The 10 Biggest Dell Stories Of 2010

A Year In The Life of Dell

It was a busy year at Dell, as it made five acquisitions, and lost a sixth to a major competitor in a very public fashion, released a slew of new products including the Streak smartphone, and put to bed its years-long investigation with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

All the while, Dell’s channel continued to grow and its partner base expanded and broadened its breadth of expertise. Here’s a look back at what happened.

1. For Real, A Channel Bellwether

When Dell launched its PartnerDirect channel program in 2007, it did so with a lot of cynicism and laughs from the solution provider community, many of whom believed the program of the once-exclusively direct company, and channel enemy, would not last. Fast forward to 2010 and Dell PartnerDirect has not only survived, but thrived. CEO Michael Dell frequently meets with VARs and their customers and the channel ideology has trickled down through all parts of the company, said VARs and Dell executives. Michael Dell even spoke with CRN for the first time in three years to proclaim his faith in channel partners.

2. The One That Got Away

Dell engaged in a fierce bidding war with Hewlett-Packard to acquire storage specialist 3Par before dropping out after HP’s top bid hit $33 per share, or nearly $2.4 billion. Dell had initially agreed to purchase 3Par for $18 per share, roughly twice what the market had been trading for at the time. But HP countered and the two powerhouses went back and forth before HP’s winning bid. Dell walked away with a $72 million termination settlement and kept its own cash to use in a future acquisition.

3. A 'Drug' Dependency On Intel's Cash

Dell paid a $100 million penalty this year to settle the years-long Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation into its financial practices, but the sum is spare change compared to the billions of dollars that Dell received from Intel over the course of several years as a ’rebate’ for not selling PCs and servers powered by AMD processors, according to the SEC.

Details of the relationship between the two companies were released in July in a 61-page document that alleges Dell repeatedly sought more and more cash from Intel to cover earnings shortfalls. It was a habit that former CEO Kevin Rollins eventually referred to as a ’drug’ that Dell needed to ’get off’ of, according to the SEC.

4. Kace Acquisition Expands Systems Management Solutions For VARs

In February, Dell acquired KACE, a supplier of systems management appliances for midmarket customers, in a move that expanded Dell's systems management product portfolio, and helped the vendor expand its partner base and its Enterprise Architecture certification for VARs.

5. Dell's In The Cloud, Too

In March, Dell sharpened its enterprise cloud computing strategy by launching a host of new products and services -- including new cloud-specific servers -- to deliver turnkey Dell cloud solutions and start "taking the guesswork out" of cloud computing.

The company now offers new integrated solution stacks, services and hardware to ease the deployment and management of cloud environments. First to market will be Dell's cloud platform for Web applications. Working with cloud software provider Joyent, Dell offers a turnkey private Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) solution comprising pretested, pre-assembled and fully-supported hardware, software and services -- all sold and supported by Dell.

6. Joining the Converged Infrastructure Fight

In June, Dell unveiled new EqualLogic and PowerVault storage arrays along with new PowerEdge blade servers, several of which include SSDs for high-performance storage operations and took the offensive against Hewlett-Packard and Cisco Systems in the ongoing battle over converged infrastructures with customers.

The company also unveiled six new Dell Business Ready Configurations which offer pre-configured solutions including servers, storage, networking, and VMware or Microsoft virtualization.

7. Challenges For Dell Streak

Meanwhile, as Dell retools its mobile strategy, the company released its anticipated Streak smartphone that it describes on its Web site as a ’pocket tablet.’ The device has garnered positive reviews but has failed to generate a lot of buzz in the market. The Streak faces several challenges in the market if it intends to pose a threat to Apple’s iPhone, Blackberry or Google Android devices.

8. Mobile Operations Unit Discontinued

Dell announced in November that it was discontinuing its communications solutions group and parting ways with Ron Garriques, the chief executive who had run the unit since 2007.

Garriques' departure comes as Dell prepares to bring several smartphone and tablet devices to market early next year. "He made a decision to look at other opportunities as we integrate the former communications solutions group into our core operating structure," a Dell spokesperson told Reuters. Dell showcased its Windows Phone 7-based Venue Pro smartphone at the Windows Phone 7 launch in October, and is expected to bring more devices running Microsoft's OS to market next year.

9. Midrange Servers Win ARC Award

Dell’s progress with VARs was evident in this year’s ARC Awards, where the vendor took home the prize for best midrange servers. Dell scored high marks with solution providers in partnership, ease of doing business and channel conflict management to earn an overall 70.0 score, three points higher than HP and comfortably ahead of IBM and Oracle.

10. Acquires Scalent To Accelerate Virtualized Data Center Push

In July, Dell agreed to buy Scalent in a bid to add enhanced virtualization capabilities to its data center management solution by integrating Scalent's technology into its Advanced Infrastructure Manager (AIM) solution.

Check out the other biggest IT vendor stories of 2010.