Sanjeev Aggarwal's Blog

March 19, 2012

Dell Extends its End-to-End Storage Story for SMBs

Filed under: Blogs - Sanjeev Aggarwal, ISV, Small Business, SMB, Storage — Tags: , , , — sanjeevaggarwal @ 11:35 am

Storage is a key requirement for today’s small-to-medium business (SMB) and mid-market enterprises. As the amount of data multiplies, and the need to protect critical data grows, SMBs now require many of the same data storage capabilities as larger enterprises.

With these requirements in mind, Dell recently announced the acquisition of AppAssure–the company’s first acquisition since launching its new Software Group. AppAssure will be part of Dell’s enterprise storage and software line-up, and underscores Dell intent to extend its footprint in the storage solutions market. The acquisition helps Dell take another big step in its enterprise solutions strategy and deliver a Fluid Data architecture that automatically and intelligently optimizes and protects data everywhere.

AppAssure’s software solution, billed as next generation data protection, provides continuous backup protection across physical, virtual, and cloud-based storage environments and includes the following capabilities:

  • Snapshot and replication
  • Data de-duplication and compression
  • Backup and restore
  • Archiving

Market demand for this type of solution is reflected in AppAssure’s success to date. Since its launch in 2006, AppAssure has expanded to 230 employees and more than 6,000 customers worldwide, with 194% revenue growth year-over-year for 2011.

PERSPECTIVE

The top four technology challenges for the SMB and mid-market companies are (Figure 1):

  • Containing technology related costs
  • Implementing new solutions and upgrades
  • Keeping my systems up and running
  • Integrating different applications

Figure 1 SMB and Mid-market Top Technology Challenges


Source: SMB Group 2011 Small and Medium Business Routes to Market Study, November 2011

As the complexity of storage requirements rises, these challenges have become more pronounced in the storage space as SMBs have tried to piece together disparate solutions from multiple vendors to ensure data protection and business continuity/disaster recovery.

With AppAssure, Dell can provide SMBs with storage capabilities not only for their physical servers but across to virtual and cloud computing environments–which are increasingly the environment of choice for SMBs. Regardless of the data environment, AppAssure Backup and Replication provides backup/restore, archiving, and disaster recovery, simplifying administration with near instant, reliable data recovery. AppAssure also protects application software in both virtual and physical environments.

AppAssure is part of Dell’s broader “fluid data” architecture (Figure 2), which is designed to put the right data in the right place at the right time, at the right cost. It provides a unified storage architecture to manage data more cost-effectively and efficiently–thereby addressing the key technology challenges that SMBs face. At a high level, the Dell Fluid Data architecture can help SMBs manage the growing data avalanche in a more intelligent and streamlined way. In addition to the capabilities enabled by AppAssure, Dell’s storage architecture and solutions (Figure 2) address a broad range of storage management needs including:

  • Ability of handle file, block and object-level data to support a variety of applications, from Microsoft Exchange to virtualization solutions to databases to social media applications.
  • Automated support for multi-tier storage (primary, backup and archive data) to control rapidly escalating storage costs and compliance requirements.
  • Automated data protection and replication, eliminating the need for daily manual intervention.
  • Support for business continuity and disaster recovery.

Figure 2 Dell Unifying Storage Architecture


Source: Dell


Rapid data growth driven by new applications such as rich-media, social media, 64-bit architectures and compliance solutions requiring availability of data for very long time-periods is causing increases in storage system costs, storage infrastructure complexity, and power and cooling costs. Dell’s end-to-end storage management solutions help SMBs get some of these storage costs under control, for instance:

  • Data reduction technologies such as data de-duplication and compression allow SMBs to control data growth rates by eliminating redundant data. This enables more efficient use of existing storage assets and helps users defer capital expenditures for new storage systems as they reduce disk capacity requirements. They also help decrease bandwidth requirements for data transfer.
  • Tiered storage architectures allow users to control storage hardware costs based on business value and frequency of access. Higher performance, higher cost storage resources can be dedicated to mission critical initiatives, and lower performance and cost solutions can be allocated for back up and archiving.
  • Storage virtualization helps address storage costs by improving resource utilization, data mobility, information availability and related IT resources required to manage storage environments.
  • Business continuity and disaster recovery solutions reduce the impact of unexpected outages. By helping to keep the business up and running, they protect against potential revenue loss and brand damage due to outages.

