EMC Channel Partners Holding Off On Signing Up With Dell, Risking Future Opportunities

Many of storage giant EMC's channel partners are in the wait-and-see mode when it comes to signing up with Dell, betting that their expertise will allow them to remain go-to partners for EMC customers as EMC becomes part of Dell.

However, those EMC partners face potential risks by waiting, including increased competition from Dell partners who are rushing to get certified on EMC storage solutions, and from Dell itself, which historically has awarded better margins to channel partners who sell a wider range of Dell solutions.

Dell in October said it plans to purchase EMC in a deal worth $67 billion. The deal is expected to close sometime this year.

[Related: EMC Partners Face New Competitive Threat From Dell Partners Getting Into EMC Enterprise Game]

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Dell and EMC channel executives told CRN there are no formal programs to get partners of one vendor to sign with the other, although both companies are quietly encouraging their partners to do just that.

As reported by CRN on Tuesday, many Dell channel partners have already started getting trained and certified on EMC solutions in preparation for Dell's expected closing this year of its EMC acquisition. Others have said they plan to get certified on EMC solutions, while at least one Dell channel partner is planning to acquire an EMC counterpart to take advantage of the new technology.

Such partners are looking to take advantage of a more complete storage offering to go with their existing server, networking and other technology practices.

Those partners will also be able to take advantage of increased channel margins from selling solutions considering multiple Dell technologies rather than from selling a single technology like storage, a benefit several Dell partners told CRN they currently take advantage of.

But while many Dell solution providers have either started getting EMC training and certification, or are making plans to do so, fewer EMC channel partners seem to have begun preparing for Dell certification.

Gary Alexander, CEO of Alexander Open Systems, an Overland Park, Kan.-based solution provider and longtime EMC channel partner, told CRN via email that while his company may consider Dell solutions over time, for now, it is still very much committed to EMC.

"We like to focus on a primary partner so we can be highly expert in the support and services for that product. In the case of storage, EMC is that focus," Alexander wrote.

Alexander Open Systems plans to remain committed to EMC unless Dell does something that would change the relationship, Alexander wrote.

"I don't believe Dell will do anything to harm this partnership. ... EMC is our primary storage partner by a very wide margin just as Cisco is by far our primary partner on all the products they bring to the market. We will work to have a strong partnership with Dell when this deal is complete. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out," he wrote.

Alan Dumas, president of Boston-based EMC partner Accunet Solutions, said he is not sure he wants his company to commit the resources needed to get Dell-certified, especially since it is not yet clear what product lines might get consolidated.

Dumas told CRN there is little risk in waiting to embrace the Dell storage lines. "With most of our OEMs and customers, we have the right relationships," he said. "We have the experience and certifications to turn around quickly if we have to."

However, Dumas said, as a true solution provider, Accunet is open to anything."If you focus on one or two vendors, you are not a real solution provider," he said. "We've worked with Dell in the past, but we just haven't focused on the company. But we're very receptive to hear what Dell has."

Dallas-based EMC solution provider Lumenate is also in no hurry to sign on with Dell, said Jamie Shepard, Lumenate's senior vice president for health care and strategy.

"We'll continue going in with our EMC relationship," Shepard told CRN. "A year later, things will change. I expect Dell's EqualLogic and Compellent products will go away."

Patrick Mulvee, a partner at Sidepath, an Irvine, Calif.-based Dell partner, told CRN that he would argue that EMC partners' passing on signing up with Dell is a bad strategy.

Mulvee cited his own history as a Compellent partner after Compellent was acquired by Dell whose sales reps preferred to concentrate their sales efforts and support on Dell's EqualLogic line and on selling EMC solutions under a previous reseller agreement between the two.

"People talk about what they know," he said. "A Dell sales rep will not talk to customers about EMC SANs. They will focus on selling Dell. When Dell first bought Compellent, the Dell sales reps would only talk about EqualLogic. I had Dell reps selling Dell's EMC solutions against my Compellent proposals."