Dell Offers SMBs More Cloud Services's customer service suite joins Dell's growing cloud platform for CRM and related functions.
10 Important Cloud Apps For SMBs
10 Important Cloud Apps For SMBs
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Dell is increasing its bet that small and midsize businesses (SMBs) will buy and use cloud applications, adding the Service Cloud to its nascent Dell Cloud Business Applications platform.

The rollout of's customer service suite joins the Sales Cloud, which was part of the Dell Cloud Business Applications launch earlier this year. The move reflects an expanded partnership between the two companies and rounds out the Dell Cloud Integrated CRM package with both traditional customer support features and newer tools geared around social media monitoring and interactions.

"What's truly innovative is the ability to combine seamlessly a knowledge base, ticketing, customer support community, and social aspects--the ability to listen to what's going out there in the social sphere," said Bill Odell, senior director of SMB Dell Cloud Solutions Marketing, in an interview. "If one of your customers is complaining about you on Twitter, for instance, that can be routed to an agent and that agent can reach out back to the customer through Twitter to provide support."

[ The cloud is becoming a busy place. Read Should SAP + SuccessFactors Worry ]

A key to Dell's cloud strategy--and its answer to why a company would sign on with Dell rather than go direct to, not exactly a fly-by-night vendor itself--is its belief that cloud adoption is moving rapidly into the mainstream. While trailblazers and SMBs with particularly high tech IQs might have no issue buying and managing cloud applications a la carte, Dell thinks the mainstream wants all-in-one platforms from a single vendor. While the company will continue adding applications over time, it's not interested in becoming an app store.

"This is not a marketplace," Odell said. "This is not going to be an app exchange where we're going to have thousands of applications."

One reason why: Integration is a big part of Dell's sales pitch. That's delivered via Boomi, which Dell acquired in 2010. Boomi can connect disparate cloud applications as well as legacy applications, enabling Dell to make good on the all-in-one claim. That could knock down implementation roadblocks for SMBs with limited IT resources--not to mention ongoing challenges inherent in managing multiple vendors, contracts, and maintenance needs. O'Dell notes that even doesn't handle its own implementations, instead relying on its ecosystem of systems integrators and other consultants.

"The issue we hear from our customers about that is that if I'm going to go and buy Salesforce and an Eloqua and a Taleo and a KnowledgeTree or Dropbox, and I'm going to try to implement every one of these, I now have multiple vendors to deal with, different implementation experiences, and different [service-level agreements]," Odell said. "As mainstream adopters, they'd just as soon have that simplified."

Pricing varies, though a typical deal including Salesforce applications might run around $13,000 annually for 10 users, plus another $10,000 in one-time implementation costs.

Odell said cross-applications analytics for Dell's cloud platform are currently in development, with plans to launch new tools at some point in the first half of 2012. Marketing and finance applications are tentatively slated to follow in the latter half of the year.

Meet top cloud computing technology companies in Cloud Connect's ever-growing Expo Hall, and learn about the latest cloud services, applications and platforms. It happens in Santa Clara, Calif., Feb. 13-16. Sign up now.

Editor's Choice
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer
Carrie Pallardy, Contributing Reporter
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek