Partners Not Worried About Dell Deal To Resell SonicWall After Private Equity Sale

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Partners of SonicWall say they aren't concerned about sales competition with Dell despite a key executive saying the vendor will act as a VAR for the network security solutions provider after it's sold to private equity investors.

Dell announced Monday that it planned to sell Dell Software Group to private equity firms Francisco Partners and Elliott Management Corporation. Among other assets, the deal includes Dell's SonicWall network security business.

In an email to partners Monday, which was viewed by CRN, Curtis Hutcheson, Dell Security's vice president and general manager, said SonicWall will maintain an "OEM agreement in place with Dell to enable them to sell and support SonicWall network security solutions as a VAR."

[Related: Dell Agrees To Offload Software Business To Elliott Management, Francisco Partners]

While it's possible the arrangement could stoke channel conflict between SonicWall partners and Dell, solution providers said the relationship harkens back to SonicWall's glory days under private equity ownership by Thoma Bravo. Dell bought SonicWall from ThomaBravo in 2012 for about $1.2 billion.

"There's certainly the chance for conflict, but I don't think this perpetuates conflict," said Michael Crean, president of Solutions Granted, a Woodbridge, Va.-based Dell partner. Before Dell assumed ownership, "SonicWall was aggressive in the marketplace under Thoma Bravo and Dell was just a partner," Crean said. "Those years were the best of our lives. This should work the same way."

"This is going to be very good for the overall SonicWall community, to get back to the way we're used to doing business," Crean said. "It empowers SonicWall to become more nimble. The Dells of the world aren't the biggest innovators creating the next big thing; they acquire the next big thing. Smaller organizations can go after things in a very fast, strategic fashion."

Michael Goldstein, CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based LAN Infotech, agreed, saying that he didn't expect the shift to impact the way he buys the solution or his relationship with Dell as he sourced SonicWall primarily through distribution.

"I don't see it as a threat," Goldstein said.

Jane Wright, principal analyst for security at Technology Business Research, said she thinks the acquisition will allow SonicWall to position itself better in a decelerating market for network security solutions. She said she expects SonicWall to adopt new approaches that previously could have been considered competitive, such as integrating its network security features into other vendors' endpoint threat detection or DLP solutions.

"I think SonicWall is going to end up with more autonomy to take steps that would not have made sense under Dell ownership," Wright said.

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