Michael Dell To Partners: EMC Acquisition Would Be Difficult Without You

It would've been more difficult for Dell to take on its proposed acquisition of EMC without a strong channel, Michael Dell told a roomful of partners Tuesday afternoon at the annual Dell World conference.

"We're going to continue to be open and work with a broad ecosystem as we always have. It would've been harder to take the step we've taken if we hadn't built a strong channel over the last eight years," Dell said in response to a partner's question about the differences between Dell's strategy of growing in size and Hewlett-Packard's strategy of splitting into two distinct companies.

"There are a lot of differences [between the two strategies]," Dell said. "I believe this is a scale industry. Look at the x86 business. Everybody that didn't have the volume of client [business] attached to x86 shrank and became not as relevant. I believe scale matters. Customers want end-to-end solutions."

[Related: Dell Plans To Buy EMC For $67 Billion: Coverage Of The Biggest Tech Deal Ever]

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Dell's planned blockbuster $67 billion acquisition of EMC is expected to close in the third quarter of next year. In a Q&A during the Partner Summit portion of the Dell World conference in Austin, Texas, Tuesday, Dell fielded multiple about the deal, which Dell called "our little news."

The partner-centric sentiment resonated with Jeff Davis, president of Alterra Networks, a Dublin, Ga.-based Dell partner. "I feel inspired. He's as engaged as ever," Davis said. "With Dell you get world-class solutions inside one tent."

Other partners were a little more cautious in their outlook.

"It's wait-and-see for us," said Michael Pearson, president of Elk Grove, Calif.-based DSA Technologies, a Dell and VMware partner. "We're going to wait and see how this turns out for the channel."

Asked whether the acquisition, which includes EMC cloud service provider Virtustream, among other cloud businesses, positions Dell as a large cloud service provider alongside Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services, Dell said his strategy includes multiple business units covering multiple customers at different stages.

"When I hear everything is going to public cloud, it sounds like 'the PC is dead' from a couple of years ago. I don't think that's what's happening," Dell said. "We're going to have Software-as-a-Service, hybrid cloud, public cloud, private cloud. It's the management of the data center out of just compute, storage, server and into the service level, virtualization, hyper-converged. I see the gap closing, and I see plenty of opportunity for you and us to go attack that hybrid cloud opportunity, and I think VMware is incredibly well positioned for this. Dell and EMC are very well positioned for it. VCE [is] very well positioned for it. There will be many, many clouds and EMC and VMware have some great assets that we'll look to figure out how we can grow more.

"We're going to remain as open as we've always been," Dell continued. "Dell has been very early with Microsoft in creating these appliances for on-prem Azure capabilities. Red Hat, OpenStack, there isn't just one answer. We sell a lot of equipment to a lot of cloud providers and SaaS providers. We're participating from many perspectives."

Asked for his thoughts on big data, Dell said he believes it to be a $1 trillion opportunity, and "a defining piece of the next five years of business."

"Companies' success or failure will be defined by how well they can turn the information into useful outcomes, and it has to be a CEO priority, not just the IT organization," Dell said. "There will be experiments that don't work, but it is perhaps the most exciting area and CEOs have the challenge. They have to reduce cost from the existing business in order to fund digital transformation. If they don't, they're going to be out of business in a relatively short period of time. There are new companies and new business models that are leaps ahead of existing ones."

Dell also touched on security in response to a question and noted that a merged Dell-EMC would cover a lot of security ground.

"RSA is more of a product business," Dell said. "SecureWorks is more of a services business. SonicWall, Quest, Dell Data Protection … the combined company has some awesome security capabilities, and don't forget about AirWatch, that's the fastest-growing. Security is not getting easier. When we're speaking with customers, it's a super-high priority, and we've seen up close how incredibly clever and resourced some of these hackers are. It's a fantastic area for partners to focus on because it requires a lot of help."