Dell lays out software strategy

Dell has no ambitions to become a stand-alone software company, its software chief says

Dell outlined its software strategy on Wednesday, casting the growing business as a secondary, but key, component to the company's enterprise product offerings in the long run.

Dell is not looking to become a stand-alone software company, but wants to build software products that it can attach to its server, services, networking and storage offerings, said John Swainson, president of the software group, during a speech at the company's analyst day, which was webcast.

Swainson, the former CEO at software firm CA, was hired by Dell in February with the aim to unite the company's disparate software offerings into a single unit. He spent the first few months assessing the existing assets and envisioning the company's long-term software strategy.

"We're not going to stand up as an independent software business at Dell." Swainson said. "I hope to catalyze the software work that's going on in the company."

Dell is known primarily as a hardware vendor, but is building its product portfolio to offer a complete software and services stack with the hardware. Dell went on an acquisition spree, acquiring eight companies in the last calendar year including security company SonicWall and thin-client hardware and software company Wyse Technology. After Wyse, Dell acquired two software companies in a week-- Clerity and Make Technologies -- which help migrate mainframe workloads to industry standard servers.

Dell is not randomly looking for software pools that are profitable, Swainson said. Instead, the focus is to offer software that makes it easier to manage and secure devices and PCs, and also to offer appliances and servers with business intelligence and cloud applications. The company is also tying service-delivery models closer to hardware, and wants to offer bundles to instantly deploy IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) and SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) offerings.

Dell is putting to work technologies acquired from its recent and earlier purchases as it tries to integrate hardware and services, Swainson said.

The company hopes to initially develop mobile-device management software that will help manage and secure mobile devices and PCs, Swainson said. The company will implement software technologies from Kace, SonicWall and Wyse in the software. Management of data and devices is also getting complex as mobile devices are increasingly used, and the new software could help midmarket customers, Swainson said.

"We've got this tremendous market opportunity ... to really attach software into those businesses," Swainson said.

Device management could be tackled with Kace, which is a line of management appliances that tracks software compliance and hardware configurations and changes. Dell is adding software layers to the Kace appliances that bulk up the management capabilities for a wider range of devices. Swainson also said that some of the thin-client software technologies from Wyse would be used to manage the mobile devices and PCs. The company earlier this year acquired AppAssure, which will provide cloud-based data backup and recovery services for mobile devices and PCs, Swainson said.

Mobile-device management software attaches well to mobile devices and provides a great opportunity for Dell to sell higher-margin products, Swainson said. Dell said it hopes to ship new consumer and business tablets with the Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 OS. Microsoft has not yet announced a release date for the OS, but it is expected to come sometime later this year.

Other software areas being explored by Dell include analytics and business intelligence software, around which the company can build specific integrated appliances and servers, Swainson said. Dell already offers Quickstart data-warehousing appliances, which comes standard with Boomi software, to connect public cloud services and on-premise applications. Boomi is also key to Dell's pursuit of application service delivery functionality in a SaaS model, which Swainson said is being targeting at the untapped market outside the U.S.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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Agam Shah

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