Dell, still fighting a tough battle to regain its luster, got caught in a cloud controversy this week. Poor cloud computing: This technology has real appeal for enterprise IT, but now that the tech community has decided that it's the tech term of the year, cloud computing is getting more overexposed than Mylie Cyrus.
Seems Dell tried to copyright the term "cloud computing," but someone at the US Patent and Trademark Office has since found a clue and earmarked the copyright application for further review.
Now some bloggers jumped all over Dell, partly because the tech industry does have a history of broad patents that do not serve innovation or progress, and partly because Dell is fighting to turn around a long-slumped financial picture. Some people love to kick anyone that's down.
Dell, it turns out, owns the URL www.cloudcomputing.com. It's unclear what they ultimately plan to do with this site, which today promotes Dell offerings related to cloud computing and what it calls "hyperscale data center needs." (Jargon alert! Just when you got your data center virtualized, now it needs to be hyperscaled.)
Should people really be trying to crucify Dell for jumping on the cloud bandwagon? Let's put the patents issue aside for a moment. Dell as a company knows an awful lot about hardware infrastructure. Michael Dell has been in the right place at the right time once before. Cloud's not a bad place for him to be focusing energy and effort right now.
Whether Dell can take on the scope and power of HP, in the cloud computing space and elsewhere, is the far more interesting question. Every time I meet with someone from HP, I am struck by the mind-boggling swath of tech expertise inside the company today. from virtualization security to outsourcing to, oh yes, cloud computing.
Last week, HP, Intel and Yahoo! announced they will develop a massive, global, and well-funded testbed project involving top universities, to further cloud computing's technical and practical progress. They'll make open source software a big part of the project's work.
This week, IBM announced it's earmarked some US$400 million to build new cloud computing centers in North Carolina and Tokyo.
Why wouldn't Dell want a slice of the cloud pie?
So I'm not going to jump down Dell's throat, though I am no fan of broad tech patents.
Cloud computing is an idea that has merit but remains a watch-and-wait item for most IT departments now (other than using classic SaaS apps.) Many CIOs are still quite concerned with the security, regulatory and compliance, and control issues associated with cloud computing.
Tech companies have a lot of work to do to prove to these customers that solutions to those concerns can be crafted.
As technology users and professionals, we need all the smart people working on this that we can get.
If some of those smart people live in Austin, that's just fine with me. Maybe they can see around the cloud hype in that big Texas sky.
By the way, if you still are having trouble explaining cloud computing to your colleagues, a plain-English cloud computing primer. And if you want a practical look at how CIOs are and are not yet using the cloud, see our recent article, Tales from the Front.
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