A New Day for Dell

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VMworld was naturally VMware's time to shine, but there was another company that had a coming out of sorts.

Dell is well on the way to transforming itself from a commodity hardware provider to a full-blown data center solutions company, a move that I myself had difficulty seeing earlier this year when the initial reorganization was announced. Back then, I wasn't convinced that the company could see past the hardware to focus on data center solutions. But it appears it has.

The old Dell would have been satisfied as a second-tier provider of commodity servers and storage, filling the holes in data centers' majority IBM or HP platforms. Now it is well on the way to providing its own end-to-end platform with integrated servers, storage, networking and virtualization.

The key element here is the company's recent tie-up with Brocade, which will have Dell rebranding Brocade fabric switches. The two companies have long worked together on storage switching, but this deal opens the partnership to general data center networking. And it provides Dell customers a wedge into advanced networking technologies like the DCX Backbone and the 8000 FCoE switch -- two crucial components for the unified network.

The deal comes on the heels of a new network contributor to the Dell Equalogic SAN platform. Force 10 Networks recently gained validation for its C-Series and S-Series Ethernet switches, delivering end-to-end 10 GbE connectivity with extra buffering for high-traffic environments. The C-Series also provides connectivity to legacy copper infrastructure via multiple 10/100/1000Base-T ports and a copper backplane that supports up to 1.5 Tbps.

Overseeing all of this will be the job of Scalent Systems V/OE Infrastructure Manager, which Dell will soon be OEMing. The package provides near-instant server provisioning with automated network and storage access, and you can rearrange your system topology without touching hardware. You also get high availability and automatic disaster recovery.

These tools, and Dell's aim for broad integration with VMware, indicate that Dell is poised to be a real contender in the data center when the economy turns around. The company is still a lightweight compared to the HPs and IBMs of the world, but that may be to its advantage. A smaller firm is often more flexible and responsive than a larger one.

All the pieces are in place. All Dell needs to do now is execute.