Dell's software strategy: Focus on mid-sized businesses, emerging markets

Dell is planning to grow out its software unit slowly but surely, starting by focusing on small to medium businesses and emerging markets.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO -- As Dell continues to rebrand itself as more than just a PC company, the software unit has unveiled plans that focus on four key areas: security, systems management, business intelligence, and applications.

"We have every expectation that this is going to be a billion dollar business for us in the next few years," said John Swainson, president of Dell's Software Group, during a media presentation on Thursday morning. 

Software is part of a broader strategy of how Dell's leadership is trying to transform the corporation from a PC company to a solutions company in which PC comupting is an essential element -- but not the only one in the business.

However, he did acknolwedge that this transformation could take up to five years or more.

Swainson outlined that the overarching goals for Dell are to produce solutions with faster time-to-value, less skill required on the part of the customer, and are more part of the fabric of their businesses.

"We think there is a pretty broad demand for this, but as we design our solutions, it's with these customer sets in mind," Swainson asserted.

There have always been interesting things going on in the software business, Swainson remarked, but it is more disruptive now than ever before.

Swainson argued that the four key trends that are disrupting the status quo in the software market are security, connected devices, data, and cloud. 

All four are deeply inter-connected, but cloud might stand out the most as that is where enterprise software is heading thanks to more rapid adoption and increased utilization over the last year. Nevertheless, like all of these trends, it creates new management challenges and headaches.

"There is going to be this range of cloud adoption depending on what industry you're in, but it's going to be hard to do this," Swainson continued, adding that all of these represent disruptive trends in mid-market industries.

Part of Dell's software strategy has depended upon its growing list of acquisitions over the last few years. Boomi, Kace, Sonicwall, and Quest Software stand out as a few that beef up the portfolio, covering all four of the aforementioned key areas to address customer needs and emerging market business going forward.

Dell acquired Quest Software just a few weeks ago. Swainson explained that Quest's "diversified portfolio" will provide a platform foundation that includes tools for performance monitoring, data protection, and managing for user workspace, identity and access permissions, and Windows servers.

Nevertheless, Swainson said that Dell is really starting small. Partnerships with other industry players are going to play a significant role. For example, the Dell QuickStart Data Warehouse Appliance for business intelligence actually relies upon Dell hardware and Microsoft software.

"We're not going to tackle SAP head on," Swainson quipped, noting that Dell is going to start with a focus on small and medium businesses as well as emerging markets. 

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