Dell (s DELL) made a left turn in its cloud computing acquisition strategy today by acquiring Software-as-a-Service integration startup Boomi. Most of Dell’s cloud purchases and partnerships have been on the infrastructure front – Scalent, DynamicOps, Joyent, Egenera, the attempted 3PAR (s PAR) buy – but Boomi is a straight-up application play. Like Cast Iron Systems, which IBM (s IBM) acquired earlier this year, Boomi’s Atmosphere product lets users integrate data between and among cloud-based and on-premise applications, thus ensuring a smooth transition to buying software as a service.
As a counter to IBM’s Cast Iron buy, this is a bit strange, because Dell doesn’t have an application software business to protect from SaaS. By buying Cast Iron, IBM is able to capitalize as customers move to SaaS, and ultimately, it should work the Cast Iron technology into its own line of hybrid applications. On the surface of the Dell-Boomi deal, it appears that, if anything, helping customers leverage SaaS will negate their need to buy Dell servers in the future. But Dell is probably thinking of a grander vision than merely selling boxes.
With its own Virtual Integrated System software and Joyent partnership, Dell has shown a willingness to embrace the idea of hybrid cloud computing. Both products – albeit through very different approaches – allow customers to manage both on-premise and cloud-based resources as a single pool, through a single product. The VIS software targets more-traditional enterprise applications and VM provisioning, while the Joyent software is designed for web applications that need to scale on demand. Buying Boomi takes this hybrid strategy one step further. Now, Dell customers will be able to host their own applications in their own clouds, and then easily integrate data between those applications and SaaS applications – and Dell makes it all possible. Currently, Boomi customers use the product with popular SaaS offerings like Salesforce.com (s crm) and NetSuite (s n), among others.
Yes, this would be a far juicier story if rumors that Dell was buying Rackspace (s rax) had turned out to be true, but really, Rackspace is a company known for its service, while Dell has proven that its intelligence is in cutting margins and delivering the boxes its customers need. As is, we have a company often derided as just a generic-box seller doing everything it can to change that image with a progressive software strategy that doesn’t stray too far from its infrastructure roots. If you want an environment designed from the ground up to enable hybrid cloud computing, Dell will sell you one. So will other vendors, of course (IBM, VMware (s vmw) and CA (s ca), to name a few), but now Dell is at least in the discussion with a respectable catalog of options.
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