Dell Pushes Services With Project Hybrid

The project will initially focus on the areas of virtualization and helping companies reduce energy costs through better cooling.
Dell on Thursday embarked on a new way of doing business with companies that combines services with tailored packages of hardware and software.

Codenamed Project Hybrid, the new business model would initially focus on the areas of virtualization and helping companies reduce energy costs through better cooling technology, company executives told reporters at a press briefing in San Francisco. The company said details on technology stemming from Hybrid would be unveiled in the second half of the year.

Dell, which has steadily lost PC and server market share to rival Hewlett-Packard, is changing the way it deals with customers to become more responsive. The company, for example, recently said it would sell desktops and notebooks running Ubuntu Linux, because of strong demand for the product on the company's message boards. Dell said it was also listening to customers when it decided to continue offering Windows XP, along with the newer Windows Vista, on machines.

Dell has primarily been an assembler of PCs ordered online or over the phone. Services and research and development have never been the company's strong suits. With Project Hybrid, Dell is looking to change that by using its clout with suppliers to try to steer technology trends in directions it sees as most valuable to its customers.

Services will be an "integral" part of Project Hybrid, Jay Parker, director of Dell's server product group, said. Dell is willing to help customers define needed improvements in the data center or any other part of their IT infrastructure, and deliver a tailored hardware-software package. Dell also would be willing to help with deployment and maintenance.

Dell executives, however, said the company is not planning on becoming a systems integrator, or provide the same level of services offered by IBM or HP. Instead, its services would focus on simplifying the difficult task of choosing from the many technology options customers have. "We will be able to take those options... and provide insight to greatly simplify the purchase decision itself," Kevin Kettler, Dell's chief technology officer, said. Dell would help customers in choosing products in and outside of the company's portfolio.

On the product side of Hybrid, Dell execs insisted it wasn't "vapor," but offered no details, saying those would come in the second half of the year. The company, however, did say new software would be a part of the hardware package. "You'll see unique software capabilities embedded for virtualization, and energy efficiency," Parker said. The new technology could come from Dell or through third parties.

One Hybrid-related technology announcement would involve a higher-density blade-server stack that Parker claimed would be 20% more energy efficient than any products HP has today, and "unlike anything the industry has seen." Without details, however, the claims remained only a promise. "We're not going to talk in a lot of details," he said.

One bit of technology news offered by Dell outside of Project Hybrid was the company's adoption of version 1.1 of the DisplayPort interface standard for use in new designs of flat panel displays, projectors, PCs and consumer electronic devices. Approved last month by Video Electronics Standards Association, the standard will make it possible for Dell later this year to offer thinner displays for desktops and notebooks, Kettler said.