Cloudy1Having spoken to CEO Rob Meinhardt a couple of times over the last few years it was great to catch up with Kace’s Steve Plume (VP Marketing), Lubos Parobek (VP Product) and Bob Kelly (founder of IT Ninja) a few weeks ago to discuss its progress. Founded in 2003 and acquired by Dell in 2010, Kace supplies systems management appliances to (largely) SMB customers.

It takes a mid-market design point, rather than designing systems for the largest, most complicated customers first and then cutting them down to size for smaller ones. It’s relevant to our developing ideas about the cultural and business drivers of virtualisation.

Kace prospers as part of Dell

Being part of a bigger company has allowed Kace to expand significantly, growing its undisclosed revenues five-fold and adding 2.6k customers in the last year to get to a total of 6k, which include Ricoh, Hyundai, the confectioner Mars, CBS, Panasonic, Southern Health NHS in the UK and a number in the education sector. It has also launched local language versions of its product in English, Portuguese, German, French, Chinese, Japanese and Spanish – with Italian coming later in 2012. It currently has around 400 employees, including 87% of its pre-acquisition staff.

It believes that the demand for systems management is increasing despite the weak economy and will be further driven by the evolution of Mobile Device Management (MDM) and the coming migration to Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system,

Its products currently cover deployment and management in separate Dell rack-mounted systems and provide features such as recovery, OS imaging, security and patching, discovery and inventory, software distribution and remote control. It provides PC and server life-cycle management though a simple Web interface and claims to be less expensive than software-only solutions.

In 2012 it has launched its IT Ninja Web site, designed as a leading social community for IT administrators and is working on improving device and platform visibility, hardware independent imaging and mobile device management.

ITNinja is interesting in providing contextual deployment tips from within the appliance and will rank information in line with user activity on the product.

An appliance approach shifts attention away from physical management issues

Automating systems management within an appliance is easier when designing for the mid-market perhaps, but there are clear advantages in being able to automate the many processes needed to deploy and run physical assets. As with all integrated approaches, users will give up some freedom of choice when choosing Kace over a software-only solution: however freeing up time on technology should help shift attention to addressing business objectives (or at least the applications needed to support them). All of the bells and whistles need to keep things running are issues for the producer (Kace) rather than consumer (customer): along with its new emphasis on building social CRM information into the product, it’s a clear example of a supplier addressing cultural and business virtualisation needs.

Kace takes a mid-market design point for its systems management appliances and has grown significantly having become part of Dell in 2010. It is adding targeted information to its products through extensive social CRM techniques. By simplifying the deployment and management processes for desktops and servers it frees up back office staff for front office activities. It’s a good example of a supplier addressing the cultural and physical needs of virtualisation.

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