In Wake Of Quest Acquisition, Dell Talks Integration, Channel Updates2:54 PM EST Wed. Dec. 05, 2012
Dell's acquisition last month of Quest Software means increased sales opportunities for the Quest partner community, but the integration of the product and channel programs of Quest and other recent acquisitions has generated questions about the company's data protection strategy.
Increased opportunities as a result of bringing Dell and Quest together was the theme of last week's annual Quest Partner Conference, which brought executives from the two companies together with about 50 people from 37 partner organizations.
Dell also used the opportunity to provide an update on the company's channel partner sales and on some new channel programs.
The Quest Partner Conference was the first public event for Dell's solution providers since Quest was acquired by Dell in a huge $2.4-billion deal.
The next such event comes next week in Austin, Texas, at Dell World 2012 where between 400 and 500 Dell partners, or over double last year's 220-plus attendees, are expected to join, said Greg Davis, Dell's channel chief and vice president and general manager of Dell's global commercial channels.
Davis said a big focus at the Quest Partner Conference was on making Quest's software offering a part of Dell's "Better Together" channel story.
"Our partners can work with Dell with storage, server, networking, security and now software from Quest," he said. "So we are looking at how to create incentives and packages combining them. We're looking at deal registration, pricing, rebates and incentives for how to reward partners for selling multiple products."
For instance, Dell this quarter is offering partners an additional 7-percent discount for selling both Dell servers and storage, plus a higher discount if its Force10 networking products is a part of a deal, Davis said. Future combined product discounts could include Quest software, he said.
Dell has acquired a lot of companies over the year and has learned how to combine the best of various channel programs and incentives, Davis said.
"There's a big opportunity for partners to look at all the different Dell offerings," he said. "When partners talk to customers, they can present more solutions than ever before. There's still a lot of integration work for us to do, but we're moving along."
Dell has managed to assuage partner skeptics about the acquisition of Quest.
NEXT: Quest Software Partners Happy With Dell's Quest Acquisition
Mark Pierce, co-founder and partner relationship manager at InfraScience, an Atlanta-based solution provider and long-time Quest partner, said Quest's openness over the Dell acquisition overcame his initial fears.
"We've seen a broader opportunity to recommend Dell hardware and SAN solutions since the acquisition," Pierce said. "We recommended them before. But because of the Dell partnership, we're getting new insight into Dell products. And, we will see more of Dell's road maps. We can now be more proactive with customers and broaden our solution set."
Pierce said Dell has provided a lot of information about Microsoft Office 365 migration, and that it remains open regarding customers' choice of cloud platform for Office 365 despite having its own hosted cloud service. "They're saying we can use any cloud we want, not just the Dell hosted solution," he said.
Pierce said that just because Dell is bringing new software to its partners, it does not mean InfraScience will automatically sign on. For instance, he said, InfraScience will continue to focus on Microsoft Service Manager over Dell Kace, but may pick up Kace depending on customer requirements.
However, InfraScience will be giving Dell's SonicWall and AppAssure offerings new consideration in the wake of Microsoft's decision last month to stop supporting threat management gateway (TMG), he said.
Curt Wheadon, vice president of the Microsoft solutions line of business at Johannesburg, South Africa-based IT services provider Dimension Data, said he was initially neutral towards Dell's acquisition of Quest. However, Wheadon said, Dell clearly understands the importance of how the channel works for its future success.
Wheadon also said Dell is aggressively pushing the message that it will bring its different channel programs together. "We're starting to understand their plans to merge the Dell Partner Direct program with Quest," he said. "It's not surprising news that Dell will consolidate it all into one program. They have a one-year plan. It's fairly aggressive. They're doing the right things."
One area where Dell's Quest integration is already moving quickly is data protection.
Matt Vitale, Quest's vice president of worldwide sales for data protection, said Dell is bringing together the Quest data protection software, including its flagship NetVault application and its vRanger application for virtualized environments, together with similar software from the company's AppAssure and SonicWall acquisitions.
"Given the amount of technology we have, there are opportunities to consolidate vRanger, AppAssure and others to create category-killer products over time," Vitale said.
