Interview: Dell software chief talks transformation

By , IDG News Service |  Software

A: That's what makes it so attractive for us. I sometimes described [Dell's software business] as not really a company, it was more like a VC company masquerading as a business. You had all these acquired businesses sitting there more or less unconsolidated. They had consolidated their IT systems and things like that, but the development teams and the product teams were still sort of sitting there in virginal form, and that provided us with an enormous base to build on. They had a data protection business and we put that together with ours and now we have a $200 million data protection business. They had a relatively small endpoint management business, we had quite a big one and we put those together and now we have a $150 million endpoint management business.

Q: Having that many products is a blessing and a curse. Have you done much paring back? You have a few different data protection products, a few virtualization platforms.

A: We had four data protection products, several virtualization, a bunch of performance management. The first time we did the count we decided we had something like 200 products in Quest alone, and after we went through in gruesome detail and eliminated the obvious overlaps. We've got about 40 or 50 products.

Q: That's a big paring back.

A: A lot of this was features that were masquerading as products. So things that should never have been products, like utilities, we'd merge back into the performance management product and have a suite instead of trying to sell it separately. Some of it was straight overlap. In storage management, we really did have four data protection products, so now we're going through the technical process of taking the best of each product and putting it together, on a common framework. That's the long hard way to do it but sometimes it's worth it because there's a $200 million revenue stream and it's worth protecting.

Q: Which one wins, the one with the most customers?

A: The one that's the best architected and the most flexible and modern and that has the most features usually wins, because it's the one you can take back to that customer set and make it the upgrade. And you can usually modify it enough so that the upgrade is seamless.

Q: So then you end-of-life those products?

A: Only maybe five of them have been literally end-of-lifed. You converge them, you sell them as packages. They're not discrete products any more, that's the big difference. The reason you don't want to [end of life them] is because in the software industry, all the profitability comes from the tail. You're better off putting it on maintenance. Even though it'll attrition away over time, it'll still be profitable. Exhibit A on this are people like Oracle.

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