Dell Technologies is making a push to maintain its leadership position and relevance in the increasingly competitive storage market.
This comes at a time when Dell EMC has experienced declines in traditional hardware sales and pressure to gain share among midmarket companies. Its infrastructure chief, David Goulden, who is leaving the company in early February, recently detailed plans for a hiring blitz and compensation adjustments aimed at emphasizing midmarket storage sales.
Partners say they aren't necessarily worried about Dell EMC losing its position as storage market kingpin, but aggressive, innovative competitors like Pure Storage and NetApp are beginning to appear larger in the rearview mirror.
Dell EMC's storage business is nearly four times bigger than Pure's, but while Dell EMC's sales numbers were flat in its most recent quarter, Pure, which sells lower-priced all-flash storage solutions, reported a sales increase of nearly 40 percent. Dell EMC's solutions are enterprise and high-end mainstays, but recognizing the threat presented by the likes of Pure, the company is directing some firepower at the midmarket and its hyper-converged solutions, and that has some partners encouraged.
"Pure is very hot right now," said Terry Buchanan, vice president and general manager at Zycom Technology, an Ontario, Canada-based solution provider that works with Dell EMC and other vendors. "Clients like their messaging, and their solutions are relevant for the use cases they support."
Dell EMC separates itself from Pure with its fast-growing hyper-convergence portfolio. "Storage-only solutions, whether it's Dell EMC, Pure or any other, are highly dependent upon customers not adopting hyper-converged solutions, and Dell EMC is leading there," Buchanan said. "They, unlike Pure, have the advantage of selling hyper-converged platforms like VxRail and XC Nutanix, so they can lead with customer choice and maximize the storage-related sale."
The storage market is clearly under pressure with traditional market heavyweights Dell EMC and HPE both seeing double-digit declines in revenue in the second quarter, according to the latest statistics from research firm IDC. By now, the declines have become familiar territory for Goulden, who as head of EMC's largest unit, presided over flat-to-declining storage revenue for more than three years before its acquisition by Dell about a year ago.
"The important thing is that guys like [Dell EMC Global Sales President] Billy [Scannell] and [Americas Enterprise Sales Chief] Chris Riley are still around," said Dan Serpico, CEO of FusionStorm, a San Francisco-based solution provider that works with Dell EMC and several other vendors. "They're an important connection to the channel. We've had relationships with those guys for years and years and years."
"There's a lot of competition in the market, but Dell EMC is doing a lot of the right things," Serpico said. "They're clearly the technology leader, they continue to refresh their lines, and they're working very hard to create incentives to help partners focus their investments around storage. That's all very positive. We just received a huge rebate check thanks to Category A storage sales. One of the great things [Channel Chief John] Byrne put into the program is the aggregate rebate based on all of your sales.
"Even though the whole storage market is struggling, EMC's products continue to be very strong in the market," Serpico said. "It continues to be a very well recognized brand, and that carries a lot of cachet. We shouldn't underestimate the opportunity in the server market with Dell EMC's embedded storage on servers. I have to believe that was an important part of why this merger [between Dell and EMC] works."