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HPE CEO Antonio Neri On Dell’s ‘Cultural’ And ‘Trust’ Channel Challenge

Steven Burke

Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Antonio Neri tells CRN that rival Dell Technologies’ new partner-led storage strategy poses a ‘cultural’ and ‘trust’ channel challenge that is in sharp contrast to HPE’s “decades” long standing channel commitment.

HPE CEO Antonio Neri: ‘It Comes Down To Trust’

Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Antonio Neri told CRN that rival Dell Technologies’ new partner-led storage strategy poses a “cultural” and “trust” channel challenge that is in sharp contrast to HPE’s “decades” long standing channel commitment.

“We have been doing this for decades,” said Neri when asked about the differences between HPE and Dell’s new partner-led storage strategy that pays Dell direct reps more for storage sales that go through partners. “I am not sure what is the novelty of this. I guess they are just realizing that the channel plays a massive role. But it is a cultural shift for them. So they have to understand how to operate with the channel, what the economics are, how the sales forces on both sides work together. And honestly it comes down to trust.”

[ Related: CEO Antonio Neri: HPE Is Seeing A ‘Wave’ Of AI Acceleration]

Neri said he is especially “proud” of HPE’s longstanding channel commitment. “For me, one area that I am really proud of is we have built trust and relationships with the channel for decades,” he said. “You will see over time we continue to refine that model, which is already a market leader, in order to attract the entire partner ecosystem: distributors, resellers, MSPs, Super VARs and the like.”

Neri also pointed out that Dell’s storage-led strategy does not include server sales. In fact, he said that difference in the go-to-market route between storage and servers had him “scratching” his head. “Why just storage?” he asked. “What about compute? What exactly is it? I don’t understand it.”

As for the difference between HPE’s storage portfolio and the Dell storage lineup, Neri said HPE’s cloud-native, software-defined storage strategy that encompasses all types of data, including block and file, is a big differentiator.

“We conceived the vision of that business to drive one simple solution that is cloud-native and software-defined – no matter what type of data you need to manage,” he said. “That to me is a big differentiation compared to the portfolio Dell has, which has different solutions for different types of primary storage data services. So for customers choosing HPE, there is a Capex and an Opex reduction with a consistent experience, whether it is block, file or object over time. So that is a major point of differentiation, and the infrastructure that sits underneath is a standard infrastructure.”

Dell President of Sales and Customer Operations Bill Scannell has called the new “partner-first strategy for storage” the “biggest change ever” in Dell’s go-to-market model. It includes PowerMax, PowerFlex, PowerStore, PowerScale as well as hyperconverged and converged products, security storage products.

Dell Technologies also confirmed that it will cut jobs among its core sales teams as it adopts the new partner-led go-to-market model.

Pat O’Dell, managing partner for CPP Associates, Clinton, N.J., which was recently named HPE GreenLake North America Partner of the Year, said the new partner-led Dell storage channel strategy is a “competitive parry” that simply cannot match HPE’s long-standing channel commitment or the comprehensiveness of the HPE product portfolio.

“At the end of the day you have to give Dell credit for a channel-savvy move, making it more financially attractive for their reps on storage that goes through the channel,” he said. “That is a good thing, but it doesn’t outweigh the comprehensiveness of the HPE portfolio.”

“HPE has a huge competitive advantage with GreenLake and the AI investments,” he said. “HPE does not sell me-too solutions. It is differentiated. That differentiation makes all the difference in the world to HPE partners.”

C.R. Howdyshell, CEO of Advizex, Independence, Ohio, a Fulcrum IT Partners company and a top HPE and Dell partner, said he is glad to see both HPE and Dell step up to drive more sales through the channel.

“It’s great to see our top two OEMs realizing the importance of teaming with solution providers with elite technical teams that are bringing continued value to customers,” he said. “This is a great time to be a solution provider in this business.”

Here is an edited transcript of the discussion with Neri.


Steven Burke

Steve Burke has been reporting on the technology industry and sales channel for over 30 years. He is passionate about the role of partners using technology to solve business problems and has spoken at conferences on channel sales issues. He can be reached at

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