QUICK TAKE

Dell’s acquisition of AppAssure and its continued focus on end-to-end storage management solutions provides several benefits to SMBs in addition to cost savings:

  • Ability to manage a mixed environment of physical, virtual, and cloud-based storage in a unified storage management solution.
  • Reduced IT resources needed for data storage management.
  • Ease of doing business with a single vendor for an integrated storage management solution.
  • Significant storage capacity savings afforded by storage consolidations and sophisticated deduplication/compression technologies.
  • Support for the most widely adopted virtual solutions – Microsoft Hyper-V, VMware, vSphere and Citrix XenServer.

And, with SMB market adoption of virtualization and cloud solutions rising, Dell’s timing couldn’t be better. The interest among SMBs to acquire/upgrade IT infrastructure management and virtualization solutions is very high (Figure 3), driven by the need to address IT environment complexity and increasing costs.

Figure 3 Solutions Purchased/Upgraded and Future Plans


Source: SMB Group 2011 Small and Medium Business Routes to Market Study, November 2011

That said, SMBs need better guidance in this area. Dell can significantly strengthen its story–and sales–by making it easier for the SMBs to easily understand the scope of it storage systems and end-to-end storage management offerings and pinpoint the “best-fit” solution(s) for their needs through the following:

  • Compararative information and visuals on Dell’s web site-replacing pages of detailed information and specs that illustrate Dell solutions and provide guidance on when and why different systems are relevant
  • Web-based tools for needs assesssment and recommendations.
  • Proof points in the form of customer references, return-on-investement and total-cost-of-ownership calculations that illustrate the financial and efficiency benefits of Dell’s integrated approach.

By providing education to SMBs and clarifying its storage story, Dell can make the most out of its push to extend beyond the hardware business to provide business computing solutions that are innovative, yet practical–and geared to both SMBs as well as large enterprises.

July 31, 2011

Dell KACE M300 Appliance Enables Small Businesses to Take a Proactive Approach to IT Asset Management

Filed under: Blogs - Sanjeev Aggarwal, Infrastructure, Small Business, SMB, TCO — Tags: , , , , , — sanjeevaggarwal @ 12:49 pm

Dell KACE recently introduced a new series of System Management Appliances targeted at small businesses with 20-200 employees. The Dell KACE M300 Asset Management Appliance is designed to deliver an affordable, plug-and-play IT asset management solution that reduces the repetitive, time consuming task of managing PC inventory and software licenses. The KACE M300 provides a robust yet easy-to-use asset management solution—saving these businesses time and money, while at the same time addressing their compliance and inventory management issues.

Perspective

Dell’s KACE systems management and deployment appliances are designed to meet systems management needs from initial computer deployment to ongoing management and retirement. Dell acquired KACE, which designs and builds systems management and deployment appliances, in February 2010. KACE solutions are available both as physical appliances (delivered as a pre-packaged hardware and software appliance) and as software-only virtual appliances, which customers can buy and load onto servers they already own.

Higher-end products available from Dell KACE (K1000 and K2000) have been available for some time. Since Dell acquired KACE, sales have spiked considerably year-over-year. However, the existing KACE offerings are designed for companies with 100 to 10,000 employees, and cost more than most small businesses are willing to spend in this area.

With the introduction of the M300, Dell is making a play in the true small business market, targeting customers that want a simple plug-and-play appliance to meet their asset management (both hardware and software) needs. The solution is designed for smaller businesses that often have a part-time IT manager, typically overloaded with installing software and keeping systems and client devices up and running, and frequently unable to keep up with the detail-oriented task of tracking hardware and software assets.

