IT pros welcome Dell’s foray into consumerization

Despite a late start, new Dell support services and client devices could help Dell make a splash in the consumerization era.

AUSTIN, Texas -- IT pros welcome Dell's  change in direction in regards to consumerization, even as they wonder where the company’s roadmap will take them.

With a new lineup of Dell support services and client devices, which include a range of Windows 8 tablets and ultrabooks, Dell Inc is trying to meet the IT demands of the consumerization era.  

Dell might be behind the curve in offering products that address enterprise consumerization problems, but the reality is most organizations are also behind when it comes to solving these issues, said Jack Gold, founder of J. Gold Associates, an enterprise IT consulting firm based in Ashland, Mass.

Among the new client devices offered are the XPS 10, which can dock into a keyboard for full PC functionality and the Latitude 10 tablet that comes with an optional workstation dock. Dell also released a new MDM appliance and data encryption tool.

“Most places are still overwhelmingly relying on Exchange ActiveSync or BlackBerry Enterprise Server for MDM [mobile device management] as an example,” Gold said. 

Even if Dell is late to the consumerization game it might not matter, so long as the Round Rock, Texas-based company has the necessary devices and support services when IT departments move to address these new challenges. Dell is lagging behind Apple Inc, Google Inc and even Amazon Web Services LLC in the tablet market, and companies such as Hewlett-Packard Company and IBM in the support services space. 

Despite being behind, Dell has a huge opportunity in both areas because of its massive enterprise footprint, said David Daoud, an analyst with IDC, a research firm based in Framingham, Mass.

“The problem is, how do they tie these devices to these broad services and solutions,” Daoud said.

How to best support multiple devices in the workplace remains a major concern for enterprise IT.

“Our biggest problem with supporting iPads is those same employees still need a laptop they bring home and we end up having to support multiple devices even if we don’t really want to,” said Steven Davidson, director of technical support at A.H. Belo Corporation, a Dallas, Texas-based publishing company.

It would be nice to give employees a managed Windows tablet they can take home with them and when they are in the office all they have to do is dock it to a workstation and monitor, he added.

That kind of scenario would be a “huge relief” for Damian Broccoli, an infrastructure engineer at Terex Corporation, a heavy equipment manufacturer based in Dallas. Terex is currently trying to standardize its IT infrastructure across numerous worldwide locations. It’s a massive project, yet Broccoli said he spends too much time troubleshooting iPads and other mobile devices, which takes him away from more important work.

“If I can get a tablet that plugs into my existing domain, can run my existing apps and not have to deal with supporting so many iPads, well, that would interest me” he said.

Dell gets serious about enterprise mobility

Aside from a new lineup of client devices, Dell also announced several new support services for enterprise mobility. Dell Data Protection Encryption is a tool to secure data on laptops and desktops, as well as external media, in case of loss or theft.

The K3000 is an MDM appliance from Kace, a company Dell acquired in 2012, and will be available in January to current Kace customers with general availability sometime in 2013, Dell said.

The appliance lets IT admins track and control the usage of smartphones and tablets within the corporate infrastructure. Initially, the appliance will only work for iOS devices that run version 4.5 or higher and Android devices on version 2.2 or higher.

The K3000 builds off two other Kace appliances, the K1000 -- which manages Windows, Macintosh OS and Linux laptops, desktops and servers -- and the K2000 deployment appliance, which handles systems provisioning, inventory assessment, and OS and application migration and recovery for laptops, desktops and servers. The appliance will cost $4,500 for a base of 100 nodes.

Last month Dell released the Wyse Cloud Client Manager, which offered the same functionality as the Kace appliance with the only difference of it being able to manage thin clients and mobile applications in a Software-as-a-Service offering.  

Those two products highlight another problem for Dell, however. The numerous acquisitions made over the last few years, including Kace, Boomi Inc, Sonicwall Inc, Wyse technology Inc, and Quest have left customers wondering what the company’s ultimate vision for enterprises is.

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