Dell, Microsoft Join To Speed Server Software Upgrades

Dell and Microsoft have struck a partnership aimed at making it easier and faster for enterprises to update their server software with security patches and new releases.

The companies said they will work to merge Dell’s OpenManage 4 systems management software and Microsoft’s Systems Management Server 2003 to produce a tool that enables administrators to manage both hardware and software from a single interface.

The result will be massive savings for companies in the information technology area by reducing the complexity of managing even vast networks, Dell and Microsoft said in announcing the partnership at a Paris, France, technology show.

Dell CEO Kevin Rollins said the problem of integrating new software or hardware into existing networks is one of the “biggest pain points” that customers complain about, and that the company has long strived to reduce the number of system management applications that focus only on hardware.

“Enterprise customers want comprehensive solutions that span management of both hardware and software, and reduce complexity and cost,” Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said in a press release.

A free downloadable version of the first merged product — called the SMS 2003 Inventory Tool for Dell Updates — will be available for download early next year. Additional development work is under way, with work being done to be compatible with emerging standards for Web services, including the Systems Management Architecture for Server Hardware, or SMASH, specification.

One Click

The combined product will give administrators a one-page view of all Dell PowerEdge servers on a network and sort them by what updates are required. It can also give a quick view of what version of system software sits on any given server and be used to schedule updates of hardware or software.

In announcing the product, Rollins said his company had used it to dramatically reduce the amount of IT staff hours it took to update thousands of its own servers.

The companies are targeting what Gartner analyst Martin Reynolds called the “holy grail” of technology.

“The industry spent years building more and more complex products, and now companies realize their networks have taken on a life of their own,” he said. “Truly simplifying how networks are managed is something every enterprise would want.”

Doing so, however, will require Microsoft to forge similar partnerships with other hardware vendors as well, he added.

Hitch Your Wagon

Microsoft said the pact with Dell was not exclusive and that in fact, it would work with other vendors, but Dell makes a good starting point because of its large and growing share of the market.

Dell recently posted strong earnings and said its server sales were growing and is now said to be mulling whether to roll out a line of servers loaded with chips made by AMD. Dell is one of the last remaining major computer makers that continues to offer only Intel servers.

Reynolds said Dell’s weighing of the AMD move could unlock even more market share for the company. This week, Dell is also rolling out a new line of blade servers with a lower price tag.

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