Dell's Cloud Plans Slip Behind Schedule

Dell announced an aggressive schedule last year to roll out cloud-based application services, but it now looks like the schedule was a little too aggressive.

Dell said last August that it planned to launch an online analytics service in the first half of this year for small and midsized businesses, but that service isn't due now until early next year, a Dell executive said.

"Like a lot of development projects, it can take a bit longer than you think," Paulette Altmaier, general manager of Dell's Cloud Business Applications group, said in an interview Thursday.

Dell also said it would launch a platform-as-a-service offering this year based on Microsoft's Azure platform. On Friday, a Dell spokeswoman said the company no longer has a delivery date for that service.

The delays are a setback for Dell, which is trying to reduce its dependence on PCs and build more profitable businesses in services and software. But a lot of companies are moving slowly to the cloud, so the hold-up isn't a disaster, said Peter ffoulkes, an industry analyst with 451 Research Group.

"The move to the cloud is not a fast journey and for most people it is still largely a future. I would not expect a quarter or two to make a big difference in practical terms," he said.

Dell has also made a string of software acquisitions in the past year that might be causing it to rethink its software-as-a-service strategy. It updated press and analysts on its software plans Thursday.

When it does arrive, the analytics service will offer "cross-app" analytics, meaning customers will be able to import data from one or more applications to a data warehouse that Dell will host for them online, and then perform analysis on that data.

The apps will be linked using Dell's Boomi integration software, which can tie together cloud, on-premise and custom-built apps. The data warehouse will use a mix of open-source software and technology built in-house by Dell, Altmaier said.

Dell does offer some cloud services today, including an infrastructure-as-a-service offering. It also offers hosted Salesforce.com services, and hosted e-document and e-signature services.

Eventually, Dell will offer more applications, mostly through partners. But it's going to start by offering those other applications in developing markets, rather than the U.S. and Europe, Altmaier said.

"Over time you'd expect to see us add human resources, finance, ERP -- the whole range of apps. Some will be from Dell but we will also have a lot of partners," she said.

Developing countries are a better place to start because a lot of small businesses there can't afford to build their own infrastructure and will jump directly to the cloud, she said.

"We're in the process of figuring out how should we enter these markets, and what's the best strategy for Dell," Altmaier said.

James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's e-mail address is james_niccolai@idg.com

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