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Dell EMC Storage Sales Slump Double-Digits, But The Company Sees Strong Demand Ahead

"We need to get [storage] going and growing in the right direction," said Dell Vice Chairman Jeff Clarke, during the company's fourth quarter earnings call on Thursday.

Despite Dell EMC's massive storage push, Dell Technologies reported an 11 percent storage revenue decline for its fourth fiscal quarter, ended Feb. 28.

"We have work to do in storage," said Jeff Clarke, vice chairman, products and operations at Dell, during the company's earnings conference call on Thursday. "We need to get it going and growing in the right direction … It is without question something [Dell CFO] Tom [Sweet] and I have tremendous focus on in the organization to change the performance of our storage business."

The Round Rock, Texas company reported storage revenues of $4.2 billion for the quarter, down 11 percent from the year-ago quarter. Dell's overall Infrastructure Solutions Group, which includes servers, networking and storage, grew 5 percent to $8.8 billion.

[Related: Dell CFO Sweet: Positive Impact Of Tax Reform Should Offset Any Negatives In The Long Term]

Sweet said for the first time since the closure of its $67 billion of EMC in 2016, Dell's storage demand grew year-over-year. "One of the drivers behind the variance between demand and reported results was due to differed revenue, primarily related to maintenance and our flexible consumption models," said Sweet.

"We are encouraged that we exited the quarter with better storage velocity on a demand basis, and we expect a gradual recovery over the coming quarters as the actions and investments we put in place this year gain traction," he said.

Dell has been waging an all-out assault on the storage market over the past 14 months, investing more than $2 billion, hiring 1,2000 new storage sales specialist and creating for the first time new channel storage sales quotas.

The company has also launched a Future-Proof Storage Loyalty Program for partners, which includes a customer three-year, satisfaction guarantee; trade-in credits toward new Dell EMC storage products; a storage efficiency guarantee; and one year of built-in Virtustream Storage Cloud for new buyers of Dell EMC Unity storage products. Most recently, Dell created a Center of Competence around storage management aimed at getting more competitive and faster pricing out to partners.

"We built our plan in fiscal year 2019 as a take share plan. As a growth plan," said Clarke, during Thursday's earnings call. "We've set the tone in the organization that we are expecting to grow in the external storage business and take share."

According to third quarter storage data from research firm IDC, Dell EMC was the market leader for external storage systems sales with $1.6 billion. In regards to its $2.2 billion in total enterprise storage systems sales, Dell EMC trailed only behind Hewlett Packard Enterprise who generated $2.4 billion in the quarter, according to IDC.

One top executive from a solution provider who is a Dell Titanium partner said the storage slump for the fourth quarter wasn't positive news for the channel, but he's optimistic about the future.

"An 11 percent drop isn't good news, but I think this is going to take another quarter or two until we really see if this storage push is resonating in the market," said the executive, who did not wish to be named. "The storage rebates, programs, and so on are fairly new. So the channel is just starting to get them out there."

For Dell's overall fourth fiscal quarter, Dell reported revenue of $21.9 billion, up 9 percent year-over-year. VMware revenue for the quarter hit $2.3 billion, an annual increase of 20 percent. Dell's other businesses, including Pivotal, RSA, SecureWorks and Virtustream, captured a total of $492 million in revenue, up 3 percent from the year-ago quarter.

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