XChange 2012: EMC Shepherding Channel Transition From Product Sales To Storage Solutions

It wasn't that long ago that storage giant EMC was considered channel anathema: a direct-heavy powerhouse, focused primarily on enterprise customers, that had no real interest in cultivating solution provider relationships.

But, years after EMC first made overtures toward the midmarket channel and convinced even the most skeptical storage and infrastructure VARs that it meant business, EMC these days is a channel powerhouse, with a diversified product portfolio and a purview beyond the higher-end enterprise.

Indeed, it's well-positioned to take advantage of the storage needs that trends like big data and cloud computing have created, said John Hanlon, EMC president, Americas sales and customer operations, addressing solution providers Tuesday at XChange 2012 in Dallas.

[Related: EMC's Joe Tucci: Why The Channel Is 'Absolutely Critical' ]

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"People are consuming and using more storage than ever, but how they will consume and leverage the technology will change," he said.

With the way EMC now segments its channel go-to-market strategy, about 80 percent of the accounts that reside in the Americas now have to be sold through partners. That's up from between 60 percent to 70 percent as recently as last year, Hanlon said, and it's another sign EMC takes partners seriously.

"I need you more than you need me," he told the XChange crowd.

Aligning with EMC means aligning with a vendor well-equipped to take advantage of all the industry change that's occurred in the last two years.

Hanlon cited a November 2011 Pacific Crest Securities survey of top customer spending priorities that ranked network security, server virtualization software, storage hardware, cloud infrastructure, data security and private cloud the top six among 10.

All of those, Hanlon noted, are EMC's specialties. The storage market itself represents some $61 billion globally, with about half in the Americas. But for partners, EMC is emphasizing a transition from selling products -- talking up terabytes, that is -- to true storage solutions.

"Look at the legacy of EMC: we were a hardware company with really one product, Symmetrix, focused on enterprise, and now we're a company with 30 to 40 different products, different selling motions, [focused] on solutions," Hanlon said.

EMC's priorities include the recruitment and enablement of more partners and service providers, and driving home EMC's execution in the midmarket, especially behind its VNX and VNXe unified storage lines.

The solution providers of tomorrow will compete for customers that themselves are transforming rapidly. With so many line-of-business needs inside a customer's organization and the solutions and services model changing how IT is acquired and consumed, the CIOs of today are becoming "brokers" for outside services, Hanlon argued.

"What I'm hearing more and more is that it has nothing to do with cost," he described. "It has everything to do with agility, flexibility, geography, resources and the vertical you're in."