Vendors make the utility computing grade

Dell Inc. this week joined the likes of Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc., at least according to Summit Strategies Inc., which Monday released its dynamic computing report card in which Dell now features.

Summit in July 2003 started its assessment of HP, IBM and Sun and how those vendors proposed to deliver dynamic computing to customers. Summit defines dynamic computing as: "IT's architectural shift toward shared, pooled and dynamically allocated IT solutions, managed by automated, policy-based systems."

IBM has its On Demand strategy, HP, the Adaptive Enterprise, Sun has its N1, and now Dell has entered the race with an unbranded initiative. According to the Summit report, Dell is using a "pragmatic, three-phase, customer-focused program, which starts with consolidation and basic virtualization and provisioning, and will mature ... to deliver self-managing, policy-based configuration, performance optimization and quality of service to the business level."

"Dell is something of a wild card in the dynamic computing race," Tom Kucharvy, president of Summit Strategies, said in a statement. "While it is not making its efforts as visible as traditional systems vendors, it is increasing its efforts at driving standards-based dynamic computing in support of its own unique value proposition."

And Dell is making decent grades, considering its playing catch up with competitors that are about eight months ahead. The criteria on which Summit based its grades include business benefits vision, technology vision, product delivery capabilities, service capabilities, business model viability, ability to execute and others. In July, Summit initially gave IBM an overall B+ grade, which put Big Blue ahead of HP with B, and Sun with a C grade.

IBM made changes that caught Summit's attention. The research firm says IBM has spent the past eight months working to expand its partnership, integrate its technologies among brands and offer specific vertical bundled products.

"IBM is even pulling middleware components from historically distinct groups (e.g. WebSphere, DB2, Tivoli, Rational) together into infrastructure solutions that are tailored to the needs of specific verticals," Summit's report states.

And HP continues to rely on management software as the core to its Adaptive Enterprise strategy. The company is working to manage beyond the network and systems components level to the business process layer, and according to Summit, "HP's greatest progress has been in integrating traditionally separate HP, Compaq, Digital Equipment and Tandem platforms into what has the potential of becoming a much more seamless line."

In its latest report card, Summit gives IBM an A- and HP a B+. Sun still gets a C, but the company gets is highest mark, a B-, for technology vision. Dell, new to the grading curve, earned a B-, according to Summit.

"Worse still for competitors (and better still for customers), Dell has the same objective as in previous markets: to deliver almost as good capabilities at much lower prices, with much less confusion and much less labor," the report states.

While IBM is most likely to maintain its top position with Summit, the report warns that Dell could displace HP if the company's traditional formula can be applied to dynamic computing.

As for Sun, the company defines its N1 dynamic computing initiative as a "key enabler" to its three core business objectives: helping customers deal with IT cost and complexity; speeding service deployments; and "implementing mobility with security," the report states.

"Given that Sun's dynamic computing activities support, rather than form the core of its corporate positioning, Sun is not get going to great lengths to express a comprehensive dynamic computing vision," Summit's report states.

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