Dell offers hosted apps for SMBs

Dell will resell hosted applications and combine them with analytics and integration services

Just one day after Dell announced its first infrastructure-as-a-service offering, the company is jumping deeper into the cloud. Dell will offer a family of hosted software applications for small and midsized businesses, through partnerships with Salesforce.com, Microsoft, Intuit and others.

The first service, Salesforce.com's CRM (customer relationship management) system, is available through Dell now, the company said.

Next year Dell will offer hosted versions of Microsoft's Dynamics GP ERP (enterprise resource planning) software and Intuit's QuickBooks accounting software, as well as other services, it said.

Dell's pitch is that it will tie the services together on the back-end using its recently acquired Boomi integration software, so that a customer's CRM software can talk to its accounting software, for example. It says it will integrate both cloud and on-premise applications. That's something smaller businesses, without large IT departments, may not want to do themselves.

Dell will also offer, by the middle of next year, a hosted analytics service that works across all its hosted applications, providing managers with a "unified view" of their business through a "cross-platform dashboard," Dell said in a statement.

The services are a smart move for Dell, said industry analyst Ray Wang, CEO of Constellation Research. They allow the company to draw on its large base of small and midsized business customers to build a software hosting business.

"A lot of SMBs aren't going to want to do the integration of all these different applications in the cloud, so Dell is putting together a package that does it for them," Wang said.

The services, called the Dell Cloud Business Applications, are being announced in conjunction with Salesforce.com's Dreamforce conference in San Francisco. They will be Dell-branded and delivered with "business grade single sign-on and security," Dell said.

It's Dell's second major cloud announcement in as many days, as it tries to expand beyond PCs and into the more profitable software and service markets. On Monday, Dell said it would offer a cloud infrastructure service later this year, targeted at large and midsize enterprises.

Package pricing for the CRM service, including Salesforce.com and the Boomi integration, starts at $US565 per month, Dell said. Implementation service packages start at $US5000, it said.

Dell acquired Boomi, which makes software for integrating cloud-based applications, late last year for an undisclosed sum.

James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's e-mail address is james_niccolai@idg.com

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