Dell Hopes To Court VARs With 12G PowerEdge Improvements

Dell's server sales through the channel are a small portion of its overall server market share, but the company believes that business should increase this year after the release of the company's 12th generation (12G) PowerEdge servers.

"The 12G announcement for Dell is super critical in terms of continuing to extend our ability to innovate in the platform," said Tony Parkinson, vice president of SMB at Dell. "We're really focused on the benefits of customers of these technologies. It's not just, 'here's a faster CPU,' but [there are] true innovations for customers across applications performance and virtualization, which is pretty much a key metric for our servers."

Parkinson added that the replacement cycle for mission critical servers is back to a three-year time frame.

That time frame presents a large opportunity now for channel partners, along with the PowerEdge enhancements such as Intel Xeon processor E5 family, innovations in embedded systems managedment tools, and technology taken from Dell's Compellent Fluid Data architecture, including Express Cache, a PCIe Flash device that plugs into the server to maximize application performance, and Cachecade, a RAID controller technology.

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12G servers use 30 percent less power than the previous generation and embedded systems management can save up to 30 management days a year for end users, Parkinson said.

"Obviously there's CPU improvement but the massive memory footpring allows for more virtual machines per server and helps on consolidation," Parkinson said. "From a customer perspective, there's two-and-a-half times more Exchange mail on a single server than previous technology and 10.5 [times] more performance for SQL due to integrated performance of solid state drives," Parkinson said.

"There's a compelling reason to change. If we just bring out a new server, there's no reason for customers to migrate to it. We're not doing a service to the customer or to our engineering teams spending time on the innovation," Parkinson said.

The servers also tie into Dell's storage and networking solutions to create a converged data center infrastructure, Parkinson said. "It's really part of whole enterprise strategy," he said.

Many Dell solution providers came to the company through one of Dell's numerous acquisitions, such as Compellent or Force 10 and many of those VARs that haven't expanded their relationship to servers yet. Parkinson is hoping 12G does just that.

"We clearly want to continue to grow our footprint in the channel and cross pollinate if a reseller is only selling storage or only selling networking our only selling our software platforms," Parkinson said. "In terms of access to [more] platforms, we are building seeding programs to get them servers or to bring their customers into [a Dell solutions center], especially bringing customers in to validate their applications on a new server."

Next: Balancing Open Platform vs. Driving More Dell Products

Training partners on 12G is also a key part of marketing the servers to more solution providers, Parkinson said. "We're making access to 12G training to partners and there's no question there's a recruitment drive for partners that want to work with us," he said.

Dell has long preached an open-platform environment to partners, wanting its products to work in multi-vendor environments. The trick is learning to balance the reality of heterogeneous environments with recruiting partners to sell more Dell, admits Parkinson.

"It is a balance, we know adjacencies are there. We strive to make sure we train channel partners there. That's been ongoing to us," Parkinson said. "We've got great servers, competitive networking platforms now, competitive storage. The build-out of the portfolio is really helping us attract new types of resellers of new types of solutions but we understand resellers might carry a particular brand. We want them to see Dell as viable alternative."

"I think the days of channel partners wary of us are well behind us. We're making sure it is a balanced approach. We understand resellers carry multiple platforms, our job is to prove to them and give them the best products and technology and I think 12G does that," he added.

Michael Butz, president and CEO of UltraLevel, an $18 million Detroit, Mich.-based VAR, said the enhanced memory capabilities and direct access memory improvements make 12G a powerful solution to bring to market.

"Removing the memory bus bottleneck is huge. You can put several hundred gigabytes of memory now into a PowerEdge server, plus now if a customer prefers a 10 [GB] environment, they can order a 10 GB mezzanine card, or if they bought it with 1 GB, it's an easy change to upgrade. It's very flexible," Butz said.

UltraLevel became a Dell solution provider after the company acquired EqualLogic, but has doubled its Dell sales each year since then, Butz said.

"Customers have been very happy with the PowerEdge line and I'm really excited about the architecture and improvements of 12G. I think Dell's the lead OEM in terms of the Sandy Bridge platform," he said.