On Monday, Dell is announcing what it informally calls a "branch in a box." This is a hybrid appliance for remote offices that contains server, storage and networking equipment in one unit. It's called PowerEdge VRTX.

"It addresses some significant pain points for banking and other industries," says Bob Barris, vice president and vertical lead of Banking and Securities at Dell. "There are millions of remote offices all over the world that have small technology closets. In those technology closets they have servers, storage, switches, cabling, power feeds, etc. so the branch can run its business and communicate back to the data centers. Customers end up with a fairly complicated environment."

Dell bills its new VRTX box as tidier than this typical small-office IT closet scenario, more power and heat efficient, and easier to manage. There's one number to call for support for the appliance. Dell provides a management tool.

The device seems similar in principle to Cisco's Unified Computing System device, which also provides server, storage and networking capability in one unit. "To me, that's more of a data center device," Barris says. "What we're talking about here is a solution specifically designed for a branch office, where you don't have the raised floor environment, you don't have the technical support."

As with all appliances, the tradeoff for the ease of deployment of one preconfigured box is that the customer can't customize the product nor use best-of-breed components.

The VRTX can host up to four two-socket servers. It provides 48 terabytes of storage. The processing power and storage are scalable, Barris says.

The new hybrid unit is the result of about 25 technology company acquisitions Dell has made over the past five years, including Compellent, EqualLogic and Quest Software.

Large financial institutions in the wealth management space have expressed interest in the product, Barris says. "They're interested in it because they're looking at enhancing processing power in the branch office to speed up response times for brokers as they work with customer data," he says.

Dell will be working with integrators to sell and install the product, it will also provide managed services on its own.

"A large enterprise with a lot of branch offices that's been integrating solutions for years would be happy to get out of that business if they can find a solution that is branch office friendly from an environmental and economic standpoint," Barris. "Some companies might say, we only do EMC storage. Then obviously that will be a challenge. Our argument would be, what are your requirements? We should be able to meet them."