Dell is pushing its software as a service business, with a strict focus on infrastructure management and business continuity.
The company is traditionally known as a hardware vendor but last week vastly expanded its services portfolio with the $3.9 billion acquisition of Perot Systems, and plans to draw on this new capability for its SaaS offerings. It will also draw on Perot's datacentres to help boost supply of its SaaS services.
Dell additionally acts as a hardware supplier to other cloud providers, selling its servers and datacentre technology to them.
Cary Gumbert, senior manager at Dell's SaaS unit, told Computerworld UK that in terms of the cloud, offering pure technology-related services gave it differentiation from many competitors that tend to sell strategic IT project services or business applications in the cloud.
"Our biggest competitor in software is on-premise solutions," he said, "but they don't offer the quick deployment, low upfront cost, easy management and scalability."
"Other SaaS people make noise, but they either focus on strategic services or they're not multi-tenant and scalable."
The services are open to customers of all hardware vendors, but Dell hardware customers have the advantage of being able to select PCs and laptops that are "services-enabled" -- with the basic platform ready to connect to its cloud services, without any complex configuration.
Dell's SaaS focus would remain, at least for the time being, on infrastructure management, because "it's well known that for every pound customers spend on new systems, they spend eight or more just keeping the lights on".
Its offering covers three areas, "managing distributed devices, managing datacentres, and business continuity", he said. In each of those three areas, Dell offers specific SaaS products or a whole 'module' as customers choose.
Its distributed device management tackles areas such as patch management, and applying changes remotely across devices. One of Dell's UK customers, in the oil and gas industry, uses this service to manage its sales team's laptops running over 3G wireless.
In datacentre management, Dell addresses remote infrastructure monitoring, including performance and fault management. One of its retail customers deployed this system in the cloud to avoid the costs and time required to apply it on-premise in its buildings around the world, Gumbert said.
In the third area, business continuity, Dell offers business instant failover -- at the touch of a button -- to hosted versions of Microsoft Exchange or Lotus Notes. This is for use by firms already running those systems on premise, in the event of an outage, and can be used to provide email access until businesses' own servers are running.
Dell as a whole is now focusing on being a hardware supplier, software services supplier and higher-end IT services firm, Gumbert noted. It will continue to work with application partners to help "complete the stack", and Perot Systems will principally aid with providing a range of services, including process outsourcing and custom applications.