Canada comes through for Dell EMC channel business

Deanna Thomson, Dell EMC’s Canadian channel chief

Dell EMC had a strong first quarter, with both overall and channel business up significantly, and with strong results across all business units, all regions and all customer segments. The company was particularly pleased with its overall storage business, which had been a sore spot for some time and which has been heavily incented as a result. It was the first quarter that storage was up since the EMC merger closed, with share up 5.8 per cent, and storage revenue up 44.6 per cent year over year. The global numbers have some possible pitfalls in them however, inasmuch as the year over year numbers come off a poor Q1 a year ago, in a traditionally low quarter more subject to fluctuation. The channel also did not do as well as the direct in storage. In Canada, however, none of these qualifications came into play. It was a good quarter period, and the company likes the signs so far in Canada in Q2.

“We had very strong performance in Canada for Q1 overall across all lines of business, including very strong results in our data centre portfolio right across the board,” said Deanna Thomson, Dell EMC’s Canadian channel chief. “We are pleased, but not satisfied with the results,” she said, paying homage to one of Michael Dell’s refrains in commenting on positive performance.

Thomson that the strong performance in Canada was particularly meaningful because in contrast to the larger perspective, where Q1 data is based on a smaller sample size, in Canada, it is always an extremely significant quarter.

“Q1 in Canada marks the federal government year end, so it is very different market conditions here,” she said. “The greater significance attached to this quarter here makes the performance even more impressive.”

Thomson said that Dell EMC’s Canadian channel has also been impressive in the way that they have moved to dovetail their own messaging around digital transformation with what Dell Technologies is doing.

“That Dell Technologies message is really resonating with them, and our key partners are adopting similar transformation messages,” she said. “The similarities are striking as we talk with them. We are lining up very distinctly. As a company, we are laser-focused on working really hard to creating synergies between partners’ transformation messages and where we line up. That work is really paying dividends, and we aren’t moving off the needle.”

One of those dividends is more partners emphasizing the hybrid cloud model.

“We saw a really strong trend there in Canada in Q1, and so far in Q2,” Thomson said. “We continue to see partners that have an emphasis on a hybrid model, that is cloud-enabled. We are really seeing the conversation around cloud being a hybrid message. That has led to the explosive HCI growth we have seen last year with VxRail, and we are seeing partners doing a lot more work around machine learning, the Internet of Things, and Deep Learning. We are seeing more partners starting to stand up practices in these areas. That’s new, and something that we weren’t seeing as much last year.”

IDC’s converged infrastructure data showed that while Dell EMC remains the solid market leader, their sales were basically flat, while the Cisco-NetApp FlexPod competitive offering posted extremely strong growth.

“We have taken notice of that, and we absolutely look at those quarter-on-quarter dynamics, but we march to our overall strategy,” Thomson said. “We have an annual plan and a long-term strategy and we remain consistent to that.

Thomson said Dell EMC is also retaining its consistency in asking partners to lead with them.

“When I came into this role a year and a half ago, I said that we would continue to ask our partners to focus and declare around us,” she stated.  “We don’t believe that agnostic is a strategy. We want them to lead with the Dell EMC portfolio, and we are seeing tremendous success there. Where we see this uptick in partners focusing on us, we see great mutual success.”

Thomson acknowledged that channel partners by definition often need to be offer more than one alternative to customers to maintain their credibility as a trusted advisor. But she said that there are solid reasons to consider Dell EMC as the default.

“We are strong in every market, and we want partners to lead with the market leader,” she said. “That’s a pretty easy conversation. What we ask for is to understand what the specific parts of the portfolio where partners can lead with Dell EMC. We have enabled field sales force to work with partners who have the most viability in these areas, and we are absolutely asking partners to declare for us.”

Thomson said that Canadian partners had done a great job in training and certification, and that many had been leveraging the storage incents that Dell EMC offers.

“We have seen very large checks around these incentives go out, some in the $20,000 range,” she said.

Finally, while Dell Technologies announced on Canada Day that the company would once again be going public, financial and industry analysts think that this will have zero impact on operations, and Canadian partners seem to agree.

“I haven’t had any inquiries at all about that,” Thomson said. “There’s no concern there.”