When it comes to data—particularly the massive amounts of data flooding organizations on a daily basis—Dell has long served the hardware side of things with its servers and other IT infrastructure. Then the company announced plans to acquire Quest Software for $2.4 billion, and that paradigm changed in a big way. Dell is rapidly evolving from a hardware manufacturer into an all-inclusive IT vendor, one that aims to serve up a whole load of software for the enterprise along with its servers, storage and desktops. Quest software will eventually add to Dell’s portfolio in database management, Windows Server oversight, and other areas vital to the orderly digestion of massive datasets. “Solutions for everything from database management and protection to data back-up,” is how Pund-IT principal analyst Charles King described Quest’s offerings in a recent research note, “replication and recovery to system and application performance management to simplified compliance and security to workspace management to application delivery for any device.” Dell has been adding to its own toolset with other, smaller acquisitions, including security technology from SonicWALL and Secureworks. It already owns a cluster of application-management software programs as a result of other buyouts. “Dell gains a more competitive position in systems management, security, performance monitoring, data protection, workspace management, and database management,” Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu wrote in a July 3 research note about the acquisition. At the same time, Wu added, Dell finds itself squeezed between hardware players hungry for a piece of its PC business. Add that to a growing competitive front among enterprise IT vendors, and things could get a little exciting for Dell over the next few quarters, to put it mildly. Nonetheless, providing infrastructure for handling data—whether on the hardware or software side—remains a vital area for IT vendors. Hewlett-Packard, Cisco, and IBM are all offering a variety of products and services designed to make organizations’ data centers more powerful and efficient. The Quest acquisition could help Dell compete in that race for a converged and unified data center.   Image: Oleksiy Mark/Shutterstock.com