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Dell touts free software for switches

Aware that everyone loves a free lunch, the computing giant is offering management software for its PowerConnect switch line--at no charge.

Dell has begun giving away software to help companies control and maintain computer networks that use its PowerConnect switches.

Dell's new OpenManage Network Manager software is designed to enable corporate IT staffs to monitor and change settings on large groups of Dell PowerConnect switches from a remote console. The software, according to Dell, is ideal for companies that use more than 10 of the switches. Switches help control data traffic on a network.

The Round Rock, Texas-based company is giving away the software in an effort to sway customers to its line of switches. Dell hopes that customers will keep the no-cost software in mind when comparing its switches with those from competitors such as Cisco Systems.

The no-charge software idea takes a page from Dell's PC playbook. The company uses free upgrades to help market its PCs to businesses and consumers. Dell typically includes at least one freebie, such as an upgrade to a larger hard drive or no-charge shipping, with each PCs sold.

"Since entering the networking market, we have continued to drive down the total cost of ownership for customers, first by including services like next-business-day replacement and lifetime technical support, and now by integrating powerful network management tools with our managed switches--all at no additional charge," Sam Burd, director for Dell's networking business, said in a statement.

The Dell OpenManage Network Manager software will allow IT staff to update software or change configurations on several switches at the same time, a move that saves time and ultimately helps customers lower their IT costs, Dell said.

The software, which can also monitor network performance, diagnose problems and schedule data backup, is now available to U.S. customers via Dell's Web site, the company said.

Cisco representatives were not immediately available for comment.