Partners: Dell EMC's New Midrange Storage Product 'Risky, Bold, But It Shows Commitment'

Channel partners are eagerly awaiting the launch of Dell EMC's new midrange storage product that will combine the best features and functions across its portfolio into a single midrange product, aiming to take out all competitors standing in its way.

"If they rationalize their midrange portfolio and truly commit their go-to-market with the channel – that's game over," said Michael Girouard, executive vice president of enterprise sales for Teklinks, a Birmingham Ala.-based Dell EMC Gold partner. "At a high level: it's risky, it's bold, but it shows commitment. With all of these different portfolios being brought together, you're going to have to eventually end of life a few. I'd like to see them rip the Band-Aid off. Make your product great, embrace the channel, then you'll scale the business."

Although competitors like NetApp CEO George Kurian recently said his company's technology is "years ahead" of Dell EMC, solution providers say the Round Rock, Texas-based infrastructure giant has the ability to take the midrange market by storm.

[Related: Dell Dominates Worldwide Storage Market In Q1 2018 As HPE Share Drops]

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CRN was first to report in May that Dell EMC is establishing a new simplified storage product lineup that will have engineering teams now squarely focusing on a single product line for each storage market segment from low end to midrange to high end and a product for the unstructured file and object storage market. For the high-end market, Dell will focus on its new all-flash PowerMax product unveiled last month, while Dell's PowerVault line will be the go to offering for the entry level and SMB market.

Partners said a rationalization of the midrange storage portfolio is needed to combat a product line overlap stemming from the Dell EMC merger in 2016, which created confusion for both partners and customers.

Josh Lee, director of sales at Nanuet, New York-based ViruIT Systems, a Dell EMC Titanium and VMware partner, said both Dell and EMC have a proven track record of seamlessly transitioning customers to new products -- which bodes well for the company's upcoming midrange solution.

"What really excites me is that I can confidently go to a customer and say, 'Dell has done this before and EMC has done this before.' We've seen this on the Dell side with [EqualLogic] PS to SC series transition. We have dozens of customers at VirtuIT that have transitioned from the old PC EqualLogic Arrays to the new SC Series legacy Compellent storage – that's been absolutely seamless," said Lee. "We've also seen it in our EMC business where we've transitioned customers from the legacy VNX and VNXe portfolio into the new Unity portfolio with no issues."

Sam Grocott, senior vice president of marketing for Dell EMC's Infrastructure Solutions Group -- which includes storage, servers and networking – declined to provide a timeline for the new midrange product launch, but said it was part of the company's two to three year next-generation storage strategy.

"Our next-generation storage strategy is a two to three-year journey. So it will be put in that multi-year window," said Grocott. "Instead of three or four midrange products, we'll have one that can do everything you love about those products."

For its recent first fiscal quarter earnings report this month, Dell reported a 10 percent increase in storage sales to $4.08 billion. Dell also increased its worldwide storage market share lead over Hewlett Packard Enterprise during the first quarter of 2018, capturing nearly 21.6 percent of the market, up from 20.3 percent share year over year. HPE's global storage market share dropped to 17.7 percent, down from 20.1 percent in the same quarter one year ago.

However, HPE Chief Sales Officer Phil Davis recently slammed Dell EMC's storage product road map "rationalization," claiming it raises questions about which products will survive. "The one thing that is clear is that Dell EMC’s storage roadmap is changing; unfortunately for customers, which products will survive is uncertain," said Davis, in a blog post.

Grocott said there will be no end-of-life for any midrange products such as Unity, XtremIO and its SC Series and that technology roadmaps on those solutions are continuing forward.

"We're not worried about what HPE, NetApp and others are going to say. If we did that, we would be distracted of our mission of bringing the greatest product portfolio to our customers and partners," said Grocott. "None of them are end-of-life, nor will they be end-of-life until we introduce the next-generation platform sometime in the future."

Teklinks Girouard said in order for Dell EMC's midrange attack to be highly successful, the vendor needs a precise go-to-market partner vision and channel enablement.

"I just want them to point me in the right direction. The more focus you can get us, the more skilled we'll be in it," said Girouard. "This is going to take commitment from them. I think everyone is excited to see what they come up with."