When asked about IT challenges, a conditioned response for vendor organizations is to think in terms of product sets — networking gear, storage portfolios, servers or software packages. When living through these same challenges, user organizations tend to think about desired outcomes — faster, more reliable communications, storage economy, better utilization of data centre space, power and compute resources, and simpler, more effective collaboration within and out the company walls. And don’t forget mobile, because half the employees now work out of the office… But what serves as the bridge between these two world views, and how can users identify the right technology to meet their goals? Traditionally, many companies trusted the best-of-breed advice of their trusted advisors, who then engaged in complex integration exercises. Another approach is to look at solutions that pre-integrate the pieces needed to resolve current or potential problems. Case in point is IT security. Companies rarely say ‘I need more security to create business value’ — at least after the latest security breach has faded from the headline spot — rather security is viewed as an integral component of IT service delivery.
As part of its transformation from a product to a services oriented organization, Dell has begun to incorporate the latter kind of thinking. Over the past year or so, the company’s software division has ramped up the creation of a range of horizontal solutions that aim at addressing common customer issues, including cloud and data centre management; mobile workforce management and BYOD; Big Data and information management; and risk and compliance. Instead of bundling a set of like technologies, in this work, the software group has adopted a customer centric approach to the integration of Dell’s vast array of hardware/software and services offerings and its spate of acquired technologies: as software president John Swainson noted at Dell World in December, a key goal for the team has been to "put acquisitions together in a way that make sense to the customer." And behind this, Greg Davoll, senior director, solution marketing, Dell Software, explained, has been the alignment of 300 or so products in Dell’s portfolio to map company capabilities to new solution areas.
Security and data protection capabilities, which fall under Dell’s risk and compliance category, offer a good example of this kind of alignment. In broad terms, Dell’s security portfolio consists of: SonicWall, a combination of firewalls, remote VPN and anti-spam for email deliver network security; SecureWorks, managed security for information protection encompassing threat management, incident response, firewall management and compliance; and Quest-based authentication, identity and access management technologies. But the company has been at work on integration of many of these products to enhance their capability and to increase their usefulness. At Dell World, for example, the company announced a number of changes to its Connected Security portfolio, first introduced in the fall of 2013:
the combination of Dell SonicWALL’s network security, secure mobile access, and email security solutions to collect and contribute additional threat information to the SonicWALL Global Response Intelligent Defense (GRID) Network;
integration of Enterprise Single Sign-on with Dell’s Mobile Clinical Computing solution to provide secure single sign-on systems access for workers in healthcare environments;
integration of Defender and SonicWALL’s Secure Remote Access to simplify deployment of two-factor authentication within Secure Sockets Layer virtual private networks (SSL VPN);
integration of the KACE K1000 Systems Management Appliance with Dell Authentication Services technology to enable a single Credantial and password Active Directory login for KACE end users and administrators;
integration of Dell InTrust 10.7 with SecureWorks to provide intelligent data feeds capturing information on user activity on Windows systems to more efficiently detect internal threats;
connection of Privileged Password Manager and Privileged Access Suite for Unix with the new InTrust to allow correlation of a user’s privileged activity with their general activity to better monitor what users are doing with system access; and
integration of Defender and Dell Cloud to provide two-factor authentication for administrators managing Dell cloud instances.
Summarizing the operation of Connected Security, Davoll advised: "Think, for example, about connecting encryption on mobile devices, and making sure the firewall knows that with anybody that connects in, that the policy is to have encryption. What we have done is build a shared policy so that SonicWall’s firewall knows about our Credant encryption technology on laptops. You can now set up the firewall and specify that any endpoints that connect to the network have to have Credant on them. If you see any packets going in or out of the network that don’t have Credant on them, you can stop them, quarantine them — isolate them until IT security can check it out."And the same kind of "awareness," he added, has been built into the integration of SonicWall firewalls and Quest identity and access management. While in the past these products were complementary, as Davoll explained, Dell has engineered integration "in useful ways" — through policy-based integration, which "is generally how companies operate."
But beyond integration of security-specific components, part of the Connected Security story involves taking security to the next step in integration — to the application of a cross section of security products in other solution areas. In cloud, for example, Dell has completed proof of concept on the integration of Dell Data Protection and Encryption - Cloud Edition with SonicWall firewalls so that data which users share on cloud services such as DropBox are encrypted. According to Frank Molsberry, lead security architect, Dell End User computing group, this integration means "we can enforce on any endpoint, whether it comes in through a VPN client or directly into the network, that Data Protection Encryption - Cloud Edition is actually installed on that box." This means, Molsberry added, that endpoints have the software needed to protect data that’s going to the cloud, and that there is an easy way to protect data that will be shared in the cloud with company or third party users."
In enterprise mobility management, the Dell software group has gone through a similar exercise. In a new BYOD solution (available in Canada in Q1 2014) for the delivery of mobile device, application and content management capabilities, Dell has secured the endpoints through integration of a SonicWALL Secure Remote Access gateway, enabled IT to establish security and compliance policies for virtually all mobile device OS through Wyse security (for the thin client) and KACE appliance endpoint management, and applied encryption and protection technology from recently acquired Credant to secure data from the device to the cloud. With this lifecycle approach, Dell secures information as it crosses devices, networks and moves into the cloud. Sound like a simple way to address mobility risk associated with cloud access to corporate data? It’s meant to — it’s a solution.