Dell is looking to make cloud computing synonymous with the company.
In a filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Dell has applied to trademark the term “cloud computing.” The disclosure of the applications comes a few days after a busy week in the emerging field of cloud computing that saw several significant announcements from the likes of IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Yahoo.
Dell originally filed its trademark application on March 23, 2007, and the application has received a number of updates through July 2008. While the application itself is not new, the Industry Standard published the first comprehensive article on the trademark application Aug 1. The article also found that another company, NetCentric, tried and failed to trademark the same term in 1998.
The term “cloud computing” has been in heavy use lately as more IT vendors bring out products or — as in the case of IBM — build the first of these large-scale data centers that offer researchers or companies access to an emerging cloud computing infrastructure. Other companies, such as Google and Amazon, are also building their own cloud computing infrastructures to help with their Web 2.0 businesses.
While most industry watchers believe that a true cloud infrastructure is anywhere from three to 10 years away, the technology does hold the promise of redefining the data center. In theory, the cloud could make computing more streamlined and efficient by allowing a business or university to offload some or all of its IT infrastructure and draw on applications and computing power delivered through the Internet.
The Dell trademark application attempts to define the field of cloud computing broadly. What is not clear is whether Dell is trying to create rights for its own unique brand of cloud computing infrastructure, hardware and services, or if Dell is looking to prevent its competitors from using the name and come up with a more generic term.
One section of the application reads: “Design of computer hardware for use in data centers and mega-scale computing environments for others; customization of computer hardware for use in data centers and mega-scale computing environments for others; design and development of networks for use in data centers and mega-scale computing environments for others.”
Another selection seems to indicate IT and management services: “Consulting services for data centers and mega-scale computing environments in the fields of design, selection, implementation, customization and use of computer hardware and software systems for others.”
These definitions are broad enough that Dell could be referring to its own services or those of one of its rivals, such as IBM.
Dells Hardware/Software Cloud
While Dell built its reputation as a low-cost maker of desktops and notebooks, the company has looked to shift focus in the last year to include more IT services and consulting in its portfolio, along with a new emphasis on storage and small and midsize businesses. The cloud is seen as one area where all these new Dell products and services can fit into one large-scale offering.
The question is whether the cloud will prosper as a model or occupy one niche within the IT arsenal. James Staten, an analyst with Forrester Research, wrote in his blog that it’s not the large enterprises that are interested in cloud computing at this time, but startup companies and tech-savvy entrepreneurs who are investigating this disruptive technology and interested in investing.
“Like other disruptive innovations in the technology space, such as cloud collaboration, software as a service (SAAS) and the iPhone, cloud computing targets the tech savvy business developer, startup and interactive marketer,” Staten wrote. “These business innovators don’t take their technology cues from the corporate standards set by infrastructure & operations professionals. They seek solutions that enable their ideas faster and cheaper. And cloud computing is the extreme programming of the IT deployment world.”