With investors no longer breathing down its neck for growth in its hardware business, Dell is continuing to invest in its $2.5 billion software business with enhancements to its KACE K1000 Systems Management Appliance.
Billed as a major upgrade, version 6.3 of the K1000 features what the vendor claimed is industry-first support for Chromebooks (right), as well as agentless inventory of Windows servers and PCs along with basic log monitoring for servers.
Chromebooks are the little-noticed growth story of the PC industry, with International Data Corp. estimating that 6 million were sold last year and Gartner, Inc. expecting that number to reach 14.4 million in 2017. Google provides a management console for users of multiple devices, but it supports neither lifecycle management nor integration with other reporting tools, according to Bill Odell, vice president of marketing for Dell Endpoint Systems Management. “It’s more of an initial setup and change tool,” he said.
Dell licensed application program interfaces from the Google Cloud to give the KACE K1000 the ability to track hardware inventory, manage operating system versions and integrate Chromebooks into a help desk ticketing system. However, KACE can’t install software remotely because of restrictions imposed by Google.
The addition of agentless technology positions Dell to make a play for the growing Internet of Things (IoT), as well as the server market as it moves KACE up the enterprise stack. Using technology Dell picked up with the 2012 acquisition of Quest Software, the K1000 can now peer inside devices to gather information about installed software and the operating system without installing code. It can also gather simple network management protocol information from devices like cameras and printers. Agents are still required for remote patching and configuration changes.
The technology enables KACE to generate a more comprehensive map of devices on the network than previous versions did. It also pulls server information into its orbit for the first time. Administrators can use the console to monitor system logs, create reports and generate help desk tickets without installing code on the target device, a practice many IT managers frown upon. However, the server monitoring functionality is being positioned only as “an introductory solution” and not a comprehensive systems management solution.
Other enhancements in version 6.3 include service desk improvements, greater integration with Dell Enterprise Mobility Management via single sign-on and software asset management extensions for supporting more license types. The appliance, which has a claimed capacity of up to 20,000 PCs and servers, starts at $8,900 for the first 100 managed endpoints, with additional devices priced at $31 each. Cloud licenses start at $6.50 per system per month. Server pricing carries a $2,000 flat fee for up to 200 servers.