Channel Chief Cook: Dell As A 'Startup' Brings Opportunities To Channel Partners

Dell's successful transition to become a private company is giving it a chance to both reinvigorate its enterprise business and find new opportunities for its channel partners.

That's the word from Cheryl Cook, vice president of global channel alliances at Dell, who Sunday told an audience of solution providers at this week's XChange Solution Provider conference in Los Angeles that Dell is acting almost like a startup.

Dell last Fall become a private company after a protracted, drama-filled process that at some times left the IT industry doubting it would actually happen. However, Cook said, CEO Michael Dell made it happen. "It has generated enthusiasm and excitement within the company," she said.

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The privatization of Dell, along with several huge acquisitions Dell has made over the past three years, has allowed Dell to provide end-to-end solutions to its partners, Cook said.

"We know that represents an opportunity for you, our partners," she said.

It's an opportunity, but one that Dell must move fast on to capitalize on it, said Tony Balistrieri, president of the Western region at MCPc, a San Francisco-based solution provider and Dell partner.

"I feel great about Cook's direction for the business and the channel," Balistrieri said. "But the biggest challenge for Dell is to get its business growing quickly. Competitors know what Dell is doing and are countering it."

There's plenty of incremental business out there for Dell and its partners to find, Balistrieri said. "It's not that Dell's losing," he said. "But they have to be moving fast."

Dell is already moving fast, Cook said. About one-third of the company's overall revenue now comes from indirect channels, and its channel business is growing about three-times the overall IT business, she said.

Dell's channel business only really started about six-and-a-half years ago, Cook said. But the company already has a robust channel program. "But it's just getting started," she said. "We're finally just getting warmed up."

Dell at last Fall's Dell World conference made three significant changes to its channel program, Cook said.

These included the unveiling of a more predictable engagement model that make it easier for solution providers to know how to work with Dell, a new 20-percent increase in compensation to Dell's direct sales reps who bring in channel partners to help with complex solutions such as storage and virtual desktop infrastructure, and new investments in partner success including a 500-percent increase in availability of demo equipment and a 400-percent investment in partner sales rep incentives.

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This push to increase its channel involvement comes as Dell and its partners face such industry "mega-trends" such as the cloud, mobility, big data, and software-defined everything, Cook said. At the same time, the new benchmarks for IT are coming from companies who have embraced those mega-trends, including Facebook, Amazon, Google and Microsoft, she said.

"We need to make sure we bring relevant, application-optimized solutions to customers," she said.

Dell is helping partners move beyond traditional IT infrastructures, which are not flexible enough to help customers adopt more modern practices such as the cloud, by providing what Cook called open standards and systems.

This includes server technology that takes advantage of flash storage technology and such storage technologies as auto-tiering as part of Dell's Active Infrastructure, Cook said, referring to her company's converged infrastructure offering.

"As the lines blur between compute, storage and networking, we can provide the infrastructure," she said.

Cook responded to a solution provider question about how she sees Dell's channel business growing over the next three-to-five years by saying the company has no planned cap on channel growth, which is now about three times that of the market overall.

"We want to keep that clip going, or growing faster," she said.

At least one partner during the the conference voiced concerns about the quality of Dell's support in the wake of all of its acquisitions, asking Cook to provide an update on the company's support infrastructure. .

Cook said the company is not yet perfect given that it is still digesting some of its 20-or-so acquisitions.