Dell Aims to Ease SMB Asset Management, License Compliance

Dell believes that managing hardware assets and software license compliance is a significant pain point in small business IT, and on Thursday it launched a new appliance, the Dell Kace M300 Asset Management Appliance, intended to soothe that pain.

“What really sets the M300 apart from anything on the market today is its simplicity — both in terms of ease of use and deployment,” said Rob Meinhardt, general manager of Dell Kace (NASDAQ:DELL).

“This new appliance is a true plug-and-play solution that virtually eliminates the repetitive and time-consuming tasks of software and hardware inventory management. The ability to be up and running in less than five minutes — even for a novice IT professional — is just the beginning,” Meinhardt said. “An intuitive user interface allows IT administrators to streamline IT procedures with just a few points and clicks of a mouse. In this way, the M300 offers a complete systems management solution right out of the box setting a new standard in convenience.”

Dell Kace, formerly Kace Networks, was acquired by Dell in February 2010. It is best known for its K-series of appliances for systems management and managing software deployment at mid-sized businesses and enterprises with hundreds to thousands of PCs and servers.

While Marty Kacin, Kace cofounder and vice president of software engineering for Dell Kace, says that business has quadrupled under the Dell umbrella, the M300 is a sign that Dell sees huge potential in the small business market. In fact, the Dell Kace product group has found its home in the Consumer and SMB (CSMB) division at Dell.

“Getting IT costs under control is one of the biggest challenges facing small and medium businesses,” Kacin said. “Dell Kace sees an incredible opportunity in the often overlooked and underserviced SMB market. That’s why we’re launching the Dell Kace M300 Asset Management Appliance.” Kacin added that this will be the first time that companies with up to 200 employees will have a simple, cost-effective way to manage routine IT chores such as hardware and software inventory, software license compliance and asset tracking and management.

Dell Kace designed the M300 specifically for small businesses, and Kacin said that, for about the price of a laptop computer, IT administrators can now see the state of their computers, servers and peripheral equipment.

The appliance supports up to 200 devices or nodes. Kacin noted that future products in the line might include M-series units dedicated to providing help-desk or security functions to small business. Each function will likely be represented by a discrete M-series unit, allowing small business IT managers to select exactly the functionality they need without paying for functionality they don’t need.

The M300 is a box about the size of a router that boasts 16GB of solid-state drive storage, a gigabit Ethernet port, two USB ports and an ARM processor. It runs cool, only drawing about 15 watts, so it doesn’t require a fan making it quiet enough to sit unobtrusively on your desk.

The appliance runs on Linux, but currently only supports Windows, Kacin said. It has the capability to support Mac environments, but Kacin noted that Dell is currently deciding whether to offer Mac support through the M300 or as a separate M301 offering.

M300 Asset Management Appliance Features

  • Device discovery and inventory for real-time assessment of hardware and software on all devices connected to the network

  • Compliance assessment that gives small business IT administrators the ability to manage multiple software titles with various licensing structures and reconcile software installations with license ownership

  • Patch inventory that tracks installed security updates and Windows service packs on computers connected to the network

  • Dell warranty integration that automatically retrieves warranty information for managed Dell computers and alerts administrators of pending expirations

  • Alerts and notifications of PC inventory and software license compliance issues and the automatic creation of a “to-do” list for achieving compliance

  • Dashboards that display network activity including recent changes and outstanding tasks

  • Plug-and-play deployment that allows the appliance to immediately begin providing hardware and software inventories

  • A Web-based user interface accessible from any desktop, laptop or mobile device

“With the M300, even an overloaded IT generalist can be up and running in less than five minutes, and that’s just the beginning,” Kacin said. “An intuitive user interface allows IT administrators to streamline IT procedures with just a few points and clicks of a mouse.”

The appliance is available for $2,498.

Thor Olavsrud is a contributor to and a former senior editor at He covers operating systems, standards and security, among other technologies.

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