Many small business IT managers are still trying to manage assets and software licenses in a manual manner with spreadsheets. While manual tools provide a point in time snapshot of a network, the information rapidly becomes obsolete as computers are added or additional software is installed on existing computers. IT managers either end up spending too much time trying to keep this up-to-date, or end up with outdated asset inventories. Offloading the labor-intensive minutia involved in this job can free them up to focus on more important things.

Although there are some free and small business oriented solutions in the market, Dell’s strong market footprint in the market and direct relationships with existing small business customers provide it with a significant go-to-market advantage, and the opportunity to educate small businesses about the benefits of investing in IT asset management (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Benefits of IT Asset Management

Strategic Benefits
  • Reduce over-spending on IT hardware and software assets by increasing asset utilization
  • Reduce IT resources (and time) required to routinely manage and maintain IT hardware and software assets and related annual operational costs
  • Increase useful life of IT assets through ongoing configuration and upgrade monitoring
  • Increase utilization of assets by optimizing performance of IT assets
  • Reduce downtime by optimizing configurations and timely upgrades of assets
  • Reduce break-fix costs by maintaining proper asset warranty information
  • Support audit and compliance requirements and mitigate risk of non-compliance and costly legal/financial risks
  • Records and reports when new devices are connected to the network
  • Detects hazardous software packages across the network
IT Hardware Asset Management Benefits IT Software Asset Management Benefits
  • Reduce server and PC procurement, upgrade and ongoing management costs
  • Extend the useful life of these hardware assets
  • Reduce costs by redeploying unused or under-utilized hardware systems
  • Keep track of licenses and upgrades for PCs migrating to Windows7 and identify PCs that are configured adequately for upgrade
  • Easily identify PCs that need replacement or upgrades


  • Maintain an accurate inventory of installed applications to ensure legality and that software is up to date
  • Maintain a centralized report of license purchases and maintenance to ensure license compliance
  • Reduce operating system, middleware and application procurement, patching, upgrade and ongoing management costs
  • Reduce costs related to un-used or under-utilized middleware and application software licenses (for both on-premise and on-line software)
  • Optimize software assets by redeploying unused software licenses
Source: SMB Group, 2011

In line with small business requirements to keep it simple, the M300—features easy set up. The IT manager plugs the M300 into the network, and the device automatically scans and discovers all the devices on the network, obtaining information like system names, IP addresses, vendor, models numbers, memory and disk space, etc. In addition to the hardware configuration, the M300 keeps track of all the software licenses, what systems the software is installed, version of the software and level of patch updates, etc.

The M300 continuously tracks computers and software, and can report accurate information in real-time and for compliance purposes at a specific point-in-time. The web-based intuitive user interface of the appliance shows real-time information on all of the monitored parameters. It can match the installed software with the number of software licenses purchased and also authorized users who can use the software. It shows online or sends out reports and/or alerts on any of the monitored parameters. For example, an alert will be issued if an unapproved application is downloaded and installed on a monitored PC or if a new PC is connected to the network.

Priced at $2498, the M300 includes a one year warranty and supports a maximum of 200 nodes. Assuming the useful life of the M300 to be 3 years, we estimate the cost to monitor each node (desktops and servers) on the network at approximately $0.49 per month per node in a company with 200 nodes. Figure 2 shows the cost per node in smaller companies (with less than 200 notes?). Given the cost of a full time IT manager to be approximately $75,000 per year, the M300 will pay for itself in about 1 month. In addition, the M300 can relieve the pressure and any additional costs related to non-compliance in terms of number of software licenses, etc.

Figure 2: Tracking Cost Per Node, Per Month with the M300
Source: SMB Group


The M300 is compact–measuring just 1.52 x 5.79 x 5.79 inches, connects to the network via a single gigabit Ethernet port, and is currently available in the U.S. only.

Sales are both direct from Dell and via Dell partners. KACE has added about 100 new certified partners since Dell acquired it and currently has 143 channel partners in North America. KACE is aggressively recruiting new partners to help it expand its footprint and reach Dell’s large customer base in the small business segment.

