Jeremy Burton On How Partners Can Take Advantage Of A Combined Dell, EMC

Taking Advantage Of The New Dell EMC Dell's acquisition last year of EMC brought it not just the world's strongest storage portfolio, but a wide range of technologies such as virtualization and cloud infrastructure provider VMware, modern application platform provider Pivotal, and the RSA Security business. Since the acquisition, Dell EMC has been looking not just at combining product lines, but at how to help customers and channel partners find new opportunities they may not have considered. Jeremy Burton (pictured), chief marketing officer for Dell EMC, sat down with CRN just before the start of this week's Dell EMC World to talk about how the acquisition has not only changed the companies, but how partners can take advantage of it. Click through to read what he had to say.

(Get more of CRN's coverage of Dell EMC World 2017.)

What's going on at Dell EMC World?

At the top level, we've been very keen as we went through the merger with Dell to make sure folks know the product line, and the innovation -- for lack of a better word -- is still moving along at high gear. And I think what a lot of customers fear, when something like this happens, is that everything stops. We've been maniacally focused on making sure that the product pipeline continues. And I think anybody watching Dell EMC World, I hope, will be walking away and saying, "Wow, that's pretty impressive given what these two companies have gone through in the last year."

What is Dell EMC doing at the enterprise level?

You can expect pretty much every product to get a refresh. And that includes the high-end products, the VMAX and XtremIO. We'll have a preview of the new ScaleIO coming later this year. The important thing there is that it's certainly high-end block storage. Most companies still buy traditional storage arrays, be it an all-flash array or a hybrid. But there's also a certain customer movement towards software-defined. And I think we're one of the few, if not the only, vendor that has both, with ScaleIO, our software-defined offering, and VMAX and XtremIO, the more traditional all-flash arrays. So we're going to be refreshing all of those.

How about at the midrange?

The midrange continues to move forward. We've got a new Unity family. We've got a new Compellent box. And again, I think there were a lot of Compellent customers as we went through this merger who were concerned whether our investment [in the line] would continue, and whether we would move forward. We have refreshed the Compellent range as well. So I think there's going to be some good news there.

What's new in Dell EMC's data protection business?

Backup is very interesting. Backup environments in general can be fairly complicated. We've got a new backup appliance. It was named internally the 'Bblock.' Like the VCE Vblock. The observation was made several quarters ago that we could really do with a Bblock, a "backup block" where you have your software, your backup storage, your Data Domain appliance, everything in one single appliance that you plug it in and off you go. We've got an Integrated Data Protection Appliance coming up, which basically has everything in there ready to go. In our estimation, it really takes the time to operation down from whatever days to a couple of hours. That thing is going to be a big deal.

What's up with Dell's server refresh?

The biggest announcement for us on the product side of the house is going to be around 14G servers. Once every Intel processor generation, we refresh our server portfolio. And you're going to see the 14G server announced with our friends from Intel, who'll be up there on the stage with David Goulden. That's a big deal. We think we'll be the first server vendor to refresh. Again, we're very keen to underscore this point that we're moving quicker than anyone else.

Every product that I've mentioned so far [will include] the Dell PowerEdge 14G servers in our appliances.

How would you compare Dell EMC World 2017 to EMC World 2016, other than the fact that Dell has since closed its acquisition of EMC. How has the messaging changed for the channel community?

I think what you're going to see this year, and [CEO] Michael [Dell] is personally driving this, is a much stronger Dell Technologies message around providing companies with the tools and technologies they need to realize their digital future. And I think what that spells for the channel community is more opportunity. If today you've been primarily a storage provider, you might want to look at storage and servers, or converged infrastructure. Or in the past, if you've just been infrastructure, you might want to take a look at what Pivotal is doing.

Do you think your channel partners have picked up on the Dell Technologies integration message yet? Have you seen partners moving in that direction?

The big guys, the biggest of the big in our new partner program, the Titanium Blacks, some of those might be saying, "What took you so long? We've been wanting you to do this forever." What I think the new company has helped them to underscore is, the world's changing. There's a broad set of capabilities you're going to need to compete in that new world.

