Q&A: Michael Dell On Dell Technologies' Channel Renaissance

The Influencer

In 2016, Michael Dell pulled off the biggest acquisition in the history of the IT business. He followed that up this year by expertly managing the integration of storage market leader EMC into Dell and personally leading the sales charge of the combined company.

Partners say Dell's hands-on role driving the channel sales engine has been a critical factor in the success of the $67 billion blockbuster acquisition of EMC.

That type of leadership is so impressive that it made Dell the clear choice as CRN's Most Influential Leader of 2017.

Ahead of publishing the annual The Top 100 Executives, CRN spoke with the Dell Technologies CEO. Here we present some highlights of CRN's recent Q&A with Dell.

The Multi-Cloud World

This idea of a multi-cloud world says there will be applications and workloads that are appropriate for the public cloud, and some that are appropriate for Software-as-a-Service, some that are appropriate for managed services, some appropriate for on-premise. When you automate and modernize the on-premise system, especially for the predictable part of the workload, which for most companies is going to be 85 [percent to] 90 percent, that on-premise system is extremely competitive. Another thing [customers have] realized is that many of the public clouds are effectively trying to create a lock-in. That can also be pretty expensive.

Dell Technologies' Innovation Engine

We're investing roughly $4.5 billion a year in R&D. We have an incredible innovation engine. We've got our CTOs working together, for example, on the topic of AI, machine learning, machine intelligence. I've been working with our R&D leaders from across the business on that topic. Do you bring them all together under one person? Not really. If there was such a person, that would be me, but these teams are highly innovative, they're doing great work and we don't want to create an overly bureaucratic, centrally controlled thing. We want them to be innovating, and where it makes sense to work together, we absolutely do that.

Customer Priorities

Customers are leaning into the digital transformation, but they're not necessarily getting big budgets to do that. They're drawing on efficiencies in the IT and infrastructure to be able to get that. When we talk about automating and modernizing the data center, that's a funding mechanism for the digital transformation. It seems like every day or so, there's another security challenge, so that's a big spending priority for companies, particularly as they connect everything up. Nobody wants to be a victim of a cyber challenge. There's aggressive spending there as well.

Partner Reaction To Dell's Acquisition Of EMC

The reaction has been extremely positive. Whether it's partners or distributors or the end customers figuring out who they're going to bet on for the future, they look at the strength of the portfolio, and that helps us a lot. I'm very pleased, not satisfied. In the first quarter, our global partner revenue growth was double digits, which is pretty hard to do at this scale. The momentum is very strong.