Dell CMO: EMC's Enterprise Muscle Will Be Key To Success Of Dell Technologies

With several of Dell's top executives coming from EMC, EMC's impact on Dell cannot be minimized. And that is going to be key to Dell Technologies' future success, said Jeremy Burton, chief marketing officer of Dell and the former president of products and marketing at EMC.

As the companies went into the merger, Dell's sweet spot was in the commercial or midmarket business, while EMC was focused on the enterprise. Both companies were eyes-wide-open in how to combine their best attributes, Burton said.

"I think both of us, going into this, realized that there are strengths we both bring to the table," he said. "And if you let the EMC guys try and run the midmarket business, that might not be the best answer. And if the Dell guys run the big enterprise business, that might not be the best idea."

[RELATED: CRN's Coverage Of Dell EMC World 2016]

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Dell's acquisition of EMC brings together the world's largest storage vendor, the world's second-largest server vendor, and the leading software-defined networking and storage developers, according to reports from research firm IDC and others.

One area where EMC will change Dell is the storage technology Dell can use with its servers to build new converged infrastructure offerings, Burton said.

"If you talk to Chad Sakac, who runs the Dell EMC converged platform team, formerly VCE, he's aggressively moving to Dell compute," he said "And you're going to see that happen very quickly."

Dell EMC is also moving aggressively on the VxRail hyper-converged infrastructure offering and the VxRail and VxRack are actually the most obvious place to align Dell and EMC product strategy, at least initially, he said.

"Hyper-converged is storage essentially becoming a server with [direct-attached storage] and some fancy clustering software," he said. "That's where the world is going. With Dell servers, VMware software to cluster these nodes, and a lot of the EMC know-how on things like hardware abstraction and backup and recovery, you've got the perfect offering."

In the past, Dell and EMC and VMware built their own components, Burton said. "[Now] you've got those three components coming together into a real market-leading offering with VxRail," he said. "And I think the same thing's happening with VxRack."

VxRail will be the preferred hyper-converged infrastructure offering for Dell and EMC and VMware, Burton said. However, Dell will also continue to support sales of the individual components, particularly VMware technology, to anyone wishing to use it, including to Dell's top competitors like Hewlett Packard Enterprise, he said.

"Are we going to support an ecosystem?" he said. "Will Dell supply servers to other companies that want to run or build hyper-converged infrastructures? Sure. Will VMware supply VSAN so that HPE can offer VSAN Ready Nodes? Absolutely."

Building an ecosystem while also building for preferred platforms is not an easy thing to do, Burton said.

"To me, that's the model we've got to perfect," he said. "Whether you're Dell or whether you're EMC or whether you're Pivotal, we have to have independent ecosystems because there are going to be plenty of scenarios where people are not running our entire stack."

Dell will also make sure that Dell, EMC, VMware, and big data and PaaS business Pivotal will get an orchestrated product strategy, Burton said. "There is a renewed enthusiasm to drive a more aligned product strategy at the top level as well," he said.

While Pivotal's cloud and big data technology can run on any cloud infrastructure, Dell wants to make sure the combined VMware-Dell-EMC infrastructure is where it will run best, Burton said.

"From a Dell Technologies standpoint, we want to build a preferred stack, and then we want to support an ecosystem just in recognition of the fact that not every customer's going to go with our stack top to bottom," he said. "There are folks who are going to run Pivotal in AWS, and that will run just fine. But we want to make sure we have a great offering for Pivotal running on-prem with VMware-Dell-EMC, or running off-prem with Virtustream."

Scott Miller, director of data center at World Wide Technology, a St. Louis-based solution provider and longtime EMC channel partner, told CRN that Dell will most likely prioritize its newly acquired technology from EMC on its own offerings first.

"Dell will focus on appliances built on VMware's VxRail software," said Miller. "Better margins for Dell. And it's a way for Dell to control the sales cycle."

Dell also now has two market-leading software-defined storage technologies—EMC's ScaleIO and VMware's VSAN—it can combine with its server business, Miller said.

"We can expect to see in the near term a rapid marketing of solutions featuring software-defined storage on Dell compute," he said. "There will be room for traditional arrays for a while. But in the future, it won't take long to disrupt the array market with compute and software-defined storage."

Gary Alexander, CEO of Alexander Open Systems, an Overland Park, Kan.-based solution provider and longtime EMC partner, said he doubts VMware's relationship with other vendors and with the channel will change.

"I have great trust in VMware's executive team," he said. "They don't have a lot of competition. [Former EMC CEO Joe] Tucci kept VMware vendor-agnostic. That strategy worked very well for EMC."

On the channel side, Dell is still very much in the planning phase, Burton said.

Both Dell and EMC saw a large portion of their revenue from the channel but had different approaches to their channel programs. As a result, John Byrne, Dell's global channels president, said he is taking his time with the combined company's new programs.

"We're thoughtful about the moves that we will make," Byrne said. "I'm pretty sure that as we get more toward the back end of this year and into the next, we'll be announcing top to bottom what we're going to do with the channel."

The channel is something Dell would like to settle quickly but without being too hasty, Burton said.

"Sometimes when you're in a hurry, it's best to take more time," he said. "When you're in a hurry, accidents can happen. So I think John's doing the right thing, just trying to be diligent and really understand what's going on on both sides before he makes the call."

Planning product changes is easier than planning channel changes, Burton said.

"The impact to your [channel] decision you'll see a lot more quickly," he said. "The impact to a product decision takes a lot more time. You always have time to run it past customers. You'll see it evolve. You'll make tweaks, and so on. But we get one chance to roll out a new channel program for the first time. We just want to make sure we get it right."

Burton said the new Dell has managed to combine its strengths with those of EMC.

"We want to maintain the enterprise selling motion that made EMC a great company," he said. "[We want to maintain] the commercial selling motion, and on the PC side the consumer motion, that made Dell a great company. If we can bring those two together and not lose anything in translation, then that's probably a good foundation to move forward on. And that's why you see the blend."