael Dell Photograph by Ben Sklar/The New York Times via Redux

Last week, after Michael Dell won his bid to take Dell private, he talked about being an arms dealer to cloud providers.

Asked on CNBC how Dell can compete with public cloud kingpin Amazon Web Services, Michael Dell turned the question around:

“… Amazon’s been a great customer and we’ve provided them a lot of equipment for their cloud, as well as many other public clouds. You know, there are thousands—tens of thousands of cloud service providers. And Dell’s been fortunate enough to provide the infrastructure for a significant, you know—number of those customers.”

Yes, Dell, like rival Hewlett-Packard and other hardware players, wants to provide the horsepower to run massive clouds, but it also wants to offer private and public cloud services that run atop all that hardware—and that, yes, will compete with AWS.

Dell is offering three flavors of public cloud from partners Joyent (a battle-tested proprietary cloud used by large telcos), Zerolag (a VMware-based cloud), ; and Scalematrix (strong in small and medium sized companies). At the same time, it’s pushing its its own OpenStack-based cloud technology for what it sees as its bread-and-butter private cloud business.

Dell will rely on Enstratius, acquired last May, to provide multi-cloud management across all those clouds. Still, you have to ask why a company Dell’s size relies on partners for its public cloud infrastructure, while HP, Red Hat, IBM, and the rest of the known IT universe want their own branded public clouds.

The reason, says Nnamdi Orakwue, vice president of Dell’s software group, is that people want choice. “Customers are afraid of lock-in—they’ve had that experience. I won’t name any names, but there are cloud or virtualization platforms that lock them in and have tricky pricing [that makes it] hard to leave,” Orakwue tells me.

That’s why, as customers start thinking of composite applications and hybrid cloud redundancy, Dell needs to offer options. He also cited—again without naming names—a major public cloud provider that went down last Christmas, as reason enough for customers to want multi-cloud management and for Dell to provide it. (For those who don’t remember, AWS U.S.-East experienced a major hiccup that took down Netflix and other customers on Christmas Eve.)

I’ll be sure to ask Orakwue more about Dell’s multi-cloud worldview this week at Structure:Europe in London.

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