Dell puts recent acquisitions to work

Dell will implement new technologies gathered from recent acquisitions into PowerEdge servers and management appliances

Dell is implementing networking, storage, software and hardware technologies it has gained from recent acquisitions in products that can help it move beyond servers to deliver more end-to-end solutions.

Dell in the last year has bought nine companies, and at the Dell World trade show in Austin, it laid out how virtualization, cloud, storage and networking technologies from those acquisitions are being built into pre-configured integrated systems and upcoming PowerEdge servers.

Some key acquisitions over the past year include virtualized storage vendor Compellent, networking firm Force10 Networks, security firm SecureWorks and cloud firm Boomi. Dell is incorporating technologies from RNA Networks, which was acquired in June, in the upcoming PowerEdge servers, and also wants to bring technologies from Compellent and Force10 into its management appliances for small and medium-sized businesses.

Dell next year will release the new PowerEdge 12G line of servers, which has been redesigned to include new technologies to run databases, analytics and virtualized applications faster, said Brian Payne, executive director of server product marketing at Dell.

Included for the first time in 12G will be technology from RNA Networks, a memory virtualization company. Payne could not provide further details about what the technology is or how it would implemented, but said that it is one of many improvements intended to speed up servers.

At a rack level, the PowerEdge 12 servers could have 1,024 processor cores, more than 40TB of DRAM and more than 40TB of flash, which will coalesce to help cache and execute applications faster, CEO Michael Dell said during the keynote. The servers will include storage technology called Tier Zero in which flash storage will be closer to the processor, which could help execute database queries up to 60 times faster than current servers, Dell said.

The company also wants to bring technology from Compellent and Force 10 to small and medium-sized businesses, said Tony Parkinson, vice president of consumer, small and medium business enterprise solutions at Dell. Management of data and devices is getting more complex with the proliferation of devices such as smartphones and tablets, and the new technologies could help SMBs.

"I would argue it's relatively easier for a large enterprise because they've got the IT resources," Parkinson said. "Our medium customers and small customers are coming to us and saying, 'Help! Can you help automate this stuff,'" Parkinson said

SMBs could tackle many of those issues through Kace, which is a line of management appliances that track hardware configurations and changes and software compliance. Dell acquired Kace early last year, and while the hardware may be generic, software such as Compellent's deduplication technologies and Force10's FTOS operating system could bring the appliances to life, Parkinson said. But the technologies need to be simplified so SMBs understand how they can help.

"If we can make that as seamless as possible, then I think we can really differentiate ourselves from the rest," Parkinson said.

Technology from Compellent and Force10 will be implemented in VStart offerings, which were announced at the show. VStart are pre-configured systems involving servers and software that make it easier for customers to deploy virtualized environments, according to Dell.

The company will continue to seek acquisitions that simplify deployment and management of IT environments, said Dave Johnson, senior vice president of corporate strategy at Dell. He provided an example of Boomi, which allows for easy transfer of data between cloud and on-premise applications, and SecureWorks, which helps in early identification of threats.

"We're dealing with a wonderful history of being a great, efficient distributor of commodity products, but as you go in now with enterprise solutions ... we have to represent a very compelling value proposition," Johnson said.

Dell is trying to create an IT ecosystem where it controls or influences virtually every link in the chain of enterprise data, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. Dell aims to develop a technology stack through internal system and client development efforts and via acquisitions like EqualLogic, Compellent, Force 10 and Perot, he said.

Dell's singular focus on x86 may in some cases put it at a disadvantage against vendors with proprietary system solutions, like IBM and HP, but the continuing evolution of industry standard technologies means that gaps between Dell and those competitors are getting narrower and narrower, King said.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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