EMC Says Pick Your Partner


Storage giant nudges majority of channel partners to sign on with distributors


EMC is trying to move the majority of its channel partners to distribution to focus its resources on a more limited number of solution providers.

The storage vendor expects 175 to 200 of its current 250 North American solution providers to sign up with either Avnet or Arrow North American Computer Products, said Gregg Ambulos, vice president of global channels at EMC.


'We're going to be spending a lot of time with both Avnet and Arrow to make sure they clearly understand this [value message.' -- Gregg Ambulos, EMC's VP of Global Channels

Distribution plays a key role in helping partners sell EMC's value proposition, Ambulos said. The traditional EMC play has been one of capacity, but now the focus is more on software and services to help drive hardware sales in EMC and non-EMC environments, he said. "We're going to be spending a lot of time with both Avnet and Arrow to make sure that they clearly understand this message and are able to articulate that to their partners," he said.

Smaller EMC solution providers said they like the move, noting that over the past couple of years, the vendor has become more channel-friendly and is offering benefits to working with distributors.

Greg Hagerl, director of sales at Lewan and Associates, Denver, which just closed a $1 million deal for EMC's Symmetrix line with the help of the vendor's local sales representatives, said he does not see any issues in deciding whether to sign up with a distributor. "We're going to make money, [and the distributor will make money."

There are definite benefits to working with distributors, said Pat Edwards, sales manager at Alliance Technology Group, a Hanover, Md.-based solution provider that has sourced EMC products from Avnet since it signed on with EMC about a half-year ago.

EMC separates its channel partners into three levels, and distributors are at the gold--or highest--level, Edwards said. EMC reps that bring in a gold partner or a solution provider that partners with a gold partner get paid immediately for the deal. "The reps like working with us because we work with a gold partner like Avnet," he said.

EMC's small and midsize enterprise sales reps say they have to make deals via partners and can't go direct, and so they are assigned a partner, Edwards said. "Our [EMC rep comes in here once a week to look for a way to help us make sales."

EMC's move toward distribution will mean an uptick in Avnet's EMC business while providing a way for solution providers to increase their EMC business as the vendor increases its commitment to the channel, said Dave Ochser, vice president of strategic business development for storage products at Avnet.

"The important thing is EMC is saying there are clear, defined boundaries, and they want to make sure everybody knows how to sell in the channel," Ochser said. "That's a huge statement for EMC. We've been working with them for over a year, and it's the most clean and concise it's ever been."

An EMC spokesperson said the vendor is encouraging, not forcing, its solution providers to sign up with distributors. Direct VARs in the future may not have access to all the channel programs available through distributors. While distributors may require solution providers to sign an exclusive distribution agreement, that is an issue to be resolved between those parties, the spokesperson said.

EMC currently has no plan to sign up new distributors, nor is EMC recruiting new solution providers, unless they bring in specific skill sets EMC's customers require, Ambulos said.