Dell Opens Forum With Focus On One Storage Channel

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Dell on Monday opened its first Dell Storage Forum with a focus on spreading the message that the company wants its solution providers to focus less on selling specific storage products and more on solutions for customers.

The Dell Storage Forum, held this week in Orlando, Fla., is Dell's first channel-focused storage event, and is based on the format of the old C:Drive conference Dell inherited with its acquisition early this year of Compellent.

The C:Drive storage conference was unique in that the first couple days were devoted to channel partners, followed by a couple days focused on customers, with solution providers and customers attending together in the middle. Like C:Drive, the first couple of days of the Dell Storage Forum are focused on channel partners, with the focus shifting to end user attendees who arrive later in the week.

The Dell Storage Forum also incorporates an end user-focused event that Dell inherited its 2008 acquisition of EqualLogic.

Greg Davis, vice president and general manager for global commercial channels at Dell, told the approximately 250 channel partners attending the event that Dell's channel business has made a lot of progress over the last couple years.

For instance, Davis said, 16,000 deals were registered by channel partners in the first quarter of 2011, up about 46 percent over the same period last year. Davis also said that Dell has a total of between 1,200 and 1,300 partners at the preferred and premier levels, and that they grew their Dell business by about 100 percent between 2009 and 2010.

Dell's total channel business for 2010 grew 40 percent over 2009, Davis said. "We're happy we have a (channel) business growing much faster than the overall IT industry," he said.

Dell offered about 76,000 training courses to channel partners in 2010, and hopes to increase that figure to up to 150,000 or 200,000 in 2011, Davis said. Those training courses have resulted in Dell's top 10 partners seeing their Dell business grow a total of 126 percent over 2010, he said.

"We hope you'll see this as an opportunity to invest in your business. We want you to go back to your business and convince more people to take the training," he said.

Brian Bell, executive director of worldwide sales for Dell Compellent and a former top Compellent executive, said that Dell had an 11.4 percent storage market share in 2010, citing IDC figures.

"We want to take our unfair share of the market," Bell said.

Dell's storage strength began in late 2007, when the company unveiled a $1.4 billion bid for EqualLogic, a pioneer in the development of iSCSI storage. That bid, coming only weeks after Dell made its first concerted effort to build a channel program, gave Dell a solution provider base which was at first concerned about working with Dell but which later formed a core part of the vendor's channel.

In its other significant channel-oriented acquisition, Dell in February closed its $876 million acquisition of Compellent, a leading developer of tiered storage virtualization technology.

Now that Dell has closed its Compellent acquisition, it is time for partners to forget about specializing in one storage technology or another, Bell said.

"For many of you, you've come in with a Compellent lens, or an EqualLogic lens," he said. "We want you to expand your view."

Next: Building A Storage Business With Dell

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