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2/27/2008
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Dell Builds Out Web-Hosted Support Services

Among the services Dell plans to make available are patch management, anti-virus, anti-spam, online backup and recovery, asset discovery, asset tracking, e-mail continuity, e-mail archiving, and image management.

Dell, known mostly as a computer hardware supplier, is building out a range of Web-hosted services that the company plans to roll out globally by the end of the year.

Steve Schuckenbrock, senior VP of Dell's Global Services, on Tuesday laid out Dell's plans in a meeting with reporters in San Francisco. Dell is building the foundation of its hosted services on technology obtained in the recent acquisitions of SilverBack Technologies and Everdream.

SilverBack, acquired last July, provides remote management and monitoring of customers' servers, storage systems, networks, and desktops. Everdream, bought in November, provides Web-base services for managing client PCs.

In addition, Dell has bought companies with narrower focuses, such as ASAP, a provider of software and services for IT asset management. The company was bought last August. This month, Dell bought MessageOne, which provides e-mail filtering, continuity, and archiving from the Internet. MessageOne, which cost $155 million, was owned by Adam Dell, the brother of Dell founder and chief executive Michael Dell.

For years Dell focused on selling hardware, not services. That, however, changed as the company saw an increasing interest among customers in companies offering software as a service over the Web. Salesforce.com is an example of a successful SaaS vendor.

Dell realized that SaaS is a "game changing" medium for providing support services, so it started putting together its own offerings through the acquisitions, Schuckenbrock said. Dell plans to run its hosted services out of network-operating centers (NOCs), which will monitor customer IT infrastructure.

If a problem arises, then it will be fixed remotely. If it requires customer involvement, a Dell rep will choose whether to try to fix the problem over the phone, or dispatch a tech to the customer's site. Dell will also work with vendors that customers have other service contracts with. Dell's hosted services will support third-party hardware, as well as its own, Schuckenbrock said.

The first NOC has been built in Guadalajara, Mexico, and is serving a limited number of U.S. customers. The company is getting ready to open a second in Malaysia. By the end of the year, Dell plans to offer Web-hosted support services in Europe and Asia.

Eventually, the NOCs will merge with Dell's enterprise command centers, which provide support services today, but only to Dell's largest customers. Dell has five ECCs worldwide, Schuckenbrock said.

Dell sees its hosted services evolving to the point where customers will be able to choose what they want from a list of services, which companies can subscribe to online.

Among the services Dell plans to make available are patch management, anti-virus, anti-spam, online backup and recovery, asset discovery, asset tracking, e-mail continuity, e-mail archiving, and image management. Dell plans to add services through future acquisitions and partners. "We're not going to do a lot of homegrown [services]," Schuckenbrock said. "There's already a lot of innovation out there."

Besides having a choose-your-own offering, Dell eventually plans to bundle services for small offices, data centers, Vista migration, and client lifecycle management. In addition, there will be some infrastructure consulting services. "This is going to take a couple of years to be really full scale," Schuckenbrock said.

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