Last week I spent a couple of days at a Dell event reserved for partners in Milan. It's always interesting to talk with vendors and their partners to know more about their market perception and field strategies... especially during lunches and dinners with good food and red wine.
All the world thinks Dell is a direct sales vendor but things are changing. In the last three years they have grown a channel program and they are still actively affiliating new enterprise partners. It's not a simple task because the market is well covered by other tier-one vendors but their strategy seems really good and people are very committed. For instance, Dell's Italian channel manager was previously the managing director of a distributor and he knows very well how to deal with his former colleagues).
Storage, storage, storage
The most interesting thing I saw during these two days was storage: Equallogic and Compellent were in almost every presentation. The message is so much clearer now and Dell is pushing very hard on it. The Compellent acquisition isn't finished yet and is still under evaluation from US authorities, so Dell isn't skilled on the new acquired product yet, but Compellent representatives were there to show their product and its magic.
Partners were very impressed by the new proposition and they are evaluating the move favourably. I recorded many comments from partners and I think they prefer Compellent to 3Par because most of them don't deal with very high end enterprises/sales. Some of them didn't know 3Par brand/products and have never been involved in a Symmetrix sale either.
The new message was very strong. In two days I only noticed one mention in just one slide of EMC. A literal quote from the presenter was: "If you really need to sell EMC, you can, but only if it is strictly necessary!"
You know, my point of view is clear on this topic, Dell needs at least two more major acquisitions in storage and networkinq space (I'm thinking about Commvault and Brocade). Especially Brocade as it will enable Dell to have a complete hardware offering.
Time for stacks
Technically speaking I have no doubts Dell can build its own technology stacks but I noticed that many of the present partners are still talking about "servers with some attached storage as an add-on" than a true infrastructure solution where storage is a fundamental brick
I don't think they should replicate a VCE-like approach, but rather something similar to NetApp FlexPods: certified and pre-tested reference architectures, with professional services delivered from partners. This way of thinking could help partners, particularly the less skilled ones in complex architectures, to propose enterprise (and SMB) infrastructure building blocks and helping them to grow their technical skills and business.
Dell already has some reference architectures but they are focused on SMBs and surely not well advertised. They need to push very hard on this topic... more strongly than other vendors. ®
Bootnote: Enrico Signoretti is the CEO of Cinetica, a small consultancy firm in Italy, which offers services to medium/large companies in finance, manufacturing, and outsourcing). The company has partnerships with Oracle, Dell, VMware, Compellent and NetApp.