Dell EMC distribution-only strategy for X-Series unlikely to portent broader trend

Dell EMC recently made their X-Series network switch products their first distribution-only product, but while they will look at doing this with other products and services, don’t expect it to start a trend.

Jim DeFoe, Senior Vice President, Global Channel, Dell EMC

Dell EMC recently announced that their X-Series network switch products will be sold exclusively through distribution going forward. This has already kicked in in North America, as well as EMEA and Asia Pacific/Japan, and will be fully global by the end of the year.

The move is significant for a couple of reasons. First, this is the first Dell EMC product to go through a distribution-only strategy. It’s actually the first product of either Dell or EMC to be distribution only, going back into their pre-merger histories. Legacy EMC had some channel-only products, but they weren’t sold with an explicit distribution-only model. Secondly, the distribution-only element is part of the company’s revamped distribution strategy.

Globally, Dell EMC significantly reduced the number of distributors with which they worked, a number which had been inflated because many companies that had been acquired over the years kept their own separate distribution agreements. In North America, however, no changes to the number of distributors took place, just standardization between the former Dell and EMC, which for example, saw Ingram Micro once again become an EMC distributor. North American distributors still benefit however from the other changes Dell EMC has made to its distribution strategy.

“We are excited about our distribution opportunity,” said Jim DeFoe, Senior Vice President, Global Channel, Dell EMC. “Distribution has been our fastest growing route to market now for several years, with the value and capabilities that they bring and the capability they bring and ability to capture it worldwide across their partner communities.”

The company is doubling down on the distributors that survived its cut.

“We’ve made investments in our distributors on a global basis, restructuring to use them as a preferred route to market to come into our program,” DeFoe said. “We want to reward them by having them be the preferred route to market for new partners coming into the Dell EMC ecosystem.”

The decision to take the X-Series family exclusively through distribution is another perk offered up to distributors. The X-Series, introduced in April 2015, is a family of smart-managed 1GbE and 10GbE switches, aimed at the smaller part of the SMB segment, particularly small standalone offices and small distributed units of enterprises.

“60 per cent of the X-Series was already coming through the channel, so we thought this would be a great product to put only through distribution,” DeFoe said. “We see its growth as being in the SMB space, and see this as a natural extension of our distribution strategy.”

However, while DeFoe acknowledged that this strategy is a first, he also indicated Dell EMC doesn’t see it as something that is likely to become common.

“To my knowledge, we have never done this before, especially in the commercial market space, and certainly from a Dell standpoint,” he said. I don’t, however see it as the beginning of a broader strategy. We see it as something suited for specific cases, where there is a strong channel product and where we believe we can leverage distribution effectively.”

So are any other such cases imminent?

“I don’t have anything to announce today,” DeFoe said. “Something we would take to market this way would be something that is very product – or service – specific. We will continue to evaluate other products and services that we could do this with.”