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Dell does SaaS with MessageOne

Dell's acquisition of MessageOne could be more than just a tactical email SaaS play.

Sun's not the only vendor busily acquiring this morning.

Dell has signed a definitive agreement to acquire MessageOne, Inc., an industry leader in Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) enabled enterprise-class e-mail business continuity, compliance, archiving and disaster recovery services. The acquisition, for approximately $155 million in cash, has been approved by the board of directors of each company and is subject to regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions.

One angle here is that Dell is a very changed company. They're no longer just about selling the cheapest boxes. They've expanded their processor portfolio, they've dipped a toe into retail, they've unveiled a more-than-decent new blade lineup, and they acquired iSCSI storage vendor EqualLogic. Now they're apparently expanding into the email continuity and archiving business. The Dell of today is a much changed company from the one of a couple of years back.

However, the acquisition also offers a window into what could potentially be a much bigger story for system vendors.

If we posit that "Cloud Computing" is the next big thing. That software services will be delivered over the network rather than from an on-site datacenter. That software vendors and service providers, rather than end-users, will increasingly consume server hardware. Such a state has huge implications for IT vendors. In the extreme, perhaps the largest providers of such services (can you say Google?) will even effectively become the systems companies in this new landscape.

However, even if we don't posit anything so extreme--at least for any reasonable planning horizon--it's still reasonable to ask a question: "Shouldn't system vendors be looking at ways to themselves deliver the software and services that users need over the network?" The alternative, it seems, is to cede considerable control to service providers who are as likely to build their own white boxes as to pay a premium for any Tier One vendor's gear.

Perhaps Dell is starting to think along those lines. Which would be a smart move on their part.