Called Secure Exchange, the package, put together through a partnership with Symantec Corp., addresses most of the technical functions needed by midsized companies trying to manage unwieldy email systems. But it doesn't provide a unique benefit in price, packaging or technology, according to analysts considering the offering.
The package includes Dell PowerEdge servers, PowerVault tape or storage servers, and Dell/EMC storage arrays. In addition to the hardware, Dell bundles Windows Server 2003, Microsoft Exchange 2003 and Symantec's antivirus, security and email archiving software.
"Most organizations are looking to reduce the complexity of their email systems while looking to maximize uptime and create a secure mail environment," said Matt Cain, a vice president at Gartner Inc., a Stamford, Conn., consulting firm. "There is no question that the market is ready for these packages, with a reference model and standard configuration that is tried and tested, particularly for the midmarket."
Products included in the package were tested by Dell, which includes a sizing and configuration guide called Exchange Advisor to help customers map out requirements.
Customers can buy one piece at a time or the whole package in a variety of configurations, ranging from comparatively simple setups for 500 users to heavier-duty systems designed for more than 2,000 users. Options include the higher-end EMC storage arrays Dell resells, as well as Symantec's Mail Security 8200 Series, Symantec Mail Security for Microsoft Exchange, Symantec Enterprise Vault and Backup Exec.
Dell will sell the packages directly. It will include a professional services component to help get the systems up and running.
The 500-seat configuration that Dell used as an example included software licenses and services, Dell PowerEdge 1950s, PowerVault 110T tape storage units, Windows Server 2003, Microsoft Exchange 2003 and Symantec's Backup Exec for $54,678.
The presence of integration services and the effort to sell turnkey systems indicates Dell's continued interest in expanding beyond the role of box-seller, as well as Symantec's drawing power as a security vendor Dell execs believe would reflect well on their own products, Cain said.
Some take the one-step-at-a-time approach
One IT executive said he believed the price sounded okay but the architecture and bundle seemed like a better idea for a company with a small IT crew that may not specialize in Exchange or may not have time to do a lot of product testing.
Jon Hurd, a network analyst at the City of Redmond in Redmond, Wash., said he prefers to buy the main server and add the other services over time. "I don't think we've ever bought a packaged product," Hurd said. "When you do, you get what you get. You may find some of the [features] are not exactly what you like."
Neither the products themselves nor Dell's packaging is particularly innovative, according to Janet Waxman, an analyst at IDC, the Framingham, Mass., market research firm.
"Symantec could run on Dell anyway; so for Symantec it's just one more way of getting their product out there," Waxman said. "There's nothing exclusive about it; there's nothing to stop HP from doing the same thing with its own hardware. And on Dell's side, Dell sales are suffering. So potentially, they're making some of their agreements to boost their sales."
Symantec's ongoing alliance with Juniper Networks Inc., which supplies the hardware for a secure-networking package featuring Symantec threat-management and intrusion-protection software, is more important to Symantec than the Dell deal, Waxman said.
"This was more about getting some good press for Dell to sell some more of their product," Waxman said of today's announcement. "It's not a big deal."
Margie Semilof, news director for SearchWinIT.com, contributed to this story.