Dell Channel Chief Greg Davis (pictured) sounds downright optimistic. The reason: Dell recently announced strong quarterly results, with an assist from channel partners. Now, Davis and the Dell PartnerDirect team are preparing to accelerate the company's storage channel initiative... before shifting some attention to a potential cloud partner program effort. The current focus: Dell's recent buyout of Compellent Technologies. Davis sees potential synergies between Dell's EqualLogic partners and Compellent partners. Here's why.

During a phone call last week, Davis shared some big-picture thoughts with The VAR Guy before shifting the conversation to storage and cloud efforts. "It was a strong quarter overall for the company," said Davis, referring to Dell's record Q4 results. "I'm very proud of the channel [momentum]. We continue to exceed our expectations across the quarter."

So what's next? Davis said he spent most of last quarter working through the integration of Compellent, which officially became a Dell company on February 22, 2011.But the effort was a tricky process since there are only so many steps Dell could take before Compellent was officially owned by Dell. Looking ahead, "this year we're really focused on certified partners, training and storage. We've done so well with EqualLogic in the channel but we've struggled a bit with Dell-EMC in the channel. With the addition of Compellent we see a real opportunity to accelerate our growth in the channel."

Proper Perspective

Hmmm... That last paragraph says quite a bit. Dell acquired EqualLogic in February 2008. Generally speaking, it sounds like EqualLogic continues to be a strong channel performer for Dell. One reason: Davis points to Bob Skelley, EqualLogic's former worldwide channel chief. Skelley oversaw EqualLogic's integration into Dell's channel system. Now, Skelley is assisting the Compellent integration into Dell as well. Among the key steps: Integrating Compellent with Dell's quote center and deal registration systems for partners. Together, EqualLogic and Compellent will allow Dell partners to stretch from entry-level storage all the way to the data center, Davis asserted.

Still, storage is only one piece of Dell's broader channel strategy. Dell now has 2,000 partners certified globally within the PartnerDirect partner program, according to Paul Shaffer, worldwide channel marketing director at Dell. Also, that figure is approaching 1,000 certified partners in North America, the vast majority of which focus on servers and storage. Dell's global partner ecosystem completed more than 70,000 online training courses last year, Shaffer added.

Concludes Davis: "In each area we've introduced PartnerDirect, our channel business continues to grow faster than than the overall market."

Looking Toward the Sky

So what will Dell do for an encore? Davis is closely watching the SaaS and cloud markets. "We are looking at a [potential] certification program around cloud and virtualization solutions," said Davis. "That in essence would include managed services, SaaS and training." The Compellent deal demanded most of Davis's focus in Q4. But going forward, it sounds like the PartnerDirect team is brainstorming recurring revenue strategies for channel partners.

Smart move. Dell in 2008 worked very closely with scores of MSPs in the managed services market. But those efforts have gone mostly quiet over the past couple of years, as Dell built out its own direct-to-market managed services business practices. Now, it seems, Davis is exploring new opportunities to potentially engage partners in a broader SaaS, cloud and managed services discussion...

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