Scenes From Dell World 2015: What Will Be After The Deal With EMC?

Dell World 2015: Embracing The Channel

Dell World 2015 -- held in Austin, Texas, last week -- was a busy time for solution providers and corporate end users who work with the vendor, but it also gave channel partners and customers plenty of chances to take in all that Dell and Austin have to offer.

Dell employees from Chairman and CEO Michael Dell down made it clear that the company is embracing the channel -- literally and figuratively, as demonstrated here by Michael Dell and Dell channel chief Cheryl Cook.

Hanging over the event was the news a week earlier that Dell plans to acquire EMC in the biggest IT merger to date.

Here's a look at some of the scenes from Dell World.

Photo courtesy of Rich Baldwin, Nth Generation

Legions Of Visitors

About 8,500 people were at this year's Dell World, according to Dell, most of whom were solution providers and corporate end-users.

Most of the channel partners CRN talked to were focused on the enterprise -- many of them Dell-centered solution providers wanting to know what to expect once Dell closes the EMC deal, and others that carry both Dell and EMC solutions, wondering what a combined Dell-EMC will look like. But Dell said it couldn't talk about the acquisition until the deal closes.

(One Hewlett-Packard channel partner quietly walked the halls, telling CRN confidentially that his company has worked with HP and EMC for years, and now needs to look at signing up with Dell.)

Dell In Your Face

Along with the long-running music festival Austin City Limits and the nightly flight of a million or so bats from under the Congress Avenue Bridge, Dell World is one of the biggest happenings to hit the Texas town.

Dell took advantage of the event -- Dell World, that is, not the bats' flight or the music fest -- to plaster the airport with advertising everywhere travelers turned.

Channel Is Key To Success With EMC, Michael Dell Says

Dell's planned acquisition of EMC would be more difficult without a strong channel, Michael Dell told partners during the channel portion of Dell World.

"We're going to continue to be open and work with a broad ecosystem as we always have," Dell said in response to a partner's question about how Dell's growth strategy is different from Hewlett-Packard's splitting strategy. "It would've been harder to take the step we've taken if we hadn't built a strong channel over the last eight years."

Photo courtesy of Rich Baldwin, Nth Generation

'Go Big Or Go Home'

The combined Dell-EMC entity will stay private, taking advantage of the lack of Wall Street scrutiny to innovate, Michael Dell said in his opening keynote. "When we took Dell private, people asked if we will still make acquisitions," he said. "Well, go big or go home, baby. … EMC? Sixty-seven billion dollars. Being master of your own destiny? Priceless."

Dell used the keynote to lay out how EMC's enterprise leadership, combined with Dell's unmatched strength in the SMB market, will combine to make an $80 billion-plus IT powerhouse.

With the acquisition, Dell can bring together world-leading server, storage, virtualization and cloud technology, as well as garner the ability to invest in the future, he said.

"We believe that a Dell-EMC combination offers unique value that is good for Dell, good for EMC and very good for you," Dell told the audience.

Basking In The Glory

This year, Dell World seemed to be the reflection of just how important Michael Dell -- who once assembled PCs in his college dorm room and after the EMC deal assumes the role of king of IT -- has become.

Dell paused to let a customer video play at one point during his keynote. Usually, when executives let something else take center stage, they step aside. Not Dell. He stepped to the middle of the stage, where he was silhouetted against the screen, creating a striking photo op.

Did he really pose for posterity or was it just a good place to sip some water? You decide.

PCs Are Still Us

When Dell went private a couple years ago, it was in large part to be able to transform from its PC focus into a provider of enterprise and SMB solutions -- without stockholder interference. Dell executives including Jeff Clarke, vice chairman of operations and president of Dell's client solutions, underscored that fact -- but Clarke emphasized that the PC part is still key.

Clarke told channel partners that Dell has had 11 straight quarters of growing PC market share, enjoying a 14.3 percent share of the market today. He laughed at a question from a channel partner about media reports that Dell would exit the business.

"In Texas, we have a word for that: [BS]," Clarke said. "The PC business is important for us. ... You will not see us get rid of the PC business. It is core. It drives the scale of our business."

Piece Of The Future/Past

Dell World happened to correspond with what has come to be known as Back To The Future Day. In 1989's "Back To The Future Part II," hero Marty McFly travels forward in time, using a 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 as a time machine, to Oct. 21, 2015.

While McFly, played by Michael J. Fox, did not attend Dell World in the movie -- or in real life -- a replica of the DeLorean did appear at last week's show, to attendees' delight.

John Mayer Out Front

Unlike most musical acts at IT conferences, recording artist John Mayer's performance was wonderfully clear, as can be heard in this YouTube video.

Also unlike most musical acts at IT conferences, Mayer played the first night, rather than taking the stage at the end of the conference to keep attendees tuned in.

Was this a testament to Dell's confidence that the content of Dell World would keep attendees around?

Building IT's Future

A number of events focused on future IT professionals. For the really small potential engineers who wanted to build something, the company offered Lego bricks. The star of that part of the program: a Dell FX server made of Lego bricks that featured a "server module" that could actually be pulled out of the "enclosure."

Robotics Rule!

Several student teams got a chance to build industrial robots as part of a program sponsored by the First in Texas Foundation and Dell. Pictured here is the Lady Cans team, part of an Austin-based Girl Scout troop that built a robot able to stack plastic containers.

Sponsors Aplenty, But Where Are ... ?

The list of Dell sponsors included companies from all over the IT industry, including many of Dell's top solution providers.

Two companies, however, were conspicuous for their absence:

--EMC, Dell's (former) archrival in the storage business. Dell is in the process of acquiring EMC, but no EMC people were to be seen publicly during Dell World. Whenever asked about EMC, Dell executives frequently clammed up because the deal has yet to close.

--CDW, HP's largest channel partner and one of EMC's largest channel partners, which earlier this month signed on with Dell.

Insight Was There

Tempe, Ariz.-based Insight, one of CDW's biggest rivals and a large Dell partner, was exhibiting in the Solutions Showcase of Dell World 2015.

Redapt Reaches Out

Redapt exhibited in the Solutions Showcase as a way to reach out and connect with existing and prospective customers, said Jamie Lang, director of marketing for the Redmond, Wash.-based global systems integrator.

"It's also important for us to reach out to Dell account executives to maintain our relationships," Lang told CRN.

Alliance Technology Group Spotlights Security

Alliance Technology Group has been building a unique cybersecurity solution around Dell technology, and couldn't wait to tell customers about it, said Jim Ball, vice president of the Hanover, Md.-based solution provider.

Ball, left, here with colleague Joshua Williams, told CRN the Alliance solution captures network traffic, filters it and looks for anomalies from unauthorized users trying to enter the network.

"At the same time, we store the traffic to make it easy to report breaches quickly," he said. "When Anthem and others reported breaches, it took months to get the details. We store those details for weeks, months and years for easy reporting."

The Alliance Technology Group cybersecurity solution uses Dell 2U servers configured to store up to 2.5 petabytes of network packets after compression.

CompuCom: Selling More Solutions

Todd Pekats, director of ISC Microsoft at Dallas-based CompuCom, said his company was exhibiting at Dell World 2015 as a way to make sure customers and potential customers learn more about how his company's services offerings go with its client device sales.

"Dell is a leader in a variety of form factors," Pekats, left, told CRN. "Our users have different circumstances. They're looking for innovative ways to look at devices."

At that point, Bill Birdwell CompuCom's relationship manager, right, jumped in. "Let me break it down for you," Birdwell said. "We want to sell more stuff."

"I don't want to sell stuff," Pekats responded. "I want to offer more solutions to customers."

FusionStorm Plays Both Sides

FusionStorm exhibited in part to meet with customers looking to better understand the Dell-EMC merger, said Jason Myers, regional vice president of the San Francisco-based solution provider and top-10 channel partner of both vendors.

"There are a lot of good Dell partners," Myers told CRN. "There a lot of good EMC partners. But not a lot who work closely with both. Customers are already asking what they can do with both to grow competitively."

Coopetition Alive And Well

Aruba, Hewlett-Packard's newly acquired wireless networking arm, was also at Dell World.

Aruba, whose parent company, HP, is a top Dell rival, has a long relationship with Dell, and did not let its acquisition by HP disrupt plans to exhibit.

Dell-EMC The Talk Of Channel Partners

Dell's planned acquisition of EMC was the talk of the channel at Dell World 2015.

Michael Tanenhaus, president and CEO of Mavenspire, an Annapolis, Md.-based solution provider, told CRN that no one is exactly sure how the acquisition will turn out.

"There are a lot of crazy theories," Tanenhaus said. "But if Dell follows standard protocols, it will spend a lot of time on getting it right."

Tanenhaus knows Dell will make the acquisition work. Indeed, he has bet Mavenspire, with its 100 percent focus on Dell, on that hope. "Keeping trust is important, and remaining valuable and relevant to a vendor is important," he said. "With the acquisition, I'm asking to remain valuable and relevant. What do I need in the next 12 months to remain valuable?"