Dell Storage Forum Keynote: Defining Fluidity and the Channel
If you didn’t already know, The VAR Guy is in Orlando (again) for the Dell Storage Forum, gaining insight into Dell’s vision for storage technology and its plans for the channel therein. The word “fluidity” is being used an awful lot at this event, which The VAR Guy is learning has more to do with the technology than Dell’s channel plans. Read on to see what our resident blogger has learned thus far …
The keynote kicked off with VP of Dell Storage Darren Thomas, Channel Chief Greg Davis and VP of Compellent Sales Brian Bell providing an overview of what Dell is trying to achieve: the concept and embodiment of “fluidity.” It’s not really all that abstract, and The VAR Guy has no problem cutting through the brush in the buzzword jungle: Dell wants to create a single and flexible storage structure and partner program that unifies all the company’s platforms.
Fluidity, Thomas said, is “… a concept that we’re transforming, and [we’re] in the middle of a transformation.” In other words, Dell is looking to create a best-of-breed solution by bringing together the best data practices across its acquisitions into one solid partner program. Dell Storage Forum — the first one of its kind — is an effort to combine the EqualLogic User Forum and the C-Drive conference (from Compellent) into one large event that simplifies learning about the technology. Thomas waxed a bit more poetic, noting “fluid seeks level and takes the shape of what it’s poured in,” and Dell is seeking the “fluidity of data” in its own channel program.
Davis then offered the straight dope about what partners can expect with this new strategy. The simple answer: everything and nothing. Partners have nothing to lose, he said, since the training is free. “Invest more with Dell,” he said, “and we’ll support your success.”
He noted Dell’s partner program has grown 40 percent year over year, with 16,000 deals registered in Q1 2011 — a 46 percent increase year over year from Q1 of 2010. Much of the success can be attributed to partners’ investment into the Dell ecosystem, Davis said — certified partners who were dedicated to training their staff have grown 4 times faster — and Dell is rewarding that investment by protecting its channel partners from the initial deal registration throughout the entirety of the opportunity the partner maintains with that customer. “We fundamentally believe that because you’ve taken the training and you understand our products [you’re valued.] Our teams are looking to engage with someone who understands Dell,” Davis said, adding the top 10 partners have grown 126 percent year over year by working closely with Dell. “More trained sales reps mean more revenue growth.”
The first part is getting Dell’s Fluid Storage (built on Compellent) architecture out into the channel and trusted by CIOs. “We win the technology battle — it’s getting to the decision making. We want happy CIOs,” Bell said. The Fluid Storage architecture reduces the amount of hardware and presents no forced end-of-life. It’s a “technology that evolves with needs,” he said. With IT budgets constrained, the economic value of Fluid Data storage is apparent by holding down capital expenses over time when compared against the amount of usable data deployed, and thus, less storage capacity is bought and wasted, Bell said.
The second part is clearly the channel itself, and growing the Dell storage footprint. That has been evolving through an ongoing effort by Dell to “listen better” to its community and provide partners with exactly what they’re asking for. He also echoed Davis’ comments about investment and training tools for partners.
“We want just one storage program. Not separate for each product line. It’s a work in progress, but it’s our vision for the future,” Davis said.
Interestingly, he also admitted there’s a bit of internal conflict with Dell’s own channel storage teams in understanding the product alignments, but said Dell is working on that.
Bottom line? Our resident blogger predicts a Dell Channel Program that in a few years will have taken the best from EqualLogic and Compellent — and both their partner programs — rolled in all of Dell’s partner feedback, and served it all up in one all-encompassing comprehensive data partner program. And that, apparently, will be when Dell has achieved true fluidity.