Dell makes PCaaS more flexible with new capabilities and AirWatch integration

Dell beefs up a PCaaS offering that existed long before its formal announcement in May, to provide more differentiation from their competitors in what is a tiny market today, but which they think is poised to grow significantly.

Dell formally announced the availability of their PC-as-a-Service [PCaaS] offering five months ago at Dell EMC World. Now they have enhanced it significantly. They have integrated VMware’s AirWatch with the Dell Client Command Suite to make firmware settings in deployed Dell PCs easily configurable through the cloud. They have also enhanced the support services available for PCaaS, adding new Service Delivery staff to serve as a single point of contact with the customer, new flexible financing options that go beyond straight leasing, and the addition of asset recovery to the available services.

“The unifying thread between the AirWatch integration and the increased support services is the enhanced standardization and automation that comes through these capabilities,” said John Moody, vice president, Client Solutions Services Product Group at Dell. “As you make PCaaS more flexible and predictable, part of that is the ability to configure modularized components as part of the PCaaS deployment process, which is where AirWatch comes in. We have also built out our standard support bundles so people can get a flavor for the level of support deployments and other software capabilities they can deploy.”

The idea here is to provide more differentiation for Dell’s flavour of PCaaS rather than competitor offerings by improving the capabilities of a service that had been in existence well before its formal announcement at Dell EMC World.

“The formal offer was announced in May, but we have actually been providing it for a long time,” Moody said. “We formalized the process and methodology because we were seeing enough momentum in the market that we decided it was time we needed to start talking in this PCaaS language. We wanted to get the visualization of the PCaaS lifecycle in peoples’ minds – from deployment to end-of-life. We wanted them to think about what they would do if they wanted to make a change or upgrade during the  lifecycle of the product.”

Moody acknowledged that this is still a futures play, but that it has a healthy ceiling, and that some partners are already making the move.

“PCaaS is in the very low single digits today, but the analysts say that in the next three years or so they expect it to expand to 15 to 30 per cent of the market, and that feels about right,” he said. “It will never take over everything. There are lots of reasons why customers wouldn’t lease, including loan covenants around capital requirements, and other cultural or legal attributes. The adopting customers do tend to be more complex and larger customers though.”

While much of the channel tends to take a wait-and-see approach on new business models before investing in them, Moody said that some partners have already made the plunge.

“We’ve had quite a few partners that we work with bundling PCaaS with our ProSupport services and some things they do themselves,” he said. “They are responding to an important need that’s already out there in the market.”

At this point in PCaaS’s growth curve, Moody said that the key issue is how you make it better and more flexible.

“What we are doing here with our automation of tools and enhancement of support and financing options is very flexible and differentiates us from HPE and Lenovo,” he said.

The AirWatch integration comes courtesy of Dell’s strategic decision to more closely integrate the technologies of its family of companies acquired with EMC into standard Dell and Dell EMC offerings.

The integration of AirWatch and the Dell Client Command Suite facilitates a zero-touch provisioning process by allowing firmware settings to be configured from the cloud – not just initially but over the product’s lifespan, in real time. In addition, new Windows 10 Provisioning by AirWatch simplifies the deployment of new Dell PCs for customers not even using PCaaS. It lessens help desk requests by providing several self-service options, including greater visibility into the status of the device as it’s configured, and the ability to download approved apps and reset passwords.

“With the Command Suite integration, we can now push firmware upgrades through AirWatch into the PC,” Moody said. “Before this integration, we could always load AirWatch in the factory, but we have now extended it to seamless upgrades in the field.”

Using either Windows 10 Provisioning by AirWatch or the AirWatch integrations with Dell Client Command Suite require a valid AirWatch license for the Dell client. AirWatch licenses through Dell start at $52 per device for a one-year subscription.

“This obviously is of more value to larger organizations, but even if you just have five clients, it’s a handy way to manage them,” Moody said.

The new support services include PCaaS Services Delivery Managers, individuals who provide a single point of contact for the customer from initial planning to the end of the lifecycle. The Flexible Financing options from Dell Financial Services allow for flexing the number of systems up or down and upgrading PCs mid-term by up to 5, 10 or 15 per cent if the customer’s requirements change.

“Leasing is straight terms,” Moody said. “These allow you to flex things up but also to flex them down, by 5, 10, or 15 per cent. The new mid-term upgrade capability lets you get new and cooler equipment, or a new version of software.”

Dell has added asset recovery into the standard PCaaS services offer, including an option for an on-site data wipe service for customers who want their PCs given to needy users.

“Most organizations have some kind of retirement capability and these tend to fall into three big buckets,” Moody said. “One is simply locking them up and storing them, preserving and safeguarding their data. One is appropriately recycling it. And the third is getting it in the hands of people who can keep using it, which is increasingly donating them to charity. Those values can now be built in ahead of time.”

Dell also has expanded the software options available for PCaaS customers. These options include Dell Endpoint Security Suite Enterprise for file-based data encryption and advanced threat prevention, VMware AirWatch for over-the-air unified endpoint management, and Absolute Data and Device Security for asset tracking and adaptive endpoint security.