Risk
1/20/2010
09:37 AM
Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy
Commentary
Connect Directly
LinkedIn
Twitter
Google+
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Global CIO: Dell And The Pursuit Of Google

Huge buyers such as search engines have reshaped the top end of the server market. That's forced Dell to turn its traditional mass-market business model on its head.

Google designs its own servers. When InformationWeek editors visited Dell's campus recently, Dell exec Tim Mattox made the case for why, he hopes, that won't last forever. "When they start getting rid of the executive chefs at the Google campus for employees, that's when they probably start saying 'You know, we probably don't need to design these servers ourselves,'" says Mattox.

That's the punch line. What follows is the substance of how Dell's pursuing the modern mega-buyers of computing power, from search engines to research facilities. It's a pursuit that turns Dell's traditional mass-market business model on its head.

The effort centers on a business unit called Data Center Solutions--a group with only about 20 customers that, Dell says, would be the No. 3 seller of server units in the U.S. last quarter if it were a standalone company. The group claims every major search engine except Google as a customer, as well as giant computing consumers such as Lawrence Livermore Laboratories.

Dell formed the Data Center Solutions group about three years ago, in recognition that an emerging class of companies--primarily Internet companies such as search engines and social networking--was going to reshape the highest end of the server market. At the time, the top 20 buyers of servers made up about 5% of the total server market. Today, the top 20 is more than 10% of the market, Dell says.

Dell made its name selling standards-based computers that buyers could tweak to their needs--selling one type of machine to many. And its original vision for the Data Center Solutions group was something like that. Dell planned to craft the perfect server for about five vertical markets--the perfect box for search engines, another variation for social media, another for grid environments. That didn't work at all. One search engine didn't have anything like the same needs of another.

So DCS became more like a custom tailor -- or like a concierge catering to high rollers at the Bellagio, says Forrest Norrod, VP and general manager of Dell's Data Center Solutions. "We say 'yes'," explains Norrod. Now DCS will design a server completely from scratch to meet the very specific needs of the biggest server users. A server design might have only one customer--but a customer that buys many thousands of that one design. "It's almost a service, not a product," Norrod says.

Global CIO
Global CIOs: A Site Just For You
Visit InformationWeek's Global CIO -- our new online community and information resource for CIOs operating in the global economy.
Customizing servers to a specific environment is critical to driving down total cost of ownership for these giants. Norrod offers an example: one search provider had a 20 megawatt data center and calculated it would run out of space before the company could build a new one. The search company had a multi-room facility, and each room held about 10,000 servers. Dell worked with the company to redesign cooling systems, change the airflow within the server racks, bring in new containments, and remove some cooling systems. By using servers designed entirely for that building's power, space, and environmental conditions, the company could put 22,000 servers per room. "That's the kind of problem we like to solve," Norrod says.

Dell has learned that, while two search engines might not be interested in the same server design, the design still may get re-used--by a big user of computing in another industry, such as an oil and gas company doing exploration modeling, or an investment bank doing financial market simulations. So now it has 30 to 40 base designs, and each is typically sold to about five customers.

Previous
1 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Flash Poll
Current Issue
Cartoon
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-0103
Published: 2014-07-29
WebAccess in Zarafa before 7.1.10 and WebApp before 1.6 stores credentials in cleartext, which allows local Apache users to obtain sensitive information by reading the PHP session files.

CVE-2014-0475
Published: 2014-07-29
Multiple directory traversal vulnerabilities in GNU C Library (aka glibc or libc6) before 2.20 allow context-dependent attackers to bypass ForceCommand restrictions and possibly have other unspecified impact via a .. (dot dot) in a (1) LC_*, (2) LANG, or other locale environment variable.

CVE-2014-0889
Published: 2014-07-29
Multiple cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities in IBM Atlas Suite (aka Atlas Policy Suite), as used in Atlas eDiscovery Process Management through 6.0.3, Disposal and Governance Management for IT through 6.0.3, and Global Retention Policy and Schedule Management through 6.0.3, allow remote atta...

CVE-2014-2226
Published: 2014-07-29
Ubiquiti UniFi Controller before 3.2.1 logs the administrative password hash in syslog messages, which allows man-in-the-middle attackers to obtains sensitive information via unspecified vectors.

CVE-2014-3020
Published: 2014-07-29
install.sh in the Embedded WebSphere Application Server (eWAS) 7.0 before FP33 in IBM Tivoli Integrated Portal (TIP) 2.1 and 2.2 sets world-writable permissions for the installRoot directory tree, which allows local users to gain privileges via a Trojan horse program.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio