CRN Exclusive: New Dell Security Chief On Channel Acceleration And Beating Cisco In Enterprise

Bullish On Channel

Curtis Hutcheson, the new head of Dell Security Solutions, has a message: The Round Rock, Texas, company will push more product through the channel as it readies to take the fight to Cisco and make itself the dominant enterprise security provider.

Hutcheson recently became vice president and general manager of Dell Security Solutions, taking over from Matt Medeiros. Medeiros had been CEO of SonicWall, which Dell acquired about three years ago. SonicWall was an all-channel operation; Medeiros expanded on that ethos at Dell.

Now, Hutcheson, who joined Dell in 2013, tells CRN he plans to accelerate growth through the channel and highlight differences between Dell and its competitors. Hutcheson expects Dell Security's partner base to grow significantly and its business to as much as double.

What's your plan for taking the fight to Cisco, EMC, HP and your other main competitors?

They all have their different challenges, … particularly Cisco. It's a great networking company, but it's also a very expensive networking company, and customers face monumental costs just to maintain what they have. … We're focused on disruptive value. I don't have a legacy business model to protect.

Our design point is midmarket. ... Every enterprise needs world-class security and we can provide the economic model to do that and make it affordable for them. They can't hire 1,000 engineers to manage their network. We can give them the tools and capabilities to do that at a reasonable cost. That's the roots of SonicWall, and that's been the core of our security strategy.

When do you see all of Dell's security offerings becoming fully integrated?

One of the benefits we have with Michael (Dell) at the helm is that Michael personally oversees the strategy, the investment screening, and prioritizes the resources. So we've got a continuity of investments, like we had with SonicWall. We've brought it into the fold, we've extended it. We see one of our major advantages is the connected security strategy from managing switches to managing endpoints to being able to install a module on a client to ensure that it's compliant so that it can get on the network. These are great opportunities, but it's a multiyear journey. Customers can have a full solution. We can solve what you need, instead of saying "buy this and buy that," and then solve what you need. That's what customers want. They want a fast network and they want lockdown security.

What can you do for partners to help them do more business with you and get their arms around the full Dell suite of security offerings?

We have flexibility around security to treat things a little differently. When customers prefer to buy from VARs, like they do in security, we can have very different practices. Dell as a whole is growing its channel business well above market. Our security business is over three-quarters channel, and channel is significantly outgrowing any other way. We look at that data every day, every week, and we focus our route to market with VARs because that's what customers prefer.

What's your channel philosophy?

The philosophy is we're extremely committed to making sure our partners are successful. Not only by having access to the best technologies, but also making sure they're trained and able to extend the conversations on the value they're able to provide to customers. It requires deep touches into the entire IT footprint of the customer. The more you can expand that, the more you can help them with things like [bring your own device], for example. The old ways of managing security was almost lock down everything, but you can't do that and have the innovation and the footprint that our customers need to provide.

What can partners do better?

The big thing is for them to have a plan. When they're with a customer, make sure they're always trying to provide greater value than what they've asked for. When they want to grow with us, when they want to learn more, we ask that they really work with us and have a plan. We're big on teaming agreements. It's a major improvement in how we're working with partners; it's, let's have a business plan together, let's invest together, let's hold ourselves accountable. Then we can both invest in the resources and measure the progress. I think that's a great message for partners that want to invest in long-term growth and high value.

How do you see Dell's partner landscape changing? Does the market favor bigger partners?

It depends largely on what's going on with customers. We have national partners in security that do a very good job for us, they get a lot of coverage for us, and they have many customers that use them on a national scale, and the service they provide is different. It's more a common security offering, versus one of our best partners out of D.C., they've got five people and they're incredibly good at what they do in two verticals. They know the customer personally, they have very tight relationships and there's a level of trust there that no national partner could ever achieve. That's why we value both models. When a partner goes all-in with us, the sales force immediately brings them into the fold, and that's when they get the real leverage of the entire Dell sales force.