Following Dell's acquisition of managed services platform provider SilverBack Technologies last month, former SilverBack CEO Dan Phillips -- now a director within Dell -- this week gave partners a first glimpse into Dell's managed services strategy.
"The overall goal of the SilverBack acquisition is to help accelerate Dell's participation in the managed services market -- both direct and through the channel," Phillips said, in a memo sent to partners Monday.
Use of the word "direct" in the memo raised a few eyebrows among SilverBack's existing partners.
"The 'direct' word was mentioned along with continued channel programs, but it didn't say how direct. I've really been disappointed with the lack of communication so far," said one partner, who requested anonymity.
Phillips, in a phone interview, said Dell is now soliciting input on how it can best shape its managed services strategy to avoid conflict between direct and channel sales models. Part of that strategy, he said, will involve two distinct managed services offerings: a basic service offering Dell will sell direct and a more sophisticated level of service offering sold through the channel.
"Dell has the ability to provide basic managed services to millions of end users worldwide and to educate them on the value of managed services they can deliver to businesses, but Dell also has the ability to define the value-added services the channel can provide that layer on top of the basic Dell offerings," Phillips says.
Dell, for now, is declining to provide further specific details around what will distinguish a basic service from a value-added managed service.
"We need to define a specific line between the basic core management service offering and then the added-value service that will be specific for the channel. Dell's strategy will educate the market and seed it with millions of end users with a clear delineation of what services Dell will deliver and what the channel will deliver," Phillips says.
Dell says it will provide more details on its strategy in the coming months as it builds up its authorized partner program, which it has said will include certification and deal registration for partners and launch by year's end.
Phillips also maintains that Dell's entry into the market will generate what the managed services community is sorely lacking: end user demand.
"Today managed services is all push, there's very little end user demand or understanding of what managed services can do for businesses that want to outsource all or part of their IT," Phillips says.
Partners don't doubt that Dell's brand awareness will increase market demand, but they are still skeptical about who will benefit from that demand.
"Sure it will bring end users but end users to who? You have to think that ultimately those end users are going to go to Dell," said one MSP, who also wished to remain anonymous.
CMP Media's Ed Moltzen contributed to this report.