With the release of the latest solutions for its converged data center strategy, Dell is taking aim at rivals Cisco and HP. Dell says their rivals' offerings are closed and proprietary, while Dell's is open and flexible. However, one analyst says that to a large extent, that is a matter of perceptions. Cisco and HP officials also have said that the tight integration of their products means greater benefits to their customers.
In the increasingly competitive world of converged data center
solutions, Dell is trying to separate itself from Cisco Systems and
Hewlett-Packard by being what officials are saying is the open
In rolling out new management and networking solutions
an event in San Francisco Dec. 10, Dell officials attacked the
offerings of its competitors as "proprietary," saying they threaten
enterprises with vendor lock-in while Dell offers options that can work
with the customer's heterogeneous environments.
"Our competitors are trying to take short cuts by providing
proprietary stacks that create lock in and really only benefit the
vendor," Praveen Asthana, vice president of Dell Enterprise Storage and
Networking, said in a statement accompanying the announcement. "Dell
has a completely different vision."
That vision is one where Dell's components can be used within the
customer's existing environments, or can be used together as the
company suggests with its new Business Ready Configurations, which
offer servers, storage and networking devices designed to work tightly
together. However, businesses use whatever products they want-even
those from outside vendors-to work within these suggested
architectures, according to Dell.
In addition, Dells new Advanced Infrastructure Manager software can work in heterogeneous environments, the company said.
During the San Francisco event, where Dell launched not only the
management software-which is based on technology from partner Scalent
Systems-but also 10 Gigabit Ethernet networking products and the
Business Ready Configurations, Asthana harshly criticized the offerings
from Cisco and HP as proprietary.
Cisco is selling its UCS (Unified Computing System), an all-in-one
solution that includes Cisco's own servers and networking, as well as
storage from EMC and virtualization capabilities from VMware. In
November, it also launched a joint venture called Acadia
, in which bundles with products from those three vendors are sold.
HP also has an all-in-one offering, dubbed BladeSystem Matrix. It also is in the process of buying networking equipment vendor 3Com
$2.7 billion, which combined with HP's ProCurve networking business
will be a key addition to the company's overall unified data center
Officials with both Cisco and HP have argued that rather than being
proprietary, their tightly integrated solutions will enable businesses
to more quickly realize the efficiencies and cost savings they are
looking for from a more converged infrastructure.
Clay Ryder, an analyst with the Sageza Group, said the debate is one of perception.
"One guy's proprietary is another guy's value-add," Ryder said in an interview.
Dell's approach fits in line with the way the company has traditionally operated, he said.
"Dell is a company that historically has lived and died by margin,"
Ryder said. "Its approach is to be the most open, the most flexible.
For Dell, it's really important [to be] on the open side of the card
because it always works on a thin margin."
The more suppliers Dell has, the easier it is to get a better price
by playing them off each other. That feeds into Dell's history of
aggressively pricing its products and making them open.
However, both Cisco and HP have offerings that are widely used by
enterprises worldwide, as do their various partners, so while they may
not be the definition of "open standards," they are industry-standard
products, Ryder said.
IBM also has taken a many-partner approach to its unified data center strategy, as illustrated by the announcement in July of expanded partnerships
networking vendors Cisco, Juniper Networks and Brocade Communications
Systems. IBM officials at the time said that choice and flexibility
were important to customers as they decide how to update their data
The Sageza Group's Ryder said that particularly given the current
economic realities, businesses are looking to ways to make their IT
infrastructure more efficient.
"When you talk about convergence, simplicity, virtualization,
improved utilization, cloud, all the words out there in the industry,
they all go to the basic premise that every business understands:
There's still a lot of inefficiency in technology," he said.
Businesses are interested in reducing that inefficiency, but it will
be done in an incremental approach, rather than all at once. It also
entails changing behaviors as much as improving technology, Ryder said.
Some IT professionals worry that such initiatives threaten their
livelihoods, which will make it more important for businesses to
carefully roll out their strategies, he said.