Dell offers cloud solution for retail companies

Cloud computing has been pitched as the perfect foundation for data center transformation. Dell offers pre-tested, supported private cloud solutions targeting the needs of retail companies. What's different to the competition?
Written by Dan Kusnetzky, Contributor

Mike Adams and Jeff McNaught of the Dell Cloud Client Computing team dropped by to discuss Dell's recent launch of what the company is describing as an end-to-end cloud solution for retail companies.

Dell's goal is helping retail companies transform both in-store and data center operations so that they can be agile, easier to manage, easier to use, and allow staff to make use of the newest generation of smart handheld devices. Dell's approach is based upon access virtualization and management technology from its recent acquisitions of Quest and Wyse, along with its portfolio of storage virtualization and system technology.

Why transform IT?

Business decision makers are being inundated cloud computing messages from just about every direction. Their technology suppliers want them to transform their IT infrastructure into an on-premise cloud computing environment. Cloud service providers are trying to persuade them to move the majority of their work into the service provider's data center by playing the song that cloud computing offers greater flexibility and reduced IT costs. Cloud application suppliers are suggesting that it would be better if trusted, tried and true personal productivity suites should be abandoned and the work be assigned to their cloud-based product.

Why retail?

Retail companies typically have a patchwork quilt of end-point systems that include cash registers, handheld scanning devices, desktop systems, laptops, and a mix of networking and system technology to support sales, inventory control, human resources, pharmacy, and other departments found in their stores. Furthermore, most have developed elaborate business intelligence applications, allowing them to better understand and predict customer purchasing decisions.

These systems often come from different suppliers, were purchased as needs were uncovered, and aren't totally integrated. This means that retail IT infrastructure is often fragile, difficult to enhance, and potentially prone to failure.

Dell suggests that life would be much better if those applications were encapsulated into virtual machines, deployed back in the organization's data center, and then could be accessed using today's constellation of end-point devices, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktop systems, and intelligent cash registers where and when needed. The company pointed out that transforming IT to use a cloud-like infrastructure into a private, in-house cloud would go a long way toward teaching the pig to fly. This means making it easy to install at the store, easy to manage locally and remotely, and easy to adjust and change when needed.

IT professionals put on the brakes

IT professionals are doing their best to inform and persuade the business decision makers to take their time and not rush into something that will put the IT operations of the business at risk, but are not always being heard over the cacophony of sounds coming from the market.

It is, after all, their responsibility to keep the business' IT infrastructure and workloads operating efficiently and reliably. Outsourcing all of the infrastructure to another could make this an impossible task.

What's Dell doing?

Dell is working with retail companies and suppliers of software, virtualization technology, and, of course, their own resources to build tested configurations that can be easily supported in the field. It is offering these configurations to retail companies.

The challenge

The message Dell presents reminds me of what HP, IBM, Oracle, and a few other suppliers are saying. When I asked Adams and McNaught to tell me what's new and different, their answer was that Dell's solution is based upon technology acquired along with Wyse and Quest and their own expertise in systems design, management, virtualization, and cloud computing.

Snapshot analysis

When I speak with users of Wyse and Quest technology, I often hear accolades. Customers tell me that these tools made it possible for them to more easily access and manage their computing solutions, and that ease resulted in greater flexibility and cost savings.

The only issue that comes to mind is that Dell's messages sound exactly like those presented by other suppliers. Sometimes, those suppliers offer solutions based upon the same or similar products. HP or IBM would substitute their own management and access virtualization tools. They would also offer solutions based upon the combination of Windows, Linux, Unix, and other single vendor operating systems that best fit the retail company's requirements. Dell only offers X86-based solutions.

Dell's story appears well thought out, and includes all of the right messages. Only you can decide if Dell's solutions are best for your company.

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