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Summary:

After a $15.7 billion fourth quarter that put Dell over the $60 billion revenue mark for the year, Michael Dell got to talking once again about his company’s acquisition strategy, suggesting that more software purchases are indeed on the way.

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After a $15.7 billion fourth quarter that put Dell over the $60 billion revenue mark for the year, CEO Michael Dell got to talking once again about his company’s acquisition strategy, suggesting more software purchases are indeed on the way. According to a ZDNet post recapping Dell’s post-earnings conference call, Dell said the company is targeting smaller acquisitions (read “not AMD”) and those that can add value to servers and storage gear, particularly in package-type deals. This statement, combined with recent industry happenings, reaffirms my belief that Dell will target companies similar to those I suggested last month.

Just to be clear, here is Michael Dell’s quote in its entirety:

I think you’re already seeing us in systems management and some of the software around supporting the systems infrastructure. We’re looking at how we can expand that platform into new customer categories and new capability. And we’re finding a great ability to combine more and more offers together.

If you’ll recall, I suggested that Dell look at five companies — Appistry, Aster Data Systems, DynamicOps, Joyent and Univa — that can help it add value to server sales either as standalone products or as packages targeting specific industries or workloads.

Of those, Aster Data looks like an even more-promising option, not only because Dell already resells it as part of a prepackaged analytics offering, but also because HP just got its data warehouse act together by purchasing Vertica. Addressing big data requires, at the least, having a product that can provide advanced analytics against huge amounts of data. IBM, HP and Dell-partner-turned-enemy EMC all purchased massively parallel data warehouse vendors recently, and Oracle is selling its own mega analytics appliances built atop its new Sun-acquired hardware. If Dell wants to play with the enterprise big boys going forward, it simply has to stake a presence in the big data market, and Aster Data is both small enough and capable enough to do the job. For more on Aster and Dell, come see Mayank Bawa, CCO and Co-founder of Aster Data, talk at our Big Data event in New York on March 23.

As I explained last month, though, the other four companies also would meet Dell’s stated goals of buying small companies to expand its burgeoning systems management business into new areas. All of them, as well as Aster Data, should look even more appealing after considering how servers and enterprise sales were Dell’s fastest-growing revenue bases year over year. All my prospective Dell buys exist for the sole purpose of helping enterprises manage large numbers of both physical and virtual servers, and have proven themselves in use cases ranging from large-scale web applications to high-performance computing, in industries ranging from online gaming to intelligence to financial services.

Dell is in an interesting place right now, as it attempts to strengthen its cloud computing story, while at the same time becoming a more popular choice among large enterprises. It can’t afford too many more large acquisitions like Compellent, nor should it try to totally realign its business model by purchasing AMD, but there are some good targets out there that can help Dell kill two birds with one stone. Dell appears to get this by expressly mentioning software targets that add value to its core server business, so we’ll see how it advances on this mission.

Image courtesy of Flickr user DRB62.

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  1. [...] Who might come courting, though, is anybody’s guess. I got the impression from a recent conversation with a Dell VP that his company isn’t planning a move into the big data space, which, if true, could end up being a big mistake. But that’s Dell’s prerogative. Current ParAccel technology partner NetApp would make sense, though, especially after it just bought Engenio and gave itself a high-performance hardware business that might make a nice foundation for a ParAccel analytic appliance. But my crystal ball is a bit murky these days: I had Dell buying Aster Data Systems. [...]

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