Dell makes bid for system management respect

System vendor Dell makes a bid on Monday to be taken seriously as a system management player. But IBM and HP may not need to worry just yet

Dell is launching a remote monitoring service on Monday, as part of a system management programme aimed at improving its image as an enterprise solution provider. Remote monitoring services will be based on tools installed at customer sites, which can contact Dell when certain faults occur. The tools will be included free for future "gold" and "platinum" level enterprise support customers (existing customers can request them). However, the tools will not actually do any reporting to Dell until a further fee is paid, taking the customer to level two (hardware alerts can be sent by email to Dell's Expert Centre), level three (hardware and operating systems alerts are sent) or level four (diagnostics and analysis are included). Dell could not immediately provide a quote for the fee. Dell's system management initiative, called Smart IT, is a Dell-style response to the top-down management approaches of companies such as IBM and HP, said Lance Osborne, who handles systems management marketing for Dell's Enterprise Systems Group: "But we are not competing with IBM's Tivoli or HP's OpenView." "We do not go into any situation suggesting that a customer do away with previous investment," said Osborne. "In fact quite the opposite." The programme will integrate with Tivoli, OpenView, and other packages such as BMC Patrol, he said. Less than 25 percent of users manage their hardware assets properly, according to a study by Gartner Group. "We want to change the culture in the majority of our customers," said Osborne. Making servers that are quick to deploy and manage is a logical next step to Dell's current strength of shipping them quickly, he said: "Systems that sit idle for weeks and months are not giving value to the bottom line." Given this level of user apathy, programmes should not set their targets too high, according to Osborne: "In hardware, self-healing is a fantasy right now," he said, in a possible reference to IBM's eLiza programme, which uses the term "self-healing" to describe its efforts to make smaller servers more resilient using mainframe technology. Osborne does not think that mainframe concepts are the last word in reliable systems: "Management did come from the mainframe world, but I don't think anyone in the industry has a corner on those concepts." In September, Dell will ship BMC's WHAT console for managing Linux systems, integrated to its own OpenManage product. "Linux shops do not want to have to introduce other operating systems in order to manage Linux," said Osborne. Dell's OpenManage product will continue as part of Smart IT, and other products will be integrated. "Dell will try to use what is in the market," said Osborne. Dell's previous management efforts have included ill-fated deals to sell Intel LANdesk and HP OpenView "Lite". This last was perhaps the lowest point in Dell's system management history, as the Lite version of the product had little functionality, except to sell the full version, whose heavyweight nature did not fit at all well with Dell's style. Dell's move into enterprise systems will continue later this year when it begins selling network switches from a third party supplier, possibly 3Com.

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