No one will begrudge Dell Computer its success in the marketing and sales realms. When it comes to getting companies and consumers to buy PCs, Dell sets the standard. But for such an accomplished firm, Dell has lacked the reputation for innovation and design smarts that companies like Apple, Hewlett-Packard and IBM have built. Apparently aware of that, wanting to make a change and still looking for the shortest possible path to a buck, Dell announced it will set up the Dell Centers for Research Excellence, a program that CNET’s News.com reports will acknowledge breakthroughs in PC clustering and take part in research with chosen universities. Clustering, for the uninitiated, is the process of linking several, sometimes hundreds of off-the-shelf PCs into one big computing leviathan. To kick off its effort, Dell unveiled Tuesday with the State University of New York at Buffalo a cluster of 2,008 Dell PowerEdge servers running Red Hat Linux. SUNY Buffalo researchers will use the cluster to study the structure and orientation of human proteins, CNET says, an important step in finding cures for many diseases. The Buffalo cluster is one of the largest of its kind, and in terms of sheer computing power makes the set-up one of the 500 fastest computers in the world.