Structure 2010: Dell on Blurring the Line Between Data Centers, Servers

Heading up the team at that’s responsible for Dell’s (S dell) server products, Forrest Norrod leads a kind of startup within the PC giant’s organization. Other groups typically consider anything less than five-for-five record of success for any given project a failure. But Norrod said today that the Data Center Solutions team launched in 2006 with a less rigid goal — seven wins out of 10 attempts — in hopes of having the leeway to take risks and deliver big innovations for the world’s largest cloud computing providers and hyperscale data center operators.

Speaking at GigaOM’s Structure conference event in San Francisco, Norrod said Dell started out talking to Microsoft (s MSFT), Yahoo (s YHOO), “all the folks you’d expect,” trying to learn about their priorities, how they measured data center efficiency and infrastructure costs. Oftentimes, he said company architects welcomed new solutions. According to Norrod, however, “Operations folks in the data centers said, ‘You’re moving my cheese too fast, disrupting my operational playbook.'”

Since then, Norrod said Dell and some of its customers have taken “sort of a journey together,” arriving at a point where today, “it’s hard to draw a hard line around some of our systems and say that’s the server, that’s the data center.”

Separately, executives said at Dell’s annual analyst meeting today in Texas that Dell aims to double its $16 billion data center and services business over the next three years, partly through acquisitions. When it comes to the DCS group, Norrod said Dell is interested in technologies the company can use to help its hyperscale customers increase power and memory density, decrease latency and improve other metrics.

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