UPDATED 00:14 EDT / OCTOBER 14 2011


Dell Gets It – Developers are the new Kingmakers

Developers are the new king makers. I hear that RedMonk phrase more often these days. It came up again yesteday in an interview at Dell World with Barton George, Dell’s cloud computing evangelist whose core focus is to build a developer community.

It’s a smart move. Dell sells servers to companies like Facebook and Zynga. It recently partnered with Cloudera to sell pre-configured end-to end Hadoop clusters. Crowbar is its DevOps style software that the company initially developed as an OpenStack installer. Dell has since open-sourced Crowbar under the Apache 2 license.

Dell is differentiating its server technology by adding technology layers that can be packaged for services providers. That may include enterprise companies that see the importance of embracing data and turning it into the “digital oil” that increasingly drives business.

RedMonk developed and popularized the kingmaker phrase and it has since carried weight among the enterprise giants. Why companies like Dell are increasingly courting developers comes down to a few basics well outlined yesterday by VMware CEO Paul Maritz in his keynote from Dell World:

  • As tweeted by Matthew Eastwood, Group Vice President of IDC’s Enterprise Platform Group:  “Billions of devices & sensors will drive high scale real-time analytic needs. Rethinking customer interaction!”
  • The cloud is a new infrastructure that is spawning a new generation of applications. These applications are built with dynamic programming languages and frameworks designed with the cloud in mind. RedMonk’s Stephen O’Grady calls these frameworks a catalyst for application development. They also correlate to the popularity of the corresponding programming languages.
  • There is a need for people with specialized skill who understand the new infrastructure. It will be important for companies to develop open-source platforms like Cloud Foundry, which Maritz called “Linux for the cloud era” in his keynote as pointed out by my colleague Wikibon Analyst Stu Miniman.

George, who once did Linux strategy and community management for Sun Microsystems, said that viability in the competitive technology market means working with developers. But you can’t force it.

“We are initially listening, not talking,” George said. “What do they need? What do they talk about?

George calls RedMonk its developer sherpas. The analyst group has built its service on helping companies like Dell, VMware and Salesforce.com shape developer communities. It also helps that Dell has Michael Cote, who recently joined Dell from RedMonk where he established himself as one of the best analysts in the cloud community.

George said they will listen by going to developer events like Hadoop World and the O’Reilly conferences. And do all the things that go with building developer communities. That means being part of the blogs where the conversations take place and contributing to the conversation. For example, George does interviews; he shows how Dell servers come with reference and deployment guides and he writes blog posts such as how big data is the new cloud.

Services Angle

Dell’s effort to build a developer community is not tied to a product line. Instead, it’s a recognition that Dell has a unique opportunity. As GigaOm points out, Dell does not have legacy software to support. That’s an issue for Oracle, rival HP and IBM. Instead, Dell can focus on services and feed information that it learns from the developer community back to the organization. That information can help Dell get ahead of the curve, deploying technology ahead of the rest of the market.

Disclosure: Dell paid for my airfare and hotel expenses to attend Dell World.

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