Channel Partners See Opportunity And Some Confusion As Dell EMC Opens VMware Tech Sales To EMC Reps

Dell EMC has opened up more of its VMware technology portfolio to its former EMC sales reps in a move channel partners said could complicate the VMware sales activities.

The move to give the former EMC sales reps increased access to VMware products, particularly the more specialized products including NSX software-defined networking and VSAN software-defined storage, comes after Dell's 2016 acquisition of EMC.

Before the acquisition, VMware was majority owned by EMC. VMware solutions were available for resale by a wide range of vendor partners including EMC competitors such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, and IBM. However, EMC, concerned with the possibility of competing against those vendor partners, limited its own sales reps' access to VMware solutions.

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David Goulden, president of Dell EMC and formerly CEO for EMC Information Infrastructure, told CRN that historically EMC kept VMware sales separate from that of EMC to ensure there was no bias, but that restriction is no longer needed.

"Other companies like HPE and IBM do pay their reps on selling VMware, and by the way, Dell paid their reps on selling VMware," he said. "[So to a certain extent] EMC was actually at a disadvantage for being very pure in terms of that aspect of our model."

Dell EMC will put in safeguards to ensure that EMC sales reps do not go after deals that other partners have worked, Goulden said.

"The Dell EMC reps are going to paid on VMware sales provided they have some involvement in creating that sale," he said. "Just jumping on the back of an existing relationship isn't going to get any, but they will get paid on VMware in fiscal 2018, which I think is going to be a good thing."

It could be a good thing, or it could make life more complicated for the channel, solution providers said.

There could be new alignment issues between Dell EMC and the channel, said Jamie Shepard, senior vice president for healthcare and strategy at Lumenate, a Dallas-based solution provider and long-time EMC channel partner.

"Now we'll have EMC reps coming in, looking at all [EMC] could sell, but not necessarily be aligned with what the channel is selling," Shepard told CRN. "This will lead to confusion."

The challenge comes as partners look to expand their VMware sales beyond vSphere to more specialty products like NSX and VSAN, and with EMC sales reps coming in with such products, there is a new layer on the sales process, Shepard said.

"It's not a challenge to customers, who can tell the reps they are buying from Lumenate," he said. "But for me, I will now have to manage Dell reps, EMC reps, and VMware reps on the same deal. Having Dell, EMC, VMware, and Lumenate reps in a deal is expensive."

There could be issues where VMware and EMC sales reps come in conflict with VMware product sales, one solution provider told CRN on condition of anonymity.

"There may be some fist fights somewhere if the VMware rep doesn't get a sale," that solution provider said.

Another solution provider told CRN, also under condition of anonymity, that giving EMC sales reps access to VMware products could add to partner confusion because of conflict between VMware and EMC reps.

"If a VMware deal goes through a Dell or an EMC sales rep, it makes life harder for VMware sales reps," that solution provider said. "If you drive a sale, and someone else gets the credit, how would you feel?"

Michael Tanenhaus, principal at Mavenspire, an Annapolis, Md.-based solution provider and long-time Dell partner, said the impact of expanding VMware sales to EMC reps would often depend on how channel work their deals.

For legacy Dell sales reps, VMware was less of a deal driver and more of a server accessory, Tanenhaus told CRN. "But VMware reps want to use sales to move its technology into a higher part of the customer's IT infrastructure," he said.

How to structure the sale is in some ways rocket science to channel partners, Tanenhaus said.

"You want to do the sale in a way that works best for your company," he said. "If you get a rebate for X millions of dollars of sales, and you want to better your relationship with Dell, you want to buy from the Dell sales reps. But if you want the best results with another vendor partner, you might not go through Dell.

Generally speaking, Tanenhaus said, partners will get better credit for sales if they work with their VMware reps on sales of VMware solutions, but can get overall Dell EMC quota benefits by working with their Dell or EMC reps.

Shepard said that, no matter how things change as EMC sales reps start bringing VMware to the table, Dell EMC has done a great job in developing a unified channel program after Dell's acquisition of EMC closed.

Shepard applauded John Byrne, Dell EMC global channels president, and Gregg Ambulos, Dell EMC senior vice president of worldwide channel sales, for their work in developing a unified program.

"The program helps us re-focus on EMC sales, which helps us with the entire Dell EMC relationship," he said. "If the channel initiatives didn't change, then the move by EMC sales reps to sell VMware products could become a free-for-all."

Both Dell EMC and its channel partners will see the benefits from cross-selling opportunities for VMware solutions, said Jeremy Burton, chief marketing officer for Dell EMC.

"When we got going, we expect higher alignment than maybe we’ve seen in the past between Dell Technologies' companies," Burton told CRN. "That’s one of the reasons why I think we think we can make more money that way."