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11/28/2012
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Dell's Quest: Bring Business Insights To Email Data

Quest Software's first 'big data play,' MessageStats 7.0, adds email mining and analytics tools for business-side users.

Dell's Quest Software division has announced the release of MessageStats 7.0, the latest edition of its reporting and analysis product for enterprise messaging. From a big data perspective, version 7.0's most intriguing new feature is Business Insights, an email mining and analytics tool designed to help organizations dive deep in data buried in their messaging systems to extract usable information.

Business Insights, which ships with MessageStats 7.0, displays messaging trends via a browser-based dashboard interface. It's targeted squarely at business managers, allowing them to access useful information without having to pester IT for training or other help.

MessageStats has been around for more than a decade. Initially designed for Microsoft Exchange, it has expanded to other platforms over the years, including instant messaging and collaboration products such as Microsoft Lync and Blackberry Enterprise Server, as well as Android, iOS, and Windows mobile devices. The inclusion of Business Insights is part of MessageStats' evolution from solely being an IT reporting tool to one that provides data-driven intelligence to less technical users.

[ For more on Dell's acquisition of Quest Software, see Dell Outlines Big Software Ambitions. ]

In a phone interview with InformationWeek, Quest Software product manager Joel Blaiberg said that MessageStats' original mission was to report on issues of concern to IT managers. "The sort of things that 10 years ago kept IT admins up at night: How are my servers doing? Am I running out of storage? Who is using the most email? Do I have any empty objects, users, groups, public folders?"

But recent IT trends, including improved hardware and software reliably, have led Quest Software to redirect the product's focus to some degree. "Platforms have become more mature and stable, better performing, and much more reliable," said Blaiberg. "And with things like self-healing and self-recovery, some of those [problems] that kept admins up at night…have gone somewhat away."

Furthermore, more enterprises are migrating from on-premise to cloud services, a development that effectively outsources headaches about servers and storage.

Another trend: Quest's customers were requesting reports that explored the business angle -- rather than strictly the technical side -- of data. "We started to get requests from the field…for more insight into what big data means from a business perspective," said Blaiberg.

Combined, these developments led to Business Insights in MessageStats 7.0. "It's a somewhat new direction for us, but it's also complementary to what we've always done," Blaiberg said.

Managers can use Business Insights' HTML5 front end to mine data in their Exchange store. A sales director, for instance, could use the tool to determine which salespeople are communicating with top clients, and how often.

Blaiberg called the tool Quest Software's first "big data play," but acknowledged that the Dell division is just "dipping a toe" into a new but rapidly expanding market. "It's a slightly different paradigm for us," he said. "It's very interesting to see how this gets taken up by the customers."

Dell announced in July that it was buying Quest Software for $2.4 billion. The acquisition is part of Dell's previously announced strategy to focus less on lower-margin PC sales and more on becoming a hardware and software solutions provider for its enterprise customers.

Quest Software, while not exactly a household name, has been in business for nearly 20 years. It had just under $1 billion in revenue in its last fiscal year, according to Bill Evans, Quest's senior director of product marketing. "We used to pride ourselves on being the biggest software company you've never heard of," he said, adding, "We're going to focus on the Windows Server management part of the business, which is going to become the foundation of Dell's software systems management group."

Predictive analysis is getting faster, more accurate and more accessible. Combined with big data, it's driving a new age of experiments. Also in the new, all-digital Advanced Analytics issue of InformationWeek: Are project management offices a waste of money? (Free registration required.)

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