Partners: Dell EMC Restructuring Could Set Stage For Stepped-Up Battle With Cisco

Dell EMC partners said the company's restructuring move is sure to put a strain on the behemoth's Vblock converged infrastructure relationship with rival Cisco Systems.

Partners said the restructuring essentially puts Dell in a more formidable position to bundle server, storage and networking products together in a converged offering to battle Cisco.

CRN learned Thursday that Dell EMC is ending its Converged Platform and Solutions Division and moving its hyper-converged and converged infrastructure teams into Dell's core server and storage business units. Dell EMC's HCI and high-performance computing teams are being moved under its Server Division, while its converged infrastructure team will now be part of Dell EMC's core Storage Division.

[Related: Dell EMC Restructures Infrastructure Orgnaizations To 'Streamline' Product Roadmaps, Speed Go-To-Market]

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Rob Steele, practice manager for RoundTower Technologies, a Cincinnati-based solution provider that partners with Cisco and Dell EMC, said the reorganization could result in more Dell server, storage and networking offerings being combined on the VX product lines.

"You're going to start seeing some more Dell stuff coming out with more of the VX lines. So it will be more Dell-based networking. More Dell-based servers in there," said Steele, who runs the infrastructure business for RoundTower, ranked No. 91 on the CRN 2017 Solution Provider 500. "I know VxRack already is essentially mostly Dell hardware. They still have Cisco top-of-rack switches, but you may now start to see that go away in the future."

The converged infrastructure Vblock solution was co-developed by VMware, Cisco and EMC's VCE project in 2009. It is based on VMware virtualization, Cisco compute and networking, and Dell EMC storage sold as a pre-packaged, converged platform.

Solution providers have said that although Cisco and Dell have committed to the VCE relationship following Dell's $67 billion acquisition of EMC in 2016, Dell EMC is now hitting its stride as a combined company with the complex integration of the merger now complete.

"They've continued to sell the Vblock solution, which is a Cisco-centric solution, but I do think it's possible and probable that they're augmenting that solution with their own IP and maybe different SKUs," said Scott Winslow, president of Winslow Technology Group, a Waltham, Mass., Dell EMC Titanium partner, named one of CRN's 2017 Triple Crown Award winners—companies that have placed on CRN’s Solution Provider 500, Fast Growth 150 and Tech Elite 250 lists in the same year.

Cisco did not respond to CRN’s request for comment by press time.

Matt Baker, senior vice president of Dell EMC strategy and planning, told CRN that the restructuring is about streamlining and improving how the company builds and delivers systems. Baker denied that the move will impact its Cisco relationship.

"It doesn't mean there's any change to our relationship with Cisco and/or the importance of Cisco within our converged infrastructure system," said Baker.

As part of the restructuring, Jeffrey Boudreau, senior vice president and general manager of Dell EMC's Storage Division, will now lead the converged infrastructure portfolio as well as the company's relationship with Cisco. Dell EMC's networking leader, Tom Burns, will lead operations and research and development for VxBlock and Vscale products, according to Baker. Vscale currently leverages Cisco LAN and SAN switches and optional software networking technology.

Overall, partners said the internal restructuring shows that Dell EMC's new infrastructure leader, Jeff Clarke, vice chairman of products and operations, is starting to make his mark.

"We're starting to see the first steps of Jeff putting his fingerprints on the organization," said Winslow. "He was very clear that he's all about simplifying the portfolio, innovation, and time to market. That's the imprint he wants to leave on the organization with the new responsibility. That's what you're seeing here. He's aligning the hyper-converged products – VxRail, VxRack, the XC Series – under the server division. Why would he do that? The commonality there is that all of those solutions are driven by Dell PowerEdge servers, the underlying technology. So that make sense. It's logical. … I'm bullish on what Jeff is going to bring to the table."

Bob Venero, CEO of Holbrook, N.Y.-based solution provider Future Tech, No. 119 on the 2017 CRN Solution Provider 500, said he sees the restructuring clearing up what were "blurred lines" between the two organizations. "This really helps define which group you should be engaging and working with," he said. "I think it is going to be a key in driving hyper-converged sales."