The 10 Biggest Dell Stories Of 2014

Dell Puts Partners First In Aggressive 2014 Agenda

In 2014, CEO Michael Dell and his top lieutenants erased any doubt that a private Dell wasn't committed to rapid growth and its fast-growing channel business. Over the past 12 months, Dell made good on promises to shift focus from its direct business to drive more sales through its partner channel. Over the past year, Dell also upped its enterprise game with a swath of hyper-converged solutions that helped drive Dell partner business deeper into the enterprise.

What follows are Dell's top 10 stories of 2014, starting at No. 10 and working up to the No. 1 Dell story of the year.

10. Now A Private Company, CEO Dell Blasts His Biggest Critic

Michael Dell doesn't mince words when it comes to billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn. During a sit-down with The Channel Company CEO Robert Faletra at the IT BoB conference, he called Icahn "a bad guy."

Icahn was Dell's biggest critic over Michael Dell's $24.9 billion leveraged buyout to take Dell private. Icahn gave up the months-long battle to stop the Dell buyout last year but not before lashing out at Michael Dell in an 800-word open letter in which he referred to Dell as a "dictator."

Drawing loud applause from IT BoB conference attendees, Dell said of Icahn: "He lies, he has no ethical boundaries; he'll say anything, do anything, I have no time for him."

9. Dell Benefits From HP Split And IBM's x86 Server Sale

In October, Dell ratcheted up its war of words against archrivals IBM and Hewlett-Packard, blasting the company for its plan to split into two and calling the move an "uncertain strategy" that would add "instability for customers and partners."

"History has proven that spinning off a PC division from a broader IT solution provider has had material negative impact on the remaining lines of business," wrote Marius Haas (pictured) Dell's chief commercial officer and president of enterprise solutions, in a note to Dell channel partners regarding the blockbuster news HP would split into two Fortune 50 companies.

Cheryl Cook, Dell's vice president of global channel and alliances, added that IBM's $2.3 billion sale of its x86 server business to Chinese computer giant Lenovo could only mean more uncertainty in the server market, which added up to good news for Dell. She said Dell had gotten a record number of wins over IBM in six months.

8. Dell Tests Public Cloud Waters With Beta Marketplace Offering

Signaling a shift in Dell's stance against entering the dog-eat-dog public cloud arena, Dell said Wednesday it is placing some bets on the public cloud. Dell channel partners said it's about time.

At the Dell World partner conference in Austin,Texas, in November, Dell announced the availability of its Dell Beta Cloud Marketplace, an offering it said will help partners and customers move workloads to Amazon, Google and other cloud partners. The move, Dell said, is a baby step and one that will rely on partners to help develop and deploy.

7. Partners Hail Dell's Converged Appliance Push As Big Win For Channel

In June, at its Dell User Conference in Hollywood, Fla., Dell unveiled a swath of converged IT appliances tailored toward specific workloads in partnership with Nutanix, Oracle, Fusion-io and Cloudera. It’s a move that Dell partners said would stoke the fires of their Dell business, helping them easily break into a raft of new customer engagements without a lot of heavy lifting.

"These appliances allow us to start conversations with our customers about solutions we just weren't having right now," said Rick Gouin, chief technology officer for Winslow Technology Group, a Boston-based solution provider and Dell partner. "We have a ton of customers who are running Oracle and now we can start talking to them about Dell's Oracle solutions, among other things."

6. Partners Call Dell's 'Baby Compellent' SC4020 Release A Catalyst For New Business

The introduction of the new Dell Storage SC4020 array may have lacked the panache of other Dell news this year, but it generated some of the loudest buzz among partners this year that say it fills a storage gap between the company's EqualLogic and more expensive Compellent hardware.

Where the SC8000 features a 6U footprint, the SC4000 has a 2U chassis inside of which are dual processors and support for flash and spinning disks. The SC4020 features 20 drives, and is priced staring at $25,000 to $50,000.

5. Triple Partner Perks --The New Normal

Dell said it plans to deliver a bit of channel holiday cheer. It will beef up partner perks in an attempt to drive server and client PCs sales well into 2015. The move comes as end-of-life XP replacement sales taper for computer makers and Windows Server 2003 replacement sales are set to grow, analysts said.

According to Dell, partners will receive the new partner incentives that involve its Partner AdvantEdge program. The increased incentives include:

* Triple Partner AdvantEdge program points for server sales by Premier and Preferred partners.

* Double Partner AdvantEdge program points for client PC sales (OptiPlex, Latitude and Venue systems) by Premier and Preferred partners.

* Registered partners eligible to participate in the Partner AdvantEdge program for client PC and server sales for the first time ever.

4. PowerEdge FX Architecture

Dell turned heads at Dell World in November with its PowerEdge FX converged architecture, impressing attendees and industry observers. "With a modular and common 2U chassis that can be easily customized and scaled with compute, storage and networking slots, FX differentiates Dell," wrote TBR in a research note.

The research firm pointed out that Dell's PowerEdge FX platform allows the company to leverage its SC-series storage portfolio and other key hardware while having a strong appeal to Dell's core constituency the midmarket. With the FX, "Dell continues to message its management capabilities in the context of improving infrastructure efficiency and simplicity," according to the research firm.

Charles King, analyst at market researcher Pund-IT, said Dell's PowerEdge FX architecture "could rewrite the book on converged system design."

3. Dell To Pump $125 Million Into Channel

Cheryl Cook, vice president of global channel alliances at Dell, this fall pledged $125 million in partner incentives for 2015 as part of Dell's plan to turn up the heat on its competitors and grow its storage, data center and PC business.

Over the next year, Cook said partners can expect new and more lucrative incentives centered on end-of-life Windows Server 2003 server migrations ahead of the June 2015 deadline. Cook said Dell also is putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to driving new client PC sales in the enterprise with new inducements. It also will double its investment in partner demo equipment and lead generation.

On the financing front, Dell said it will enhance the extended terms of its financing program, offering 75 days interest-free financing on all Dell purchases for an introductory period of 180 days.

2. Making Good On Partner Promises

At this year's Dell World, Cheryl Cook (pictured), vice president of global channel alliances at Dell, said the company has made good on delivering more than 200,000 Dell Direct accounts to the PartnerDirect channel partner community. Over the past year, Dell has faced a firestorm of criticism from some partners that said they have yet to receive one of the 200,000 accounts.

Cook told CRN, "One of our areas of focus has been -- and will continue to be -- our greenfield account program." That program, she said, "is how we align the Dell and partner energies and drive new customer acquisitions and business."

1. Dell Grows Channel Revenue From 33 Percent To 40 Percent Of Overall Revenue Pie

Dell has grown, but it's not saying by how much overall. What Dell will say is that its channel business is growing fast. The company said in 2014 it moved the needle on the percent of its overall revenue generated by the channel from 33 percent to 40 percent.

A year after winning its $24.9 billion hard-fought battle to go private, Dell now sees its PartnerDirect channel community as instrumental to its success. In fact, Dell reported its channel business is growing faster than the direct side of the house. That's a trend partners said has directly benefited them.