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Dell roadmap session centers on integration, skips KACE

Dell Software outlined its product direction for its broad offerings during the roadmap session but left IT pros wanting to hear more about KACE.

AUSTIN, Texas -- IT pros received a glimpse into Dell Software’s future during a roadmap session, but little was said about the popular KACE systems management appliance.

It was a letdown for many loyal KACE users who attended the session during the Dell World User Forum here this week to hear more about KACE’s future in light of Dell Software’s goal to integrate disparate technologies from its numerous acquisitions.

In the past, “we’ve gotten a glimpse of the next release [of KACE],” said Jack Bonnecroy, director of technology at MOC-Floyd Valley Community School District in Northwest Iowa. The Dell Software user conference was formerly known as the KACE Konference.

“We came here to learn about KACE, so anything they told us about KACE [would have been] better than what we got,” Bonnecroy said. 

One IT admin hoped to hear about Dell’s intentions to add a progress bar that would allow end users to see download status. The feature request has been in the queue for years, said Sandy Groom-Meeks, tech integrationist at the MOC-Floyd Valley Community School District. Part of the KACE user loyalty stems from its reputation for support and service and the strong IT community around it.

“The one thing we’ve learned is the engineers behind KACE do listen to the customers a lot,” Bonnecroy said.

But not all IT professionals were dissatisfied with the session.

"I came to observe [the product roadmap session] and had questions answered in other events," said John Rickabagh, systems specialist at Sheetz Inc. The Altoona, Pa.-based retailer has deployed the K1000 to consolidate its systems management into a single platform, and the product has also helped with tasks such as moving files from one place to another.

Instead of KACE updates, IT pros heard about Dell’s integration plans for all its acquired products along with the company's overall strategic direction.

"Transition is hard,” said Dave Kloba, general manager for endpoint systems management at Dell, acknowledging the disappointment of some attendees. Dell is blending KACE and elevating all aspects of the company’s products, he said.

Dell's roadmap

And that transition continues to be a high priority for Dell Software and throughout the entire company.

Within security, Dell plans to continue delivering better sandbox capabilities to its next generation of Sonic Firewall devices to protect enterprises from the continuous malware attacks they face on a daily basis.

The SonicWall Sandbox will take packets of unknown executable files and put them through an extensive set of sandboxes to analyze them, said Patrick Sweeney, executive director of network security for Dell SonicWall. If the executable is bad, admins will get a message, and in the course of 10 to 18 seconds, there will be a whole range of different virtual machines to ward off attacks, Sweeney said. Dell also intends to partner with other companies to ensure that organizations’ environments remain secure.

The vendor also plans to deliver products that provide big data analytics software with a simple interface that a range of users can rely on, said Matt Wolken, vice president and general manager of Dell’s Information Management products. The analyzed data can now be visualized through Tableau, QlikView or Microsoft Power BI.

The company intends to partner with Tableau, a visual data software company, Wolken said during the session, although he did not divulge the timing. Dell uses the Tableau software internally.

Dell’s systems management team also demonstrated its formerly announced Foglight for Virtualization console enabling IT admins to view their virtual infrastructure.

One conference attendee asked Dell Software president John Swainson about the company's strategy for the K1000 appliance, and Swainson insisted that the popular product will have a bright future.

As the industry changes from supporting only PCs to a variety of endpoint devices, KACE 1000 must support all these things and evolve with virtualization and the cloud, Swainson said.

“It’s a core part of our business,” he said.

The virtual K1000 appliance is now embedded in Dell's commercial Latitude mainstream offering, Swainson said.

"If you buy a Latitude from us, you get a K1000 subscription that covers up to K1000 licenses," he said.

Dell relying on software as 'glue'

Dell's software is the glue that ties together all of Dell’s disparate products into a cohesive end-to-end business offering that span the data center to the desktop.

This continued message of Dell selling all products lies in sharp contrast with competitors Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and IBM, which have focused on delivering just hardware or software and services aimed at the enterprise but not end-to-end offerings.

Early on, CEO Michael Dell also took the stage and offered his perspective on why his company has transitioned from a successful public hardware leader to a private company that expanded to cover software and other products under its umbrella.

“Customers asked us to solve problems we didn't have the capability of solving,” Dell said.

Dell needed to have more ownership and integrate intellectual property into the products that secure and automate enterprise management, he said. The Dell Software business unit launched two years ago and was charged with integrating all the disparate products into a cohesive strategy.

"We didn’t say, 'Let's create a new operating system or application,'" Dell said. Instead, the company set out to acquire “foundational assets” because it would take too long to scale the business if it were to build its own technology, he added.

Despite the challenges for integrating all its acquisitions, Dell insisted the work the company is doing in software will stay relevant.

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