Dell’s future plans include additional appliances that can be stacked on top of the M300 and will address time consuming IT management functions like OS installs, remote management, mobile devices, service desk, etc. as the systems management needs of these small businesses expand, without the need to rip and replace their current solutions and investments.

Quick Take

Cost-efficiency, productivity benefits, ease of installation and peace of mind benefits—aided by Dell’s strong clout in the market—should enable Dell to make significant inroads with KACE in the lower end of the SMB space. And, Dell’s plans to incrementally build on the current M300 offerings with additional appliances for other repetitive tasks such as installing network operating systems, imaging and data backup make sense. However, Dell can significantly strengthen its story–and sales–by:

  • Offering small businesses the option to add at least some new functionality via software upgrades to the M300 appliance. Although the small business KACE appliances have a small form factor, some companies will balk at buying additional boxes (not to mention that Dell wants to move away from its “box-provider” image!)
  • The M300 is a first in the M-series line of appliances from KACE. The M-series is designed to deliver system management technologies to small businesses that they previously were unable to gain access to due to cost or complexity of solutions.
  • Incorporating capabilities to manage non windows based clients and networked storage devices.
  • Enabling remote management features to enable channel partners to offer incremental value-added IT infrastructure management services. This would not only have appeal for customers, who like to have a one-stop shop, but for partners, that can build higher margin services on top of the M300.

Looking at the larger picture, the KACE M300 provides further evidence of Dell’s deepening commitment to small businesses. Dell continues to invest in and build innovative yet practical solutions that address real small business pain points without breaking the bank. Small businesses increasingly rely on technology to run their businesses, and Dell’s focus on supplying them with easy-to-use solutions such as the KACE M300 to help manage this technology is on the mark.

November 29, 2010

Dell Vostro V130 – A Great Fit For Small Business Entrepreneurs, Executives And Mobile Professionals

Filed under: Blogs - Sanjeev Aggarwal, Infrastructure, Small Business, SMB, SMB strategy, video — Tags: , , , , , — sanjeevaggarwal @ 9:33 pm

 

As a entrepreneur and a CEO of a small business who travels frequently, I have been looking for a business-class notebook that is sleek, lightweight, provides good performance and security, and is also affordable. Dell’s Vostro V130 meets these requirements and provides enhanced performance over the previous V13.

 

Figure 1: Mobile Workers (employees that travel more than 20% of their time on business)

Source: Small and Medium Business Mobility Study, SMB Group

Small Businesses Are Becoming More Mobile

Mobility is a key consideration for most small businesses (companies with less than 100
employees) when purchasing technology solutions. Overall, about 81 percent of small
businesses (Figure 1) have mobile workers that travel more than 20% of the time for business related activities.

Breaking this down a bit, we see some other interesting data points:

  • The larger a small business becomes, the more important mobility becomes: 86% of companies with 50-99 employees have mobile workers.
  • A larger percentage of employees travel in companies with fewer employees. In those with 1-19 employees, 22 percent of the employees travel more than 20% of their time on business.

Many of the mobile business executives in these small businesses no longer have desktop PCs in their offices. They want an all-purpose, ultra-portable mobile device that they can rely on to run their business applications and most likely their personal applications as well. Key considerations for small business entrepreneurs and C-level management include:

  • Ultra portable laptops that can fit in the smallest carry-on bag and weigh almost nothing. They also need to be sturdy to withstand all the beating the laptops encounter during airport security inspections. Successful entrepreneurs–and those that would like to be–also want a sleek and stylish device that helps them put their best foot forward in client meetings.
  • Although small businesses are using more web-based solutions, most still rely on several tried and true packaged applications, such as Intuit QuickBooks and Microsoft Office, excluding netbooks from consideration.
  • Data security is a key concern for travelling executives because these systems usually store sensitive company and customer information.
  • Executives never have time to backup their laptops, they need a secure automated online backup service that works in the background.
  • Wireless connectivity in the office(Wife) and while travelling (mobile broadband).
  • Strong battery life for long trips, client meetings and conferences.
  • Onsite support to provide peace of mind should anything go wrong and the device can’t be fixed remotely.
  • Affordable pricing because technology and capital purchase budgets continue to be tight.

