EMC: Extra Mighty Channel?


Make no mistake about it: For years EMC built its business on the backs of a super-aggressive direct sales force. When EMC began to court the channel more than a decade ago, solution providers were skeptical that it could change its stripes. Surely, a culture does not transform overnight. But little by little, bit by bit, EMC convinced a select group of solution providers that it was serious about working with the channel. As a result, EMC created a small, very specialized and loyal channel that has helped the company nab many of our Annual Report Card awards.

But now comes the hard part. As EMC moves downstream hoping to build a broader channel, it needs to prove to thousands of solution providers, instead of hundreds, that channel is in its DNA. As the company brings together big customers and channel partners at EMC World this week, some of its recent channel and product moves are encouraging.

EMC’s VNX and VNXe are strong products that are targeted at small and medium-size businesses. What’s more, EMC recently released VSPEX, a reference architecture for building converged infrastructures that combines storage, server, networking and virtualization. While it is clearly a response to NetApp’s FlexPod, EMC has indeed upped the ante by allowing solution providers to put their name beside EMC’s name on the box in a master stroke of co-branding that could change the converged infrastructure landscape. It’s a powerful move that shows EMC understands that the solution provider is the trusted adviser and that the solution provider brand matters.

Many vendors think their own brand will carry the day and scoff at co-branding or white-label requests from partners. EMC’s VSPEX co-branding play is a key differentiator for EMC in the intensely competitive converged infrastructure market. In fact, I can’t think of the last time a major top-tier vendor has done co-branding like this.

If EMC is going to win the hearts and minds of a broader channel, it must convince solution providers that it is
channel-friendly and that its sales reps won’t steal accounts in the field. To lay the groundwork, EMC has dusted off its rules of engagement and delivered it to the channel and the internal sales force. According to EMC, a sales rep must bring in the partner no later than the second sales call. The company also is upping commissions for EMC direct sales reps that work with solution providers and putting into place sales compensation models that reward channel-friendly behavior. Last but not least, EMC will push all sales and services in all but the largest accounts to the channel via its Enterprise Select program.

EMC’s success or failure with the broader channel will be in the execution of these programs. It appears these initiatives have the support from the very top, starting with EMC Chairman and CEO Joe Tucci and among key stakeholders in sales including Executive Vice President Americas and EMEA Bill Scannell and Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Jeremy Burton.

With the power of its brand and its technology and channel leadership, EMC has the opportunity to build the broadest, most technically astute and most profitable channel in the market. EMC’s channel is growing stronger each and every month. That’s something that should trouble the many EMC competitors struggling with their channel metrics.

BACKTALK: Kelley Damore is VP, Editorial Director
for UBM Channel. You can reach her via e-mail at
kelley.damore@ubm.com.