Throw a stone on the show floor at New York’s Cloud Expo 2012, and chances are pretty much 100 percent it’ll hit a company booth demonstrating some product meant to “cloudify” (yes, that’s now a word) a process or piece of software originally designed for on-premises.
Case in point is Dell, which has partnered with Desktone to offer a simplified virtual-desktop deployment. Desktone offers a multitenant platform for what it calls “Desktops as a Service,” hosted in Dell’s datacenters. The service is also capable of delivering the desktop environment to mobile devices, and can scale from a few seats to thousands. Indeed, in a demonstration on the Cloud Expo show floor, it took only a few minutes to spin up a handful of virtual desktops for a completely hypothetical business.
The idea of Dell pairing with a company to facilitate “desktops as a service” might seem a bit strange in light of Dell’s massive hardware business. However, any PC-manufacturing business wrestles with lower margins compared to technology segments such as software; just ask Dell rival Hewlett-Packard, which recently ended some frantic soul-searching over whether to spin off its Personal Systems Group—responsible for manufacturing its laptops and other systems—as an independent entity (HP decided to keep it in-house).
Dell also has a significant datacenter presence, one that a partnership with a company like Desktone can help promote. But like every other technology firm at the moment, Dell also realizes it needs a presence of some sort in the cloud—even if it means potential customers for physical laptops end up with virtual ones instead.
Dell isn’t the only company dealing with ways to shift to the cloud. Microsoft has very publicly embraced an “all in” cloud strategy, centered in large part on transforming many on-premises products into subscription services. For example, it now offers Office 365, the cloud-based version of its popular Office productivity suite.
However, Microsoft’s cloud initiatives have yet to earn even close to the same amount of revenue accrued every quarter from its more traditional products, such as on-premises Office and Windows.
With every passing quarter, the cloud also fills with more and more companies offering all manner of subscription-based, lightweight products and services. Whether Google offering cloud-based productivity software of its own, or Salesforce touting its CRM platform, or the smaller firms with all manner of developer tools, the cloud is very quickly becoming an ultra-packed neighborhood.
To a certain extent, Dell can bet its brand name will draw some businesses to the Desktone partnership—just as the other tech giants such as Oracle and IBM can bank some cloud customers on the basis of familiarity. But the cloud is also proving a space where smaller companies can make significant inroads among large numbers of customers, provided they move into a particular subject area quickly enough. Some of those companies end up swallowed by larger ones; but some also manage to gain enough momentum to push back, at least for a little while, against those big rivals.
At the Cloud Expo, you walk onto the show floor and see dozens of booths, occupied by companies offering yet another piece of the cloud. From a certain perspective, however, it’s also a shark tank at dinnertime.