Malware hits the Mac but is it worth worrying about?
Malware hits the Mac but is it worth worrying about?

This year has seen Dell move firmly into the security market after a number of key acquisitions and this has led to the formation of its software group.

Attending last week's Dell World conference in Austin, Texas, I was able to catch up with three of its brands to gauge their thoughts on being part of the software giant and what their direction was.

Steve Dickson, senior vice president and general manager of the Windows Business Unit at Quest Software, who were acquired a few months ago by Dell, said that this was an 'exciting time' as what Quest could offer Dell "was so broad". He said: “It fits very well into the three buckets of the Dell software group: systems management; business applications; security.

“With us it is six parts of the business and our data protection division is going into four of Dell's. Our identity and access management (IAM) goes into security, databases and connectivity. We are playing a role and finding ways for our technology to work. Quest has been the core of the software group and we are becoming a larger piece of it and taking on the leadership role and we see continuous growth for the Dell software group.”

I asked Dickson what he felt Dell was offering back to Quest as a business. He told me that the CIO of Quest was now the CIO of the Dell software group, and that its employees were "excited about the opportunity" as there "was a lot of visibility that Quest did not have previously".

One of the first security acquisitions made by Dell, completed on 31st December 2010, was of managed security service provider SecureWorks. Its vice president and general manager Mike Cote said that it was now a key part of Dell with its intelligence enabling the software group to work productively.

He said: “For us it is about expertise but we can remain unbiased about a specific technology. Matt Medeiros (former CEO of SonicWall, now vice president and general manager, security software at Dell SonicWall) doesn't want to be beholden to us as our users don't always want to have to use the technologies that Dell sells.

“We are growing rapidly and we have doubled our employee numbers in the last two years and it has given us a global reach.”

Dell SecureWorks CTO Jon Ramsey told me that the acquisition has allowed the company to develop much more for the benefit of customers and provide visibility with a platform users can leverage. “Security is a great example of a solution; it has a purpose to be adaptive and reactive. Everyone likes security and you need to protect your intellectual property as you are trying to fit a formula,” he said.

The acquisition of intrusion prevention and next-generation firewall vendor SonicWall in 2012 showed Dell's ambitions in the security hardware market. Its vice president of product management and corporate marketing, Patrick Sweeney, said that seven months into the Dell ownership, the move had been 'perfect' for both SonicWall and Dell.

He said: “We have moved up the technology ladder and we have the most efficient next-generation firewall in the world. On the day we were acquired we had access to more than a 1,600 engineers from Dell's 6,000 employees and this is nothing but the best for us with a focus on security.

“In order to do security properly you have to be an end-to-end supplier and you cannot be legitimate without considering security as it underpins everything. I have never not seen security be at the top of the portfolio; if you do 'bring your own device' you need security; if you do cloud you have to do security. There is nothing that you can roll that does not have security.”

As a big player in desktops, virtualisation and servers, I did wonder how much Dell could be taken seriously as a security player. Its major IT competitors such as HP and IBM have made similar acquisitions in the security space and seen the benefits, but for Dell it seems that this strategic move is part of a key move forwards.

I asked Dickson what he felt about the combination of Dell and security. He said that on the back of the SonicWall acquisition and with what has already been acquired, it gives Dell a broad offering from firewalls to applications to hardware to IAM solutions. “The offering is so broad, it is so exciting,” he said.

There is no doubt that the capabilities are there with security hardware, data protection, IAM and intelligence from SecureWorks' Counter Threat Unit, but some users may prefer the smaller scale of specialised security vendors without the ownership of an IT giant, while others will see the move into the security field by Dell as a major accreditation for the future of the industry.

I asked analyst Wendy Nather, research director of enterprise security practice at 451 Research, who was also in attendance at the conference, what she thought about the security side of Dell and how seriously it would be taken among the security market.

She said: “Just as with other large companies that started out in the hardware business, Dell has a challenge on its hands of stitching together its software and services acquisitions, and making them part of its overall brand.

“With an MSSP such as SecureWorks, Dell also has the opportunity to spread the security capabilities across all its business units. With its emphasis on operations, Dell could turn security from a product into an attribute: it could do everything securely, rather than just offering security as a by-product. If it can pull that off, it will get ahead of the competition.”

Next year could be when we see this IT giant fully step into the security market, until then, it is a case of waiting to see how well its software division is greeted into a busy market.