Opinion

Dell cloud storage plans remain hazy

Dell Inc. dropped a hint about its mysterious cloud storage strategy last week via a tweet that included a link to a PDF with details about a reseller deal with Nirvanix Inc.

Unfortunately, a hint was all we received about the overall Dell cloud storage plans. The vendor has yet to lay out a cohesive cloud strategy, and declined to elaborate after the Nirvanix tweet. Requests for an interview with Dell Services brought only an email response several days later, stating "we can confirm that we are working with Nirvanix to offer customers a STaaS [storage as a service] solution. We are also exploring additional options to further build out our STaaS offering based on customer feedback and will be happy to speak when we have something more to announce."

Nirvanix vice president of marketing Steve Zivanic is never shy about discussing his company’s services, and filled in some blanks about the deal. Dell will use Nirvanix software for public, private and hybrid clouds that provides key capabilities such as a global namespace, granular multi-tenant file structure and live replicas.

"This is the first time Dell is selling a pay-by-the-drink model, something EMC and NetApp cannot offer," Zivanic said. "They can compete with service providers, Microsoft Azure, Google and Rackspace. This gives them a leg up on the traditional storage companies."

Until now, the Dell cloud storage strategy consisted mostly of the company's plans to deliver an AppAssure cloud by the end of the year.

According to the Dell/Nirvanix online document, customers can store up to four copies on Nirvanix's cloud infrastructure under a one-year term agreement. Dell will configure the service, handle account administrative activities and transition the customer to Nirvanix, which will manage infrastructure, onboarding, maintenance and support, and operational service levels.

People throughout the storage industry are wondering what the top-tier vendors will do to compete with clouds from Amazon, Google and Microsoft Windows Azure. Nirvanix has an OEM deal with IBM Global Services, and Hewlett-Packard (HP) went live with its HP Cloud Object Storage and Cloud Content Delivery Network (CDN) using OpenStack software in August. Pure-play storage vendors EMC, NetApp and Hitachi Data Systems focus more on selling infrastructure to cloud providers while helping customers set up private clouds. But all of these vendors' plans appear to be fluid.

Until now, the Dell cloud storage strategy consisted mostly of the company's plans to deliver an AppAssure cloud by the end of the year. That would be based on the AppAssure backup software Dell acquired in February, which Dell executive director of storage strategy Carter George described as "key to our cloud strategy" in June.

Nirvanix and Dell aren't strangers. Nirvanix has used Dell products in large-scale deployments, Zivanic said.

"We were one of their key customers for storage," he said. "We utilize Dell for a lot of our infrastructure and they saw a lot of traction in multipetabyte cloud deployments."

From Dell's statement this week, it appears the vendor is working on building out its cloud storage services beyond what it is doing with Nirvanix. Maybe Dell will let us in on the secret soon.

This was first published in September 2012