Michael Dell: The Channel Is Becoming More Important In Hybrid Cloud Era

Make no mistake: Michael Dell sees the channel playing a more prominent role in the future – even as cloud services reshape the competitive landscape.

The first Dell EMC World conference in Austin this week will be for many partners the first opportunity to learn about the newborn $74 billion IT conglomerate's developing channel vision.

In a recent interview with CRN, Dell, the founder, chairman and CEO of his namesake company, said it's clear that as the industry and the portfolio it offers evolve, the role of channel partners will also evolve and become bigger and more important.

"These solutions require a fair amount of expertise, and partners play a big role in that, in applying these solutions," Dell told CRN. "When you think about the role of a partner today, the winning partners are always evolving their capabilities to be contemporary and relevant. Whether it’s intelligence, Internet of things, data science, converged and hyper-converged infrastructure, software-defined data center, security – all the things to address the digital transformation and the challenges end customer have – successful partners are the ones that figure out how to evolve with the changing requirements."

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The vote of confidence in the channel signals Dell's intention to bet big on its partners. The company got out of the gate fast on the day its landmark acquisition of EMC was finalized by grandfathering EMC partners into the Dell channel program.

Michael Tanenhaus, president of Mavenspire, an Annapolis, Maryland-based solution provider that works with Dell EMC, said that while the information Dell EMC has shared about changes to its program is encouraging, the conference is likely to be a real coming-out party.

"A lot of this stuff is still being written," Tanenhaus said. "I think Dell EMC World will be the first time a lot of people hear this stuff, including people who work there. They've been quiet about it. They're taking opinions. They need to go out and listen to people, and I think they've been doing that. There are many different partners with many different needs. There are different products, different technologies. It'll be kind of interesting to watch."

Dell, in a departure for the company that began selling PCs direct to consumers, also adjusted its rules of engagement to favor partners that have gained traction and loyalty in commercial accounts. Dell is evaluating its customer base going back three years, and customers identified as buying through partners will effectively become partner-led accounts indefinitely.

When asked if the channel is becoming more important to Dell and its customers, the CEO replied, "It's becoming a larger part of our business, so therefore, it's more important. That's pretty simple."