With Third Acquistion, Dell's Services Strategy Takes Shape


It started with Everdream. Then it was SilverBack Technologies. Now it's MessageOne. With three acquisitions in three months, it's become clear that Dell is targeting services as a way to increase its mind share with customers.

What's not as clear is what that means to solution providers. For one, Dell has not yet offered much on its own pricing or offerings around the SilverBack managed services platform or Everdream's remote-service management SaaS offerings. With MessageOne not expected to close until at least next month, solution providers may have to wait a bit longer as Dell looks to integrate MessageOne's SaaS e-mail continuity offerings into a more comprehensive program.

"Silverback is about remotely monitoring anything with an IP address. The strategy is to enable monitoring for partners to take to customers. Everdream is a platform for laptops/desktops, around anti-virus, anti-malware. The premise is the same [as SilverBack]. It's about the automotion of managing the experience of the end user," said. Raj Kushwaha, vice president of services at Dell "That's available today through partners, who can add their own value-added services around deployment."

MessageOne's e-mail continuity solutions complement the other offerings, he said.

"If you take a look at what a dekstpop/laptop is used for, e-mail is the killer app. E-mail continuity is one of the big issues in the industry. If you want us to help manage your experience, what do you do around e-mail continuity? It's an extension of our client-managed end-user experience. It rounds out the offering. We can manage the hardware, the OS, anti-virus, and now extend it to e-mail continuity, with compliance and security," Kashwaha said.

Dell's acquisitions have been tactical in targeting the SMB market where VARs play, wrote Lindy Hanson, senior analyst at Technology Business Research, Hampton, N.H., in an an e-mail.

"Dell has an advantage in serving the SMB space versus its numerous services competitors, including Accenture, HP Services and IBM Global Services who tend to focus on larger engagements," Hanson wrote. "Once Dell has built out its portfolio and successfully penetrated the SMB market, we expect it to move up the value chain to offer similar services to its installed base of enterprise clients."

Dell has been adament that its offerings will be channel-friendly, but solution providers are taking a wait-and-see approach.

If its history holds true, it appears Dell will be as competitive in services as it is in products. "I would not use the word aggressive [regarding price], I would tell you that our value proposition is going to get more aggressive. And what we do for partners will be more aggressive," said Kushwaha. "We will see a lot more bundling of individual offerings, that will have impact on pricing, depending on what you bundle."

Dell offered no timetable when a truly integrated services offering will be available to customers or partners, but Kushwaha said the MessageOne deal would have to close first. But Kushwaha did offer a glimpse of how Dell's services inititative may look: staying true to its heritage of letting customers build their own PCs, Dell plans to let customers pick and choose which services they want, he said.

"They will be able to pick from menu of offerings. If I want anti-virus and I want the technology to monitor printers and cartridges, and e-mail continuity, but those are the only three things I want, I can do that. The platform will be integrated as a configureable set of SaaS services that customers and partners can choose from," he said.

Solution providers and MSPs can offer the same services to customers and make some money, but the amount is yet undertermined, Kushwaha said.

"If I'm a partner, I may sell six [services] to one customer, five to another customer. These three come together well. We've been thinking about [all the] spaces. They're all critical to the Dell services future strategy.

Kushwaha declined to say what gaps in its services portfolio Dell may be looking to fill through future acquisitions.

"We are always looking for other opportunities. It's premature to highlight one over the other," he said. "Mostly, [new services] are driven out of partners or customers telling us, things we do to round-out the enterprise," he said.