Channel winning with Dell storage, end-to-end offerings

Greg Davis Dell

Dell channel chief Greg Davis

BOSTON – Having taken home CRN’s Channel Champions awards for Enterprise Storage and SMB Network Storage earlier this year, it should come as no surprise that channel participation at the second-annual Dell Storage Forum more than doubled this week to more than 350 partners, with almost 10 per cent from Canada. The channel accounts for a third of Dell’s commercial revenue, said Greg Davis, who heads up the company’s channel, and who announced the general availability of a mobile application for deal registrations.

He said the channel registered 70,000 deals, of which 71% were approved. Based on channel feedback, Dell started testing the app around a month ago. “We believe it’s now ready for prime time.”

Davis also announced the Cloud Provider certification program, to go with the Cloud Builder program announced in March. In the Fall Dell will launch the Cloud Server Enabler track.

Training and certification can pay big dividend he said. In the first quarter the top 25 partners completed 2,706 classes, trained 794 individuals and increased revenues 71% year-over-year. “We provided 135,000 training classes last year to sales and technical people. This year we want to provide 250,000 classes. All training from Dell is free. It’s our investment to you.”

Davis said there are 2,500 Dell staff supporting the channel globally. There are 700 storage sales specialists, about 350 network sales and technical support personnel, and around 55 dedicated software specialists in North America, and these resources are being expanded, including adding a group focusing on the data center infrastructure.

Building the Dell’s channel has been a learning experience, said Davis, transitioning from 2007 when they did a lot of business through the channel, around 16-17%, but other than in countries where the channel was the only go-to-market strategy, it was pretty opportunistic. The acquisition of EqualLogic four years ago gave the company good credibility in the channel, he said, and the latest results support that evolution.

“In Q1 the channel business grew 12 per cent year-over-year.” We believe we have right structure, the right program and can grow two times the markets we’re in,which means growing and taking share within the channel community, said Davis.

When Dell started formalizing its channel five years ago it went looking for partners who could provide value, horizontal or vertical solutions, he said. There were still a lot of resellers out there whose value proposition was procuring products, which was something his company already did pretty well.

“In the last 4-5 years, partners have really migrated fast into this model of being an expert on solutions.” While there are still some partners who are primarily order takers, there are others who are streamlining their offerings and getting really good at being those experts.

“I think that’s good for us, that’s how we designed the program. We just didn’t anticipate partners moving there as fast as they did,” said Davis.

He views this as a gigantic opportunity for Dell’s channel. Clients are out there who aren’t sure what to do about virtualization, cloud and other technologies. They are looking for partners to help them manage all that, and Dell wants to its partners to capture more than their fair share of that opportunity.

A number of Dell’s partners seemed to agree. In a roundtable session, a half-dozen partners talked about their experiences with Dell.

“I had just signed up with EqualLogic, and didn’t have long track record with them [prior to the acquisition], but was very excited to see Dell make the transition to the channel,” said Michael Butz Sr., president and CEO of Detroit-based UltraLevel, Inc. “It was by far and away the best decision I ever made,” The solution provider said Dell is best bet out there, with the best end to end offerings. “They are very cognizant and protective of the channel.”

A cloud provider with seven data centers and offices in the US and UK, iland Internet Solutions had to be end-to-end, said Dante Orsini, VP business development. “When we first came to market we built it (infrastructure as a service, and disaster recovery) on EqualLogic storage and Dell servers, before the acquisition.” Two years ago the company started looking at different technologies to scale across its data centers, because while it had the expertise to manage the EqualLogic storage architecture, moving to a self-service offering would have required customers to do so, and that wasn’t going to work. By working closely with Dell, iland was able to move to Compellent prior to its acquisition last year, he said

DSA Associates (Delta Systems Associates) in Elk Grove, CA, used to sell HP servers in addition to Dell storage, but went with Dell, said Michael Pearson. “Now we don’t to compete against them.”

Butz gave a more positive review of Dell’s servers. “Dell’s server technology is phenomenal.  Customers are blown away that Dell has a superior server platform to the other two (HP and IBM).” He said we’re very happy going to war with our portfolio.

Pearson also liked how Dell listens to its partners. While the company still has work to do, he said its partner council has been great.

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