Dell Apex: The New Way Channel Partners Will Make Money

With Apex, Dell Technologies delivers, owns, and maintains the infrastructure in most cases. CRN breaks down how channel partners can make bank with Apex.


Dell Technologies launched its new flagship as-a-service portfolio today, Apex, that will change the way channel partners manage and sell Dell products and services – from servers and storage to cloud and PCs.

A major change with Dell’s Apex as-a-service subscription strategy is that Dell Technologies will deliver, own, and maintain the infrastructure in most cases. Dell says it can deliver and deploy Apex solutions in just 14 days with customer expansion available in as few as five days. The key value with Apex for channel partners – besides the up to 30 percent incentive on deals – is to create net new value-add services on top of Apex.

“We’re looking to reduce IT complexity so partners can focus on higher-value services opportunities,” said Akanksha Mehrotra, vice president of product marketing for Apex, in an interview with CRN. “Some examples we anticipate partners adding on top of Apex are consulting, residency, data migration, application or workload specific services, and maybe hybrid cloud extension from a customer’s location to a partner’s data center.”

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Dell partners will also eventually have access to the Apex Console, which is where customers manage their entire Apex lifecycle. A solution provider will be able to manage the Apex Console on behalf of the customer.

“We’ll also be exposing APIs into the console so partners can also integrate our console into others that they have in their environment,” Mehrotra said. “There’s a continuous engagement model that Apex provides to partners. We expect partners will develop new solutions on top of Apex.”

Michael Norring, CEO and President of GCSIT, a Seattle-based Platinum Dell partner, said the majority of profits being made today at GCSIT are around customer engagement around solving problems, rather than hardware deployment and ongoing maintenance. He agreed with Dell’s Apex strategy of quickly deploying Apex solutions and supporting low-value services while channel partners focus on more important customer challengers.

“I look at it from a, ‘What’s the value of a hardware box that sits with its lights on?’ It is almost zero. The value comes once you start adding things on top that actually builds out solutions, or builds IP, or engages the customer to change their process – that’s extremely high,” said Norring. “We as a channel partner understand that where we really make the biggest difference is not the flashing lights or the box, but everything contained within that box that delivers value. That’s really where we as a channel partner are the most use for customers.”

“If my only value is moving that paper from that box into the customer environment, I don’t have as much high value as I do in changing that organization to be better. That’s where the value sits. That’s where we as an organization sit,” Norring added.

Apex currently consists of Apex Data Storage Services, an on-premise as-a-service portfolio of scalable and elastic storage resources; Apex Cloud Services for as-a-service hybrid or private cloud infrastructure with integrated compute, storage, networking and virtualization resources to simplify cloud adoption; and Apex Custom where customers can create their own on-demand pay-per-use or usage-based IT environment leveraging Dell’s entire infrastructure product portfolio.

Dell’s Mehrotra said Dell Technologies is hearing from channel partners that standard support, deployment and maintenance isn’t as vital in the new multi-cloud world. With Apex, Dell is massively streamlining the deploy in a little as 14 days and provides ongoing updates, while channel partners focus on driving business outcomes and high-level services around digital transformation.

More Services Available With Apex Custom Solutions

However, with Dell’s Apex Custom Solutions, partners do have the ability to still offer some of these more traditional and standard services.

“With Apex Custom, it’s not only custom for the customer, it’s custom for the partner,” said Sam Grocott, senior vice president of product marketing for Dell. “Partners can pick and choose and dive deeper into their value-added services below the level of strategic services -- such as migration, consulting, or hybrid cloud deployment – and more into, ‘Hey I want to deploy it for you.’ You do that in Apex Custom.”

Apex Data Storage Services and Apex Cloud Services are Dell owned and managed, which Grocott dubs “the easy button” for IT.

“It’s however the partner wants to position the Apex portfolio. Some partners are trained and leveled at different level of services, so they may want the Custom [Solutions] route. But some may want the easy button,” he said. “The easy button for partners means, ‘Hey let me focus on more strategic opportunities with my customers. Let Dell take care of mundane stuff.’”

Up To 30% Partner Incentives For Apex

Channel partners can receive up to a 30 percent incentive of the committed contract value when selling Apex Data Storage Services and Apex Cloud Services. Apex Custom Solutions provide partners with up to a 20 percent incentive on the committed contract value.

“If you look at that incentive across the industry, we’re really putting our money where our mouth is,” said Grocott. “If you benchmark that 30 percent incentive across the industry, it is definitely market leading from a partner go-to-market standpoint.”

Scott Winslow, president of Winslow Technology Group, a Waltham, Mass.-based Titanium partner, was bullish on the possibility of receiving between a 20 percent and 30 percent incentive on Dell Apex deals.

However, Winslow says Dell needs to provide more details on Apex training and sales enabling for channel partners.

“There’s going to be a big investment required for partners here, so partners will be looking for a return on that investment. Sales enablement is going to be a key part of this,” said Winslow.

Winslow’s CEO said the change is necessary as he sees more customer moving toward as-a-service, consumption-based buying.

“More and more of the industry is moving that way and it makes sense to move there on infrastructure as-a-service. The key for a partner is, ‘If we’re providing Dell’s Apex as-a-service, where’s the value add? Is it something that’s adjacent to this portfolio? Is it expertise in security? Is it expertise in a particular vertical?” – that’s what we need to focus on,” he said. “We’ll work with the Dell team to get enabled. There’s a number of ways we can add value. Dell is on the right track.”

Dell’s Grocott reassured that partner enablement and training around Apex is a significant investment for Dell Technologies in 2021 and beyond.

“As-a-service use cases are becoming the choice of customers on how they want to consume this infrastructure. It is growing quickly. We will continue rolling out the entire portfolio of Dell Technologies to build out even more of the Apex set of as-a-service offers,” he said. “To do this successfully, we know our channel partners are critical to its success. So we not only built in the training, the enablement and capabilities to integrate with our solutions, but frankly the incentive program. We want to do this together. We’re in the build years of this market opportunity and we want to investment in partners to do it with us.”