Dell's SecureWorks Acquisition Plans Fit into Cloud Strategy

Dell's play for SecureWorks fits into the company's plans for the cloud, analysts say.

Dell's deal to acquire SecureWorks is another step on the company's cloud road map as it looks to compete with Hewlett-Packard and IBM, analysts say.

According to Peter Altabef, president of Dell Services, the purchase of SecureWorks complements a growing emphasis on expanding Dell's cloud capabilities. The buy, being made for an undisclosed sum, follows two cloud-related acquisitions by Dell: InSite One, which specializes in cloud-based image archiving for the health care industry, and Boomi, purchased for its software-as-a-service application integration platform.

"What you are seeing in each of these acquisitions is us [focusing] on particular areas where we believe the market is underserved, and as we bring these capabilities into Dell we'll be able to grow them very expansively," Altabef said. "We think not only is the cloud a growth market, but these kind of capabilities-whether it's application integration, whether it's the huge growth in images that you're seeing that will be stored on the cloud or here in terms of ... cloud-based security solutions-we think these are all the future."

Given that both Hewlett-Packard and IBM are touting security for the cloud, it only makes sense that Dell would want to do the same, opined Wendy Nather, an analyst with The 451 Group.

"I think Dell sees this as their way of greasing the skids for cloud adoption; a lot of enterprises are still skittish and they won't feel better until they trust the security management. ... From that perspective, SecureWorks was a solid buy with some global experience and proprietary technology that can be adapted," she said.

Boomi gives customers a way to integrate data and resources across disparate cloud services, noted Scott Crawford, research director at Enterprise Management Associates. Security clearly needs to be a significant aspect of that, he said.

"Although there is something of a continuum between MSSPs [managed security service providers] and hosted security technology vendors, today SecureWorks is known primarily as an MSSP-but that doesn't necessarily mean I would count SecureWorks out of Dell's cloud strategy," he said. "For the moment, I would read into this aspect of the SecureWorks deal a way to give Dell a resource of expertise resource for shaping strategy around broadening its secure cloud-based services integration strategy, with a view toward expanding the range of security services to be integrated into its cloud strategy down the road."

When HP acquired Electronic Data Systems (EDS), some analysts predicted the buy would give it an edge over Dell in the area of managed services. In 2006, IBM bought its way deeper into the space by acquiring Internet Security Systems (ISS).

"Obviously, SecureWorks will not go toe-to-toe across the board with IBM Global Technology Services or the former EDS under HP," Crawford said. "But with a recognized name in managed security services, Dell hopes to use SecureWorks as an edge, particularly where security is a primary concern-and definitely among SMBs, where a Dell-SecureWorks relationship has already been in play for some months now."

Forrester Research analyst Jonathan Penn called the SecureWorks acquisition "a good entry point into managed security services for Dell, and a good complement to the security consulting services Dell acquired with Perot."

"At the same time, companies are looking for more from their MSSP than security operations support, and so I expect Dell to integrate security consulting with the managed security services of SecureWorks," he said.

The deal is expected to close in approximately 40 days.