How have smaller channel partners been able to take advantage of the merger?

For smaller partners, who may be more transactional in nature, if they've been a provider of Dell servers, then how about selling Dell EMC storage, or vice versa? If you've been in the business of just selling EMC storage in the past, then what about these new Dell 14G servers? That is less profound of a move than going from selling infrastructure to selling Pivotal Cloud Foundry. … But for a smaller partner, it could be as equally as big a deal for their business.

How is Dell helping those smaller partners make that transformation?

What we've attempted to do with the new program is tier it so that folks could do a couple of things: Identify where they stood in the partner ecosystem, but also understand what they could potentially gain with more investment. We, like anyone else, lay out a range of incentives for the partners to motivate them to either excel in their current area of expertise or start up a new area of expertise, including training, education credit, so on and so forth.

Do Dell EMC customers understand the need for partners as they go through their own transformations?

We've got customers going through huge transformations in their businesses. They're going to need a high degree of expertise, either directly from the company or from one of our top partners. ... There are big customers who get that, who are being disrupted and have their hair on fire.

Dell EMC is merging at a time when the IT industry is facing falling overall revenue for storage, PCs, servers, networking, and so on. How does falling infrastructure hardware sales impact Dell EMC's digital transformation message?

Even within those macro sectors, take the one I know best -- storage, or even converged infrastructure. There are pockets of incredible growth. As markets consolidate, it definitely is advantageous to be the big player. Because you would say, even in a shrinking market, if you get all of it, you make more money.

But Dell EMC, in some cases like storage and converged infrastructure, is actually shrinking faster than the market as a whole.

By and large, in storage we are the market by a long way. Take flash storage, which is the fastest-growing sector. We have a 38-percent share, if you look at the last data that came out of IDC. By the way, at our peak in disk-based storage, our share was 30 percent. So our share of flash storage is greater than our share of disk storage ever was. So in that sector, we're doing pretty well.

In hyper-converged infrastructure, a year ago our market share was zero. We really didn't have a product. This year, we're the market leader.

There is a transition going on within infrastructure. People used to buy disk-based arrays. Now they're buying all-flash arrays. People [in the past] might buy midrange storage arrays. Now they're buying a mix of midrange storage arrays and hyper-converged infrastructure.

How does this play across Dell EMC as a whole?

Dell Technologies is more than just Dell EMC. It's also VMware. We want to be playing in things like software-defined networking, software-defined data center, things like platform-as-a-service that Pivotal provides. The newer area for cloud-native applications which we believe a lot of folks are building for the future, we want to be a leader there. Businesses like VMware's NSX or Cloud Foundry or Virtustream, they're a lot smaller, just a few hundred million dollars rather than billions. But these are things that are growing very, very quickly. So we're investing to be partners in next-generation infrastructure … while trying to consolidate the existing infrastructure market. And there's a good reason why folks like Nutanix and Pure Storage and Nimble Storage, even after they went IPO, saw their stock not going anywhere. I think it's because Wall Street believes that infrastructure market is going to consolidate.

So how does that affect your message to your customers and partners?

The good thing about being a big company is we have a message that says, "Look, you've got an existing infrastructure that we'll help you modernize with all-flash, hyper-converged, and software-defined." While at the same time, we can also help you really understand what you're going to need to transform your business because, to me at least, the big issue companies have is that their businesses are changing. …

We can't all be on the, "Hey, let's build the next cool thing cloud native, or the next thing we do is software-defined or scale-out," because the big customers that we talk to are, "Yeah, that’s one problem that we have, but the other one is running my SAP environment more efficiently. What can you do to help me there?"

There is a lot of consolidation in IT going on. How is this impacting the message to partners?

Oh, we're a believer in consolidation. We think we're a leader in it. … We've got a unique structure that allows us to move fast and be big. And if you want a partner to bet on for the future, we're going to be around. We hope to profit from the consolidation. But we also hope to play in the new areas of cloud and cloud-native apps as well.