Dell Kace Applies Itself To The SMB Market

Dell's Kace business unit is looking to broaden its addressable market with a line of systems management appliances that have been designed to meet the needs of small and midsize businesses. The M300 Asset Management Appliance is targeted at SMBs with 50 to 200 employees looking for simple, reliable and affordable solutions for such routine IT tasks as hardware and software inventory, software license compliance, and asset tracking and management.

July 18, 2011

4 Min Read
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Having seen strong growth since being acquired by Dell last year, the Kace business unit is looking to broaden its addressable market with a line of systems management appliances that have been designed to meet the needs of small and midsize businesses. The M300 Asset Management Appliance is targeted at SMBs with 50 to 200 employees looking for simple, reliable and affordable solutions for such routine IT tasks as hardware and software inventory, software license compliance, and asset tracking and management.

The M300 is being promoted as a true plug-and-play solution. This will benefit SMBs, which Dell ACCELEREV research shows are still using time-intensive methods for tracking hardware and software inventory, as well as for managing software license compliance. For example, 50% of IT managers interviewed still use spreadsheets to manually track IT assets, according to the research.

The M300, which starts at $2,498 with a one-year warranty and recommended maximum of 200 nodes, was designed to be easy to configure, install and get started, and includes a new GUI. Customers can be up and running in less than 5 minutes, says the company. The first appliance addresses asset management, which Dell says tends to be the first thing most businesses gravitate to.

The Kace installed base of customers has more than tripled since Kace was acquired by Dell, swelling from 1,100 to 3,400, with five customers being added daily. Extending its reach down into the SMB market should significantly expand its market. Gartner recently valued this market as worth $2.2 billion last year (Magic Quadrant for PC Configuration Life Cycle Management Tools).

"SMBs have a need to automate the basic tasks of client and asset management," says Gartner analyst Terry Cosgrove. "However, traditional products are really designed for organizations with more than 1,000 users; the products are generally too complicated for most small to midsize organizations. Vendors that target SMBs have to balance functional completeness with the complexity that usually attends it."

Steve Brasen, managing research director, systems management, at Enterprise Management Associates, says his firm's research supports the popularity of asset management with SMBs. "EMA’s independent primary research data has indicated that 80% of respondents in that market space consider asset and inventory management as above average in importance to their business, placing it third as the most popular IT automation discipline [behind only backups and patch management]."

He says this should not be a surprise because maintaining accurate records of organizational assets is essential for financial management and regulatory compliance, as well as to enable prompt problem identification and remediation. "For SMBs, enabling this can be a particular challenge as the most comprehensive solutions have traditionally been too costly or too complex for smaller, resource-constrained organizations. Dell Kace itself has offered asset management as part of its flagship management appliance since its initial introduction, but even with its extremely aggressive pricing, the lifecycle management solution suite has sometimes been too expansive for organizations with smaller budgets that are only interested in its asset management capabilities. The M300 is the answer to this dilemma, offering a low-cost solution that specifically targets asset management requirements."The appliance-based approach provides a simple, turn-key solution for managing IT assets while eliminating infrastructure costs inherent in software-based solutions, such as costs associated with management consoles, operating systems, SQL licenses and system maintenance, says Brasen. "Although EMA generally recommends that enterprises invest in a centralized platform that provides a single interface for end-to-end IT management, we recognize that many smaller businesses are financially unable to adopt a consolidated solution set, so the scalability of the Dell KACE solution is critical. Organizations interested in asset management can adopt the M300 platform today and then easily expand to the full management appliance when appropriate in the future."

According to EMA’s research, the M300 platform provides all the functionality most commonly required by SMBs--including endpoint detection, asset discovery, application discovery and license management--for a broad range of Windows, Linux and Mac endpoints. "The weaknesses in the feature set would be in their ability to support requirements more commonly experienced in large enterprises, such as third-party CMDB [configuration management database] integration and support for large computing platforms, but very few SMBs will require this level of support."

Dennis Callaghan, an analyst with The 451 Group, suspects that Dell has gotten consistent feedback from the field that the K-Box is too much product and too expensive for the smaller of the SMB companies, 200 employees and below, so it came up with something smaller, simpler and cheaper. "They have to be expecting high-volume sales to make this effort worthwhile. I don’t know about setting the space on fire; we’re talking pretty small companies buying a necessary but not terribly sexy product, and they can only buy one of them."

While the M300 gives companies the basic tools they need, Callaghan adds, it will be something many companies will grow out of. "Once you surpass 200 nodes, you can’t buy another box; you have to upgrade to the K. Also, I wonder how well it will support users working remotely, which I have to think a lot of businesses of this size often have. In that case, I would think it would require some additional networking software, VPN, that sort of thing."

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