Michael Dell: 'Super Happy' With Partner First For Storage

'Now we’re several quarters in, momentum is continuing to build and we’re super happy with how it’s going,' Michael Dell, Dell Technologies founder, chairman and CEO, told CRN.

Dell Technologies’ Partner First Strategy for Storage is winning hearts and minds in the channel as the global leader in data storage now shares those sales with partners, in the biggest ever go-to-market shift for the direct-to-consumer granddaddy.

“The joke is that Dell is an official channel company now,” said Josh Lee, chief technology officer at Dell Platinum partner VirtuIT. “I can’t speak for every division, but they are having their sales reps pulling in channel partners from the get go. Not when the deal is already moving towards the finish line. They’re engaging us much earlier than they used to. It’s extremely exciting. Our entire team is pumped up about it.”

No one is happier about that than the man who pioneered the direct PC sales model, Michael Dell, Dell Technologies’ founder, chairman and CEO.

“I love it,” he said of the early results from the initiative, which was rolled out last August under Dell's president of global sales and customer operations, Bill Scannell. “Now we’re several quarters in, momentum is continuing to build and we’re super happy with how it’s going.”

Dell -- whose company began to sell products through the channel in 2007 -- told CRN he greenlit the program to demonstrate the company’s alignment with partners in the storage market, which is only growing as enterprise data and workloads become larger and more sophisticated.

“We have had some fantastic partners who have been doing great work with storage for a long, long time and we saw an opportunity to expand that, making it even more clear our alignment with partners, and it’s working very well,” Dell said. “As I travel around the world and meet with partners I hear the same enthusiasm. They were excited when they heard the announcement, but they want to see it work.”

[RELATED STORY: Dell Unveils Partner-First Strategy For Storage, Pays Direct Sellers More To Go Through Channel]

The person in charge of making it work is Dell Chief Partner Officer Denise Millard, who has been meeting with partner advisory councils around the globe to explain the shift and win adoption.

“We’re seeing it continue to accelerate,” she said. “We just got through with partner advisory boards around the world both for channel and alliances and they’re seeing really positive engagement from our sellers.”

Millard said part of the strategy is bringing partners into deals much earlier than before, which drives scale and captures share in the market.

“The pipeline is building and the revenue is continuing to build, the relationships and the trust is growing immensely,” she told CRN. “So when you combine a couple of quarters of success, but now that’s built on trust and now predictability, you have really great combination and I’m really bullish for the year.”

CR Howdyshell, CEO of Columbus, Ohio-based Dell Titanium partner Advizex said the involvement of Dell leaders in Partner First For Storage has resulted in a regular cadence of calls with his company’s field reps.

“This week we have Dell Day at the Columbus, Ohio Advizex office,” he said. “They’re coming in with their leadership. They’re going to do training, account planning, and strategy. This is the new standard with Dell. Their leadership is there. Their reps are there. That pulls our reps in. They’re talking about account strategy, there’s training, and just a general dialog.”

And at Nanuet, N.Y.-based Dell Platinum partner VirtuIT, Lee said the conversations with his Dell teams invariably move into other products and lines of business.

“My reps tell me they’ve had more conversations with Dell. It’s not just storage to storage. They’re having conversations with extended teams because of the Partner First For Storage,” he said.

Dell Technologies is the undisputed leader in data storage, bigger than number two, three, and four combined and with Partner First For Storage, the salespeople in their direct sales units are locating opportunities, calling Dell partners, and closing them through the channel.

“We’re not a large company,” said Lee. “But since Q1 we have four net new opportunities that were started in Q1 and closed in Q1 that had never heard of VirtuIT before. It’s gold for us. A new buyer, is a new buyer.”

Earlier this year, Dell’s senior vice president of North American mid-market, Kevin Connolly, and Jared Thurman, vice president of data center solutions, North American sales, channel and enterprise, hosted a partner roundtable to show VirtuIT and other solution providers how they were executing the Partner First for Sales plan, Lee said. Thurman has emerged as an undisputed “channel champion” for mid-market solution providers like VirtuIT, Lee said.

As a result, VirtuIT strategy is being shaped by meetings with Dell leaders, who are pushing an urgency throughout Dell’s core sellers to close deals through the channel.

“It’s great. It’s driving collaboration. It’s very much a united front from the top down for Partner First For Storage,” Lee said. “It would be nice if servers and networking were on the same train. I think it will get there.”

The total volume of stored data worldwide is expected to hit 175 zetabytes by 2025, with 90 percent of that taking the form of unstructured data – including images, video and sensor data – and that is where Dell is focusing many of its advancements in optimizing storage for AI.

The future storage market is being mapped now by Dell Chief Operating Officer Jeff Clarke, who described the accelerating demand enterprises had for high-end storage for data and workloads during the company’s February earnings call. Clarke said while text data is the dominant medium used in generative AI systems today, as those become more sophisticated, the data they read and store will become a richer area for Dell and its partners.

“I think, sets up quite well to be able to feed these new workloads with high-performance storage, which we tend to be the leader in,” Clarke said on the earnings call.

Howdyshell said as long as data keeps growing, there’s going to be a requirement for storage growth, and as long as Dell continues to partner with solution providers, the channel wins.

“From a partner perspective there is significant optimism in the partner community when it comes to what is going on with Dell,” he said. “They’re our largest partner. They’re our largest bet. I couldn’t be more confident about our bet on Dell.”