Dell-SilverBack Partner Conference: More Assurances, Less Answers

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Dell told SilverBack Technologies MSPs this week that it plans to sell managed services directly to end users as well as partners in a program that will eventually require deal registration. But exactly how the program will be structured -- and priced -- is still up in the air, said executives who attended this week's partner conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., for about 175 SilverBack MSPs.

"They will be going direct. I think we all know that would be the case," said one attendee, who asked not to use his name.

SilverBack MSPs shared many concerns with Dell over the two-and-a-half-day conference and Dell addressed them as best they could, said attendees. In many cases however, there were more assurances than answers. One of the biggest concerns shared by partners -- and still to be addressed by Dell -- surround the rules of engagement for end users who are current customers of an MSP.

Because the deal registration program is for specific opportunities and does not cover the customer as a whole, customers could end up buying managed services from both MSPs and Dell, a situation MSPs would like to avoid.

Dell was very specific in noting that the managed services registration is for a specific deal, not the client as a whole, said Paul Cronin, senior vice president at Atrion Networking, a Warwick, R.I.-based solution provider and MSP. "That's a concern. Most times, you can get more protection from a vendor, especially when you're embedded that much with a customer. It's definitely a point of concern, but it's nothing that's been nailed down," he said.

MSPs at the conference were told that Dell sales agents will be compensated equally for selling managed services direct or through a partner. "I want to be able register a deal, but also I want to protect my current customers. I want to be able to register them so that [Dell] does not offer them the checked box for managed services when they call Dell to buy a PC or server," said the MSP who asked not to be named. "That creates a problem for me."

Despite the concerns, the MSP said he left the conference feeling better about the Dell/SilverBack merger than when he arrived. "The association with Dell will be good for managed services. Because of the magnitude of the company and their marketing capabilities, they will help us educate the market on managed services and benefits. I feel like Dell is trying real hard to create this partner channel program. They're focusing a lot on that, but it's a learning process for them. They're trying hard to get where we would like to see them get," he said.

Brian Sherman, director of business development at Autotask, a software partner of SilverBack, was also at this week's conference and felt Dell gave the right assurances to MSPs on hand. "There was a lot of concern because of Dell's history, but information was given to [dispel the concerns]," Sherman said. "They said their preferred route to market would be to work with the partners because they're the experts and can get to end users."

Dell's channel chief Greg Davis answered a long Q&A with partners, hoping to address all concerns, Sherman said. "He talked about changing the organization on the fly. It showed he was interested. It will take a while to build trust, but the guys I talked to were encouraged," Sherman said.

Dell also told Autotask that it would open up its API to allow for better integration of Autotask's services management applications, Sherman said.


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