Dell KACE K1000 Takes the Lead on Chromebook Management

Dell has announced an upgrade to its KACE K1000 Systems Management Appliance, making it the first systems management vendor to address the rapidly growing Chromebook market. The KACE K1000 system, which is available as a physical or virtual appliance and as a cloud-hosted service, provides system management services for servers, PCs, and now Chromebooks. It also provides management tools for printers, network-attached projectors, and other non-computing devices. Along with agentless management of Windows systems, the version 6.3 software enables the Dell KACE K1000 to extend its hardware inventory, reporting, and service desk functions to cover all current Chromebooks and Chromebox desktop systems.

With worldwide sales estimates for Chromebooks set at about four million units for 2014, the Chromebook market is tiny compared to that of the PC. Most Chromebook sales are in the education market, where the adoption rate has skyrocketed. Just as iPad sales overtook PC (and Mac) sales in schools in 2012, so Chromebook adoption within the US education market has grown from less than 1% of all devices shipped in 2012 to overtaking iPad sales. According to market research firm IDC, as reported by the Financial Times, Google shipped 715,500 Chromebooks to US schools in Q3 2014, compared to iPad sales to K–12 education of 702,000. With Chromebook sales split between multiple competing vendors and Apple competing in both tablets and PC sales, Apple retains the number-one slot in both sales revenue and sales volume. However, if current trends continue, it may well lose its leadership position this year, even as its profits continue to rise.

The driving forces behind this change are an increasing move toward having one device per student as an integrated part of the education curriculum and a greater emphasis on the need for an integrated keyboard in middle and high schools as education departments increasingly adopt online testing for state-administered exams. As Chromebooks in education proliferate, education IT professionals, balancing budget restrictions and resource constraints against a rapidly growing IT portfolio, are prioritizing effective Chromebook management tools. Responding to this demand, Dell is the first systems management vendor to integrate support for Chromebooks with its management platform.

Dell foresees a future in which the rapid growth in Chromebook adoption in education carries over into the enterprise, and it sees an effective management service as essential to widespread Chromebook adoption. Gartner and IDC estimate worldwide shipments of between five and six million units for 2014, more than double the 2.6 million units sold in 2013. Chromebooks are still a fraction of worldwide PC sales, but are the only market showing any significant growth in 2014. Estimating Chromebook growth outside of the education market is difficult. The steadily increasing number of Chromebooks I have seen on flights between San Francisco and Boston over the last couple of years suggests that Chromebooks are gaining traction in some professional circles. Their inability to run typical enterprise applications (i.e., Windows) without leveraging some form of presentation virtualization probably limits Chromebooks to being a niche tool in the enterprise. SMB markets may be more open to Chromebook adoption as they increasingly move to web-based SaaS applications.

Version 6.3 of the Dell KACE K1000 software extends agentless monitoring to Windows Server and desktop systems (support for agentless monitoring of Mac, Linux, and UNIX devices was introduced in 6.0). As well as addressing the performance concerns that agent-based monitoring frequently brings, agentless monitoring will be of significant advantage in loosely managed environments, including those supporting BYOD programs. The new release brings greater visibility to non-computing devices such as network-attached printers and projectors, UPS systems, routers, and switches, enabling alerts on events such as low toner and ink levels, projector bulb failure, and battery levels. Additional enhancements include more granular control and reporting of patch deployment, SLA enhancements, improved software license management, and reporting of applications packaged by Microsoft App-V.

Pricing starts at $8,900 for the physical or virtual appliance, which includes up to 100 managed systems. The licensing cost for managing Chromebooks and non-computing devices is $1,250 for up to 250 devices.

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