Dell divests software business to free up funds for EMC deal

It has been less than three months since Dell sold off its services arm. Now its software business is being offloaded. We look at the implications

Dell has announced the sale of its software business to private equity firm Francisco Partners, in a deal estimated to be worth $2bn, according to reports.

The move follows Dell’s $3bn sale of its services arm to NTT, announced in March.

The company’s software division includes products for advanced analytics, database management, data protection, endpoint systems management, identity and access management, Microsoft platform management, network security and performance monitoring.

The brands being sold include Toad and Statistica business intelligence and analytics tools; SonicWall and SecureWorks networks, endpoint security and intrusion detection products; the Quest and Kace suite of tools for Oracle, SAP, Windows, Exchange, SharePoint and Active Directory management.

The deal does not appear to include Wyse, which is a separate division specialising in desktop virtualisation and thin client computing.

“We are proud to have built a robust portfolio of software solutions that help make the lives of customers easier,” said Dell Software president John Swainson (pictured). “Whether they are managing applications and data, securing their networks, protecting critical information or deriving key insights from data, customers across the globe have come to rely on Dell Software for top-flight products, service and support.

“We look forward to continuing that focus as part of the Francisco Partners and Elliott Management portfolio of companies.”

According to industry watchers, Dell’s software division has struggled for a number of years.

Gartner’s Vendor Rating: Dell report stated that the IT supplier’s software business has underperformed the overall software market for the past three years. According to Gartner, this has been a result of the challenges of integrating a diverse portfolio of software products.

The report gave Dell Software a “Caution” rating.

Read more about Dell/EMC

Writing for Computer Weekly last year, Quocirca analyst Clive Longbottom highlighted the significant areas in Dell’s product portfolio, such as its security business through acquisition of SonicWALL and SecureWorks, and the systems management capabilities based on the purchase of Kace for end-points. “Dell has also made a play for the professional services space with its acquisition of Perot Systems,” Longbottom wrote.

Moving out of software is risky, especially given that security and mobile management have been the core pillars of Dell’s go to market strategy. And it no longer has a services arm.

However, Dell has spent $67bn to acquire EMC, which means it now has VMware, which runs as a separate business.

In terms of sheer size, Dell Software is dwarfed by VMware. In a transcript of VMware’s April earnings call, posted on the Seeking Alpha financial blogging site, the company said it expected total revenue for 2016 of between $6.785bn and $6.935bn and licence revenue between $2.66bn and $2.76bn.

Its CEO, Pat Gelsinger, had this to say about how the Dell/EMC acquisition has benefited the company: “This quarter, EMC and Dell both announced new distribution options for our hyper-converged software offering. In February, EMC launched the new hyper-converged VCE VxRail appliance family which features VMware hyper-converged software. Early in April, Dell announced that it will be reselling the VxRail appliance family in addition to Virtual SAN ready nodes based on Dell PowerEdge servers.”

Boomi, Dell’s cloud integration tool, is not prt of the sale. 

Boomi said its cloud integration products align with Dell's strategic vision to "create the industry’s most relevant enterprise technology company and deliver the most appropriate offerings for customers."

Dell looks like it is now offloading its mobile, security and management tools in favour of VMware’s vSphere virtualisation software, mobile device management (AirWatch) and the portfolio of VMware tools for software-defined infrastructure.

Hedging its bets

In the security space, although there is not much of an overlap between EMC’s RSA business and Dell Software’s security products, the company appears to be hedging its bets and focusing its efforts on the RSA products and services for security operations, identity management and governance.

There do not appear to be similar products lines to EMC in the business intelligence and analytics space, such as Statistica, a Dell Software product that provides analytics applications across several industry sectors, including finance, healthcare, manufacturing, pharmaceutical and oil and gas. Its users include Danske Bank, which has used Statistica credit scoring tools since 2012 for risk modelling and reporting, and risk scoring.

Migrating from products such as Statistica is not a decision most CIOs would take lightly. For the time being, customers will need to wait and see how Francisco Partners takes Dell Software forward.

In announcing its acquisition of Dell Software, Francisco Partners’ chief investment officer, David Golob, said: “We have a long and successful track record executing divisional carve-out transactions and we look forward to working with the management teams at these businesses to create additional value for the company, its customers and its partners as an independent entity.”

The better-known organisations it is currently investing in include Kewill, Webtrends and Watchguard. It has also invested in Attachmate, the legacy integration specialist, which was sold to rival Micro Focus for $1.2bn in 2014.

Next Steps

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