How the Dell Vostro Stacks Up

  • Fresh and sturdy design. The Vostro V130 offers CEOs and entrepreneurs sleek and ultra portable functionality. But it’s also tough, built with an anodized aluminum scratch-resistant shell in either Aberdeen Silver or Lucerne Red (Figure 2). Having a full-featured laptop that weighs in at 3.5 pounds, and measures a skinny 0.65 inches a full featured laptop gives the Vostro a touch of the wow factor that will get it noticed.

Figure 2: Dell Vostro V130


  • Strong multimedia capabilities. The V130 features a 2.0-megapixel webcam and microphones for web and video conferencing. HDMI output enables high definition streaming to an HDTV that is very useful for making presentations. In fact, these features are becoming a must have for the executive laptop, and I see myself using most of these as they make for a richer collaboration experience and higher quality presentations.
  • Affordable pricing. The V130 line up ranges from the Intel Celeron system running Linux and priced at a competitive $499 up to Intel i5 ULV processor running the Windows7 operating system for $849.
    Details on the 3 models include:

 

  • Intel® Celeron™ Processor ULV U3400: 2M Cache, 1.06GHz, 800 MHz FSB with Linux for $499 and the same system with Windows7 Home Premium for $549.
  • Intel® Core™ Processor ULV i3-380UM: 3M Cache, 1.33GHz, 800 MHz FSB with 4GB memory and 320GB hard drive and Windows7 Home Premium for $689.
  • Intel® Core™ Processor ULV i5-470UM : 3M Cache, 1.33GHz, 800 MHz FSB with 4GB memory and 500GB hard drive and Windows7 Home Premium for $849.
  • Performance. With the latest Intel Core iCULV processor, the Vostro V130 offers up to 40% overall performance improvement over the previous V13 with a duo core processor The performance range between V130 models is significant, as shown in Figure 3. Because I create a lot of PowerPoint presentations and Excel documents, my preference is to go with the best performance processor. Those with less process intensive requirements may not need as much horsepower. Most entrepreneurs will want to add available security, backup and onsite support options to safeguard their data and ensure peace of mind.

 

Figure 3: V130 Relative Performance with Different Processors and Windows7 Operating System

Source: SMB Group, November 2010

  • Battery life. Since I travel frequently, I like the fact that the
    V130 features a sealed 6-cell 30WHr battery that provides up to 4 hours and 21 minutes of mobile productivity —almost long enough for a cross country U.S. flight.
  • Mobile Connectivity. Many very small businesses only use a wireless network in the office and home office. The Vostro V130 laptops support a full range of connectivity options, including 802.11 a/b/g/n wireless LAN, Bluetooth 3.0, and mobile broadband. These options make it easy for the mobile executive to connect to the network in the office, while travelling, at clients’ offices or at home.
  • Data protection. Since I have all of my company’s financial, banking and customer information on my laptop and shudder to think what would happen should it get dropped, lost or stolen. Freefall sensors are standard on the V130. These sensors detect if the laptop is in a state of free fall, and park the head of the disk drive to prevent a head crash and resulting data loss upon impact on the ground.
  • Data backup. When was the last time you backed-up your laptop? Though many of us are loathe to admit it, most small business executives fail to back up their laptops regularly. Viruses, accidental file deletion, disk crashes, etc. can irreparably compromise data and information that cannot be easily re-created. Dell’s DataSafe online backup is an easy way to ensure mission critical laptop data will get backed up.
  • Flexible service and support
    options. If a key executive’s laptop is down, the business suffers. Most small businesses lack dedicated internal IT staff, and need to rely on third parties when a problem arises. Dell provides a range of service solutions, from phone support to ProSupport, which includes a dedicated, single point of contact and next day onsite support in most instances. A 3-year ProSupport agreement with next day onsite support is $190 – money well spent to gain peace of mind. Based on my own personal experience with Dell ProSupport service, I would rate it as an industry best and would not hesitate to recommend it for mission critical executive support.