NEXT: Dell's Shift From Data Protection Partners To Own IP A Concern
Data protection is the No. 1 Quest software opportunity at Dell, Quest's Vitale said. Dell previously built a successful $250-million business reselling Symantec's NetBackup and Backup Express software, as well as software from Woburn, Mass.-based Acronis; Columbus, Ohio-based Veeam; and Oceanport, N.J.-based CommVault.
However, except for Symantec's NetBackup and the CommVault software, Dell took all the other offerings out of its product catalog late this summer, Vitale said.
Symantec's NetBackup could be next. "When you look at NetVault, our new version 9 is moving in the enterprise direction of NetBackup," he said. "You'll see NetVault knock out some of the inhibitors that will help it scale into the enterprise."
Actually, Dell is taking a risk by ending its storage software partnerships, according to the vendors impacted by the move.
Sean Regan, senior director of product marketing for Symantec's Information Management Group, said the Dell-Symantec relationship remains strong thanks to continuing ties between the two over NetBackup, Symantec's Enterprise Vault archiving software and a wide range of OEM products.
But by ending its Symantec Backup Exec partnership, Dell triggered a new round of competition, Regan said.
"Dell was short-sided," he said. "Backup Exec has been around for 25 years, and has millions of customers who can now sign up with Symantec channel partners instead of Dell. It's a huge opportunity for our partners, and we're seeing significant renewals."
Backup Exec is a very "sticky" product, Regan said. "Just because Dell is no longer selling Backup Exec or its renewals doesn't mean the customer won't renew it."
Regan said Dell's NetVault 9 product has never really competed in the enterprise market. Symantec also seldom comes up against the Dell-Quest vRanger product, which competes with the company's Backup Exec V-Ray edition, he said.
Dell's actions did impact the market for Veeam, said Bill Botti, North American sales vice president for that company.
"But in August we rolled out our new partner program and moved to aggressively expand with the channel," Botti said. "We continue to grow faster than the market."
Botti said few if any customers switched from Veeam to Dell software. "The business was picked up aggressively by other resellers," he said. "From a technology perspective, we're in a good spot in the virtualization space."
Despite Veeam not being in the Dell catalog, Dell still reaches out to Veeam for certain customers, especially those who have both VMware vSphere 5.1 and Microsoft Hyper-V environments as Veeam is the only company to support disaster recovery in both, Botti said.
NEXT: Dell Provides Quarterly Channel Update
Quest's Vitale admitted that there are some customers who do not want to migrate from their existing data protection software to Dell's new offerings, and that these customers can sign deal with other resellers.
But there are other reasons to assume Dell will grow that business, he said. "Dell is the biggest reseller of VMware licenses," he said. "This opens a huge door for selling our data protection IP [intellectual property]."
Robby Wright, chief technical consultant and CTO at Abtech, a Carlsbad, Calif.-based solution provider and long-time Quest partner, said he is looking forward to upcoming changes in Quest's NetVault 9 data protection software.
NetVault 9 can already create what Quest called a SmartDisk, which is a portion of disk from a storage pool that can be used as a virtual tape library (VTL) for NetVault or vRanger, Wright said. However, SmartDisk in the future can be replicated to other locations automatically, a move that currently requires a large amount of manual operations, he said.
"We have a customer that replicates SmartDisks between its offices in San Jose, London and Hong Kong," he said. "But they also want to be able to do simultaneous disk-to-disk-to-tape data protection. The ability to take data to tape is important. Over time, data can get corrupt. Without a long tape trail, customers can get in trouble."
Dell's Davis used the Quest Partner Conference to also provide an update on Dell's channel situation.
Indirect sales currently account for about 35 percent of Dell's global commercial business, which includes all business outside the company's retail and consumer markets, Davis said.
The number of premier and preferred partners during the third quarter of 2012 was up 53 percent over the same period last year. "We've put in a series of training programs to get partners trained, certified and competent in several areas," he said. "Through the third quarter, we've held over 140,000 training courses to date. We're clearly on our way to reach our goal of 200,000 classes for the year."
Dell in November put in place a simplified pricing scheme for its Latitude laptop and OptiPlex desktop PCs that makes it easy for partners to quickly find prices for those products, Davis said. That follows the announcement of simplified server pricing when Dell early this year introduced its 12th-generation (12G) servers, he said.
PUBLISHED DEC. 5, 2012