CRN Exclusive: Dell Security Prepares To Roll Out Channel Incentives, New Products At Vegas Event

Dell Security says it is alone among major IT vendors in its ability to provide a comprehensive security platform, and it wants its channel partners to help put more ground between Dell and its competitors.

Partners headed to Las Vegas for the Dell Security Peak Performance event next week can expect a full-court press of channel incentives, product introductions and strategy development designed to help ink bigger deals with Dell Security and encourage customers to go all-in with the Round Rock, Texas-based company.

In an exclusive interview, Dell Security Solutions chief Curtis Hutcheson told CRN: "We're really trying to step up our game. [Founder and CEO] Michael [Dell] has invested more in us. Michael has told us we have access to more capital in the channel than any of our competitors."

[Related: Partners: Dell Addressing Huge Opportunity With Wireless Firewall Upgrades]

With that, Hutcheson said, Dell Security would invest in training, incentives and "channel-led marketing" as it stokes the growth he says partners have achieved in the past year.

Partners that attended Dell Security Peak Performance last year have collectively grown about 40 percent, Hutcheson said. Dell is expecting attendance at this year's event to be about double last year's, and the message they'll get is simple and aggressive, Hutcheson said: "Do you want to be a partner growing at industry rates, or do you want to be a partner growing at double digits?"

Dell is prepared to offer more rebates, more volume-based incentives and more discounts, as well as joint investments and business plan development help to partners that want to make big bets with Dell Security. The specifics of those programs will be revealed during the event, Hutcheson said.

The opportunity waiting for partners is huge: Hutcheson said the estimates Dell is working with indicate 80 percent of customers will replace their existing firewalls with "next generation" firewalls within the next three years.

He said Dell Security is eager to meet that demand in a way that allows partners to sell its entire plug-and-play, platform as a security strategy unto itself, cementing the company's position in the market alongside Fortinet and Palo Alto Networks, and separating it from other large vendors, particularly Cisco.

"It's not just a suite -- you can have a security strategy that SonicWall can plug in and manage," Hutcheson said. "We can provide the bricks, or the wall, and customers don't have to make their own mortar. Vendors who are able to provide a platform, a comprehensive security platform, are seeing double-digit growth. All the leaders who are pulling away are providing platforms."

"[The] customer wants who's going to protect [them] the best. We show we can do that in each element or brick, but we can also be comprehensive," Hutcheson said. "The strategy is important to understand, but [has to be proven] through third party. VARs have to be objective. They have to say, 'Here's the reality, here are your options. Here's why we lead with the Dell security platform.' We're pushing and helping customers think a few steps ahead. We really connect with customer[s] so they have a security strategy that goes from data center to the edge."

Michael Gray, director of network operations at Tewksbury, Mass.-based Dell Security partner Thrive Networks, said Thrive was once a Cisco shop, but made the move to Dell a few years ago. He said Dell is definitely making its mark in the security market, especially with its efforts to fully integrate its security products in a single portfolio.

That integration makes Dell Security an easier sell, and it's helping Thrive break into more conversations with midmarket customers, Gray said.

"It's always easier to deal with one vendor," Gray said. "If you're juggling, it's difficult."

"Dell is the leader in desktop encryption, in laptop encryption. When I go to my management team and say it's Dell, I don't get a lot of pushback. We used to be a Cisco shop years ago and made a wholesale change to Dell a few years ago. We've got SonicWall SMB nailed down, and we're trying to move midmarket, where people are just blindly buying Cisco. And SonicWall has been prepping us to make those connections and have those conversations."

Fred Zappolo, vice president of sales at Bayport, N.Y.-based Dell partner CSDNET, said Dell Security's solutions are a good fit for CSDNET's customers in health care and the public sector.

"We run up against Cisco, Palo Alto and Fortinet, and we feel like we have a competitive advantage, especially when it comes to high availability, which fits nice with our customer base," Zappolo told CRN. "The advantage over Cisco is that a lot of Cisco's stuff is still modular. If you want to do this, you have to add this module. The nice thing about SonicWall is, it's all included, one time in that box.

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"If we're coming up against a Cisco end-of-life, we're very successful," Zappolo said.