Dell has agreed to buy Kace, maker of the KBOX IT systems management appliance, for an undisclosed sum. The product fits with what Dell learned from acquiring EqualLogic in 2008: that it needed to make its hardware easier to use, quicker to set up, and with fewer tasks to run it.Kace fits that mold, and future Dell product acquisitions will likely face a similar litmus test.
The Kace deal reminded me of a recent conversation I had with Praveen Asthana, Dell VP of enterprise storage and networking, on a visit to its headquarters. Asthana put a big emphasis on its deal for storage maker EqualLogic, which Dell bought for $1.4 billion in what was then its largest acquisition. Dell considers it a big success. Says Asthana:
What I'm interested in is why--why is it doing so well? The fact is that its ease of use really resonates with a huge range of customers, from very small shops to very large shops. What EqualLogic did was embed a lot of that software and ease of use into the product itself. … That resonated so well, with not only our small customers but the large ones, that we're taking that same kind of thinking and applying it to our enterprise. It's been a good learning experience for us.
That thinking shows up in Dell servers embedded with systems management software, he says, aimed at easier setup and also easier integration with a company's existing systems management software.
In Dell's release today about the Kace deal, Steve Felice, president of Dell's consumer and small and medium business group, sounds like he's reading from this same playbook when he describes Kace's KBOX appliance as "highly capable, quick to deploy, simple to use and provides a rapid return on investment."
Kace's KBOX appliance does tasks such as find and inventory devices on a network, manage configurations, and control software patches. A very timely feature is that it helps companies deploy Windows 7, which, unlike Vista, a lot of companies are looking at for employee PCs. Here's other recent InformationWeek coverage of Dell: Global CIO: Dell And The Pursuit Of Google