Dell's EqualLogic acquisition won't hurt partners, execs say

Two days after Dell launched its first formal channel partner program, Dell and EqualLogic executives tried to calm EqualLogic partners' fears about its pending acquisition.

Without giving many specifics, Dell and EqualLogic executives attempted to reassure EqualLogic channel partners today that their businesses won't suffer when Dell completes its acquisition of EqualLogic.

On Nov. 5, Dell announced plans to acquire EqualLogic, an iSCSI storage area network (SAN) vendor based in Nashua, N.H., for about $1.4 billion. This afternoon, EqualLogic hosted a partner conference call with CEO Don Bulens, worldwide channel vice president Bob Skelley and Greg Davis, Dell's channel vice president and general manager for the Americas.

They pledged to keep the EqualLogic brand prominent and make the transition period after the acquisition closes as disruption-free as possible. "Channel partners have been central to our business model since the company was founded," Bulens said.

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However, Bulens added, "It's not going to be possible for us to be crystal clear on a lot of things," due to "legal restrictions" regarding the acquisition.

That hasn't been the case with Dell, which was founded on a direct-sales model that has often frustrated the channel companies who had to compete with it. Dell just launched its first formal channel program, Dell PartnerDirect, two days ago. When Dell and EqualLogic announced the acquisition, some partners took the "extreme point of view" that "EqualLogic is now damned, and you've moved to hell with the devil," Bulens said.

"I'm not naïve," Davis said. "I understand that clearly we have trust to build."

Dell and EqualLogic executives will collaborate to preserve the unique features of EqualLogic's partner program and sort out the differences between the two programs, Bulens said. One example he noted is in the deal registration process. Dell PartnerDirect offers registration for deals of $75,000 or more, while EqualLogic's threshold is lower.

"There's a lot of work that has to go on to make sure we can bring the programs together in an effective way," he said.

Davis agreed. "We need to work together to provide one deal registration program that is good for all partners," he said.

The two sides will also have to figure out what happens if an EqualLogic partner has registered a deal but then finds out that Dell's direct sales team is pursuing the same lead after the acquisition is finalized.

"We want to protect you," Bulens said. "We recognize that is a very, very key transitional issue."

The acquisition is expected to be completed in the late fourth quarter or early first quarter of Dell's fiscal year.

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