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Dell's DCS unit explains its "one of a kind" mission

Storage goes exclusive
Sun Apr 12 2009, 12:55

DELL HAS PLANS to fashion itself into the Saville Row of servers and reckons its Data Center Solutions (DCS) division has tapped into the money with its vision of made-to-order, customisable systems for Internet search giants and finance firms alike.

Last month, Dell celebrated the second anniversary of its cash-cow DCS division, with the firm claiming it has already developed over 19 different "one-of-a-kind" hardware platforms to suit the needs of its fashionable cloud computing customers.

According to Todd Brannon, DCS's market development manager, it all started four years ago when Dell was approached by a group of customers with a "set of asks" very different from other customers' data centre requirements.

Todd-brannanThe picky punters pleaded with Dell to provide them with "very specialised gear" to power their search engines, social media sites and large HPC clusters, claiming the firm's standard PowerEdge kit just wasn't streamlined enough for their needs.

"They had a very firm grasp on their costs of production," said Brannon. "Their data centre is their factory and cost of production has a big huge impact," he explained adding that they were "laser focused" on costs for power and cooling.

This crisp understanding of how storage components fitted into the "ecosystem" - as Brannon describes it - meant Dell had to make its servers hyper efficient, cutting out all the crap it usually flogs to less picky customers.

Dell also wastes little time getting kit to customers, with Brannon telling the INQ that whilst the typical development cycle for a server is anything between 12-24 months, DCS develops its products in a matter of weeks by buying commercially available, off-the-shelf components, in order to bang out a system in record timing.

"Rack it, stack it, cable it, label it and deliver it to the customer," Brannon said was the mantra, adding DCS had its own supply chain team, engineering team and architectural team to make everything all fit together.

"Everything we've done here as part of this newer, custom-build unit kind of violates the brand tenants of Poweredge," admitted Brannon, describing DCS as a sort of semi autonomous standalone business carved out from Dell's core server business.

Three-s-a-clowd

Brannon boasts that while Google famously makes its own servers, Dell caters to three others from the ‘Search engine top five', hinting that Facebook is also a DCS customer.

Three-s-a-clowd

But, sensing a great business opportunity in hand-me-downs and cheap knock-offs, Dell cunningly decided it would sell on its custom-made designs to smaller outfits, like Russian search engine and portal Yandex, for less cash.

"If we'd taken the business we'd built here at DCS - of customised gear - carved it out of Dell and made it its own business, it would be number four in the US and number five in the world as a standalone server vendor," explains Brannon.

DCS's market development manager reckons his unit's success is proof the one-size-fits-all server model no longer fits the bill, concluding: "It's been incremental in the sense we were able to take a customised engineering optimised approach to places we hadn't been able to before". µ

 

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