Note To Dell: Forget Big Data and Go For Cloud Infrastructure

It seems like five seconds after HP purchased Vertica, the entire world focused on Dell and their big data strategy.  This was further compounded by the fact that Dell blew out their earnings with a $15.7 Billion fourth quarter and Michael Dell suggested that they would target smaller acquisitions to help their server and storage divisions.

Speculation is rising that Dell will purchase Aster Data Systems a Stanford University start-up that is backed by Sequoia Capital.  Aster’s nCluster sports a massively parallel processing (MPP) data warehouse with integrated MapReduce that is built on commodity hardware.  Whose commodity hardware?  You guessed it, Aster partners with Dell to provide the Aster Data MapReduce DW Appliance.

However innovative and powerful Aster’s solutions are, their rumored valuations are sky high.  According to Gigaom’s article Cloud Startup Values are Getting Insane published on September 24, 2010, Aster’s valuation is rumored, “somewhere between $85 and $120 million.”  Furthermore, Aster took issue with Gigaom’s assessment saying, “The valuation you/GigaOm stated recently is more reflective of the previous B round that closed Q4 2008, and while we don’t disclose the actual valuation of the latest C round it is in fact materially greater than the Series B.” Really?  Let’s get back on track.

Dell is a remarkable turnaround story that is predicated on their decisions to blaze their own trail in the industry.  Rather than purchase network equipment or security vendors, Dell has been acquiring interesting software companies such as Scalent, Boomi, and Insite One, with a purpose or focus on the Cloud.  Why change this focus?  When you think Dell do you think database warehousing? Software?

Dell’s future growth hinges on their Data Center Solutions (DCS) and Cloud Computing.  They have two choices; make a major market disrupting acquisition or take some risks by purchasing smaller but highly disruptive software companies.  It’s no secret that I am a proponent of Dell purchasing Rackspace, even in the face of a rising market valuation and the prospects of another bidding war.  Rackspace is that good and Dell knows it.

Enough, who else should Dell purchase?  There are the obvious, Joyent, and the obscure, Nimbula.  They could lean forward, OnApp, or take a risk, Appistry.  They could choose infrastructure, GoGrid, or go a bit crazy, Marathon Technologies.  They can go services, Appirio, or go international, ElasticHosts. And on, and on, and on, …

Regardless of what path Dell chooses, Michael Dell has done one incredible job of turning and changing the course of a $60 Billion company. While some have written that Dell is “yesterday’s company”, I’d watch out as they may just surprise you and the entire industry.

Let the Consolidation Begin: Verizon buys Terremark

First, let’s have a round of applause for Verizon and their executive leadership.  Verizon has shown the ability to move beyond marketing trends to acquire ‘smart’ technology companies that address core business needs.  While others in this space have a ‘not invented here’ mentality, Verizon has no such issue.  Need proof?  Look no further than their Cybertrust acquisition in 2007.

Second, the giant smiles at Savvis, Rackspace, Hosting.com, GoGrid, and others are causing a blinding industry whiteout.  Savvis and Rackspace are both innovators and leaders in this space and are hot growth and/or acquisition targets.  These companies aren’t selling marchitecture; instead they are building unique architectures using leading-edge technologies from VMware, Cisco, EMC, Intel, and others.

Third, Amazon is the wild card in this equation.  No slighting of Amazon’s cloud prowess in this blog, as they are clearly a disruptive and growing force within the industry.  Amazon’s leadership made strategic bets before this rocket ship took off, and they are reaping the benefits of solid execution.  What remains to be seen is if Enterprises are truly ready for a Cloud or if they will demand collocation and/or dedicated server hardware, of which Amazon does not currently offer.

Finally, here we go again, it’s AT&T vs. Verizon.  Let’s not kid ourselves, Verizon’s real target is AT&T and Terremark gives them a strategic energy boost.  However, AT&T’s no slouch in the Cloud or Managed Services arenas.  AT&T offers a complete portfolio of IAAS, Cloud Storage, Co-Location, Virtualization, and Managed Services.  Furthermore, AT&T has an impressive track record of providing high quality Enterprise Class Solutions to their customers. Not to mention, AT&T has a rock-solid partnership/relationship with IBM.

One last thought, lets not forget that the Cloud depends on many physical elements such as datacenters (real estate), servers, storage, networking, security, applications, and people (talent).  As the cloud grows, datacenter growth (global) will become increasingly important.  Verizon gains on all fronts with Terremark; not to mention a healthy mix of Government and Enterprise Customers.

Let the consolidation begin and may the best valuations win.