 

Summary

The new Dell Vostro V130 is primarily intended for small businesses entrepreneurs and executives that are highly mobile and need a thin, light, full featured notebook–and have a tight technology budget. Having the opportunity to review an early model, I believe that the Vostro V130 will be very appealing choice for mobile professionals looking for a sleek, highly capable and professional looking executive laptop.


March 18, 2010

Dell’s New Vostro 3000 Laptops: Designed for Small Businesses

Filed under: Blogs - Sanjeev Aggarwal, Channels, Infrastructure, mid-market, Small Business, SMB — Tags: , , — sanjeevaggarwal @ 5:04 pm

The realities of a lingering recession and a do-it-yourself (DIY) ethos continue to frame today’s economic climate. As entrepreneurs and small businesses went into financial shock beginning in mid-2008, they hunkered down and made do with older laptops (the dominant computing platform for these businesses) and other hardware instead of spending precious cash on new equipment. But with hints of a slow recovery in the offing, these older, over-extended laptops may not be up to the task of helping to support these businesses as they prepare for new business opportunities,

Consequently, Dell’s introduction of its new Vostro 3000 family could not be more timely. As credit markets begin to thaw, and business prospects look more encouraging, small business interest in taking advantage of the power of Microsoft Windows 7 and Intel’s next generation i5 and i7 processors is growing. With the 3000 series, Dell has put a lot of energy into meeting the needs of small businesses.

The Dell’s Vostro 3000 line offers:

  • Affordable pricing. Prices for smaller-sized systems begin under $649, while the larger 17″ systems start at $798, making them affordable for small businesses on tight budgets.
  • Flexible service and support
    options. Small businesses lack the IT resources to service and support these systems. If even one key executive’s laptop is down, the business suffers. Dell provides a range of service solutions, from phone support to ProSupport, which includes a dedicated, single point of contact, and next day onsite support in most instances. Based on my own personal experience with Dell ProSupport service, I would rate it as an industry best and would not hesitate to recommend it to small businesses for mission critical executive and power user laptops.
  • Data and access security. Freefall sensors are standard on all Vostro laptops. These sensors detect if the laptop is in a state of free fall, and park the head of the disk drive to prevent a head crash and resulting data loss upon impact on the ground. Businesses can also select optional features such as fingerprint readers and hard drive encryption for added protection. These security features help protect loss of business critical data in the event of accidents, loss, theft or unauthorized system access.
  • Data backup. When was the last time you backed-up your laptop? Though many of us are loathe to admit it, most small businesses fail to back up their laptops consistently and regularly. Viruses, accidental file deletion, disk crashes, etc. can irreparably compromise data. Dell’s DataSafe online backup is an easy way to ensure mission critical laptops will get backed up.
  • Connectivity. Many very small businesses only use a wireless network in the office and home office. The Vostro 3000 family laptops support a full range of connectivity options, including 802.11g/n wireless LAN, Bluetooth, and mobile broadband.
  • Fresh design and features. The Vostro 3000 series offers entrepreneurs sleek yet rugged styling, with aluminum shells in an updated choice of colors. The line-up also features webcams and microphones for videoconferencing in all models, and strong graphics capabilities.

Summary

Overall, Dell’s Vostro 3000 family provides a stylish, sturdy and affordable choice of laptops that address key small business requirements, affordability, service and support, security, data backup and connectivity.

However, Vostro 3000 products are currently available only from the Dell.com website. While Dell regularly emails and snail mails Dell Small Business newsletters and product brochures, and Internet research can provide a lot of good information, this doesn’t meet the needs of small business owners that like to physically see and touch products before they buy them. These customers—and there are many of them–are more comfortable shopping at retail stores like BestBuy and Staples, where Dell’s consumer laptops are available—but no Vostros.

To reach a broader small business market, Dell needs to supplement its direct model with a strong presence for its small business solutions at the retail outlets that small business owners and office managers frequent.

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