Former IBM and CA Exec John Swainson Will Lead Dell’s New Software Group

Dell today named IBM veteran John Swainson president of its new software group.

Swainson, who led IBM's huge software business until 2005 and was CEO of CA Technologies from 2005 to 2009, will report directly to Dell CEO Michael Dell starting March 5. Dell, which primarily is a hardware company that sells PCs, servers and storage gear, has recently looked to expand its enterprise portfolio into such areas as networking, services and cloud computing.

A major player in the datacenter, Dell, with its foray into software, joins rival Hewlett-Packard Co. in trying to take on Oracle and ironically IBM, where Swainson spent 26 years ultimately running Big Blue's software business. Swainson helped IBM launch its Application and Middleware division, which developed and brought to market key products such as WebSphere and helped kick off the Eclipse open source development tools effort.

"The addition of software, both within the Software Group and across all of Dell, will help catalyze our transformation," CEO Dell said in a statement. "As software will be a part of all of our products and services, the group's success will be largely be [sic] measured by the success of Dell overall. I look forward to working with John as he expands our enterprise solutions and builds on our software capabilities." 

Swainson took the helm of CA following a period of tumult for the company, which included an accounting scandal and a poor credit rating. Swainson is credited with helping stabilize the company, where revenues and profits increased under his watch.

It remains to be seen whether Swainson will engineer any major acquisitions but a spokesman said in an e-mail that the company's sweet spot for deals are those in the $500 million to $2 billion range. It is a reasonable bet that Dell will look to leverage its software bets with its $1 billion planned investment in cloud computing, announced last year. The company entered the area of software integration with its acquisition last year of Boomi.

The new software group will add "solutions capability, will standardize common tools and [build a] framework for software development across Dell," including its KACE systems management platform, Dell Boomi and its Scalent virtualization offering, the spokesman noted. However the software tied closely to hardware such as KACE and Boomi will remain part of those product organizations, not the new software group, the spokesman added.

Dell is looking to build a new software business just as HP is looking to do the same. HP last year spent $10.3 billion to acquire Autonomy and also bought data warehouse vendor Vertica in a push to offer analytics and enterprise data management. It was not immediately clear whether Dell plans to go down that path. Dell is not commenting further on the software group's goals or organizational makeup, other than to say it is looking to grow in areas it has existing expertise.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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