The 10 Biggest Dell EMC Stories Of 2017

The Year That Was For Dell EMC

From the launch of its new, unified partner program to the departure of top executives and changes in channel leadership, Dell Technologies has had an eventful 2017.

The company founded by a young Michael Dell in his University of Texas dorm room began 2017 with a bang, officially rolling out a unified channel program that brought together the go-to-market strategy for the combined Dell EMC. The program promised substantial earning potential for partners and stressed the importance of selling across the company's massive portfolio of products and services.

Not everything about the new program went smoothly, however, and when partners had massive problems with the online portal designed as a hub for training, certification, rebate tracking and other important functions, Channel Chief John Byrne was quick to take responsibility, and equally quick to make sure the problems were solved.

All the while, the company saw key leadership changes, including a new position for Byrne, and the departure of longtime EMC president David Goulden, as well as key new initiatives like a new field engagement model for partners selling Dell EMC hardware along with VMware software.

Click through to see the 10 biggest Dell EMC stories of 2017.

Get more of CRN's 2017 tech year in review.

10. Strong Foundation

After Hurricane Harvey laid waste to coastal Texas in late August, Dell Technologies Founder, Chairman and CEO Michael Dell and his wife Susan pledged $36 million of their foundation's money to relief efforts. Dell's hometown of Houston, as well as several surrounding communities, were destroyed in the storm. The foundation launched the Rebuild Texas fund with a goal of raising more than $100 million in charitable donations aimed at immediate relief efforts, as well as long-term recovery and rebuilding. "This disaster is personal to everyone who has roots in Texas," the Dells said in a letter. "Both of us were born and raised in Texas and the street Michael grew up on in Houston is under water now."

9. Services Struggles

Dell EMC sales and channel executives have been adamant that solution providers sell more services. Services represent "a pot of gold" for partners, former Channel Chief John Byrne is fond of saying. However, by October, it was clear that partners were having a hard time meeting the competitive services revenue goals set by Dell EMC's new, integrated channel program. During that month, the company cut its services revenue requirements in half in response to solution providers' widespread inability to meet those lofty goals. In fact, the company brought its annual services revenue requirement to $3 million from $6 million for Titanium partners, and requirements for Gold and Platinum partners followed suit.

8. Portal Pain

Dell EMC's partner portal was not ready for prime time when in launched in February, and partners had difficulties navigating the system. The portal was designed to be a central location for partners to automate and track rebates, certifications, program advancement and other aspects of life in the unified Dell EMC partner program. The portal's problems seemed to be mostly sorted out by midyear, but other obstacles popped up, including a problem with the company's purchase order system that caused significant delays to partner purchase orders globally. The delays, the company said, were due to higher than anticipated demand from its newly combined customer base.

7. Goulden's Exit

David Goulden (pictured), with EMC for more than a decade before the company was acquired by Dell in late 2016, announced that he would leave the combined company. The announcement came just a week after the company reported flat revenue and declining demand in its storage solutions business. Goulden is staying on until the end of Dell Technologies' fiscal year Feb. 3, and he'll be replaced by Jeff Clarke, a 30-year Dell Technologies veteran and company vice chairman, operations and technology. Already, Clarke has taken Goulden's place during Dell EMC's quarterly calls with Wall Street investors. Clarke in December called for an all-out attack on the storage market, saying, "We've clearly lost share, it's undeniable, and we're not satisfied with that."

6. IoT Initiative

Dell Technologies launched a new division focused on developing Internet of Things products, as well as a new IoT partner program as the market for edge computing continued to heat up. The company said it would invest $1 billion in the IoT division over the next three years. The division brings together Dell Technologies companies including Pivotal, VMware, Isilon and Dell EMC, and is headed by VMware CTO Ray O'Farrell. The division intends to build on Dell Technologies work so far in the IoT space, including the launch of IoT gateways and the Dell EMC PowerEdge C-Series servers designed to enable IoT applications.

5. Cutting Through The Conflict

Dell EMC Channel Chief John Byrne (pictured) pledged to end VMware channel conflict with a new field engagement model that opened the door for partners to receive full VMware incentives for selling VMware enterprise licensing agreements (ELAs) in tandem with Dell EMC hardware. The agreement means that for the first time, Dell EMC Titanium and Titanium Black partners can procure VMware ELAs in tandem with Dell EMC hardware all on Dell EMC paper. Byrne said the change was in direct response to partners who were anxious to combine VMware ELAs and Dell EMC hardware on single purchase orders. Doing so in the past would have meant earning incentives from only one of the vendors.

4. Storage Wars

Being the long-time king of the legacy storage hardware market was not doing Dell EMC any favors this year. Even before Dell's acquisition of EMC, EMC saw sales in its traditional lines decline, and the pattern continued under new ownership with sales stubbornly flat and demand declining while competitors like NetApp and Pure Storage gained share. Dell EMC said mid-year that it would hire hundreds of channel-facing storage salespeople, it made EMC channel veteran Scott Millard head of channel storage efforts and then said it would double down on midrange storage products with new all-flash offerings in the Compellent and Unity lines and a new loyalty program for customers.

3. Crocodile Tiers

Partners hoping to keep their tier status intact in 2018 in the Dell EMC partner program got a look at what that would require when the company revealed new revenue thresholds for the program's three main levels. Some partners, however, were not enthusiastic. Titanium partners selling a single product line need to bring in $50 million, while partners that sell multiple product lines must do $25 million in sales. The legacy Dell program's revenue thresholds were much lower than the Dell EMC programs, and smaller legacy Dell partners that had been in the top echelons of the legacy program are finding it difficult to maintain that status in the new, more demanding program.

2. Channel Leadership Changes

Dell EMC President of Global Channels John Byrne, the executive credited by partners with playing a critical role in integrating the Dell and EMC partner programs following Dell's landmark, $58 billion acquisition of EMC, took a new job at the company in late November as head of the company's North America commercial sales organization. Joyce Mullen (pictured), an 18-year Dell veteran took Byrne's place atop the company's $43 billion global channel business. Mullen was previously senior vice president of OEM and Internet of Things solutions, and her new title combines the two roles, making her president of global channels, OEM and IoT solutions.

1. Getting With The Program

Dell EMC started its fiscal year with a bang in February when it officially launched the single, unified channel program designed to bring together programs and products from the two industry giants following Dell's $58 billion acquisition of the data storage giant. The program nearly doubled rebates compared to the legacy EMC program and rewards partners handsomely for selling converged and hyper-converged infrastructure solutions. The program was launched with the ambitious goal of being the most profitable in the industry, and it promised partners the ability to earn rebates and incentives of nearly 20 percent when they sold multiple product lines, attached services and broke into new accounts.