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EqualLogic partners 'cautiously optimistic' on Dell channel strategy

Colin Steele, Executive Editor
Dell Inc. executives today continued to talk a good game about Dell's acquisition of EqualLogic Inc., but some EqualLogic

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partners said they are still waiting for Dell to prove its commitment to the channel through its actions.

Dell hosted a one-hour, partners-only conference call this afternoon with EqualLogic partners. Many have expressed concerns about working with the Round Rock, Texas-based company, which was built on a direct sales model and just started a formal channel program in December.

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During the call, Greg Davis, Dell vice president and general manager of Americas channel, and Americas channel group director Bob Skelley discussed plans to integrate EqualLogic partners with the Dell PartnerDirect program and answered partners' questions, according to partners who participated in the call.

Mike Noordyke, president of Trivalent Group, an EqualLogic partner in Grandville, Mich., said it was a comforting sign that Skelley, an EqualLogic holdover, participated in the call. Still, Noordyke is not expecting any positives from Dell's acquisition any time soon.

"What I really see them trying to do is leverage this EqualLogic acquisition to garner a fair amount of channel players quickly," he said. "Dell has badmouthed and stepped on the channel in the past, so I don't know how even the best-laid plans can have immediate results."

Bernard Westwood, chief financial officer (CFO) of Syscom Technologies in Marietta, Ga., said he also appreciated Skelley's presence on the call.

"We're cautiously optimistic," he said. "EqualLogic's been a good partner for us, and I know that they're bringing over some of their channel people."

Dell executives told the EqualLogic partners that they will be grandfathered into Dell PartnerDirect at the same partner level they had with EqualLogic, according to Noordyke. EqualLogic partners must submit a short online registration, he said.

One issue that came up a couple of times during the call was how Dell plans to handle accounts that both Dell's direct sales staff and EqualLogic partners currently sell to. One EqualLogic partner talked about already encountering competition from a Dell sales representative over an existing customer, Westwood said.

Davis gave out his email address, told EqualLogic partners to bring those situations directly to his attention and said Dell would handle them on a case-by-case basis, according to Frank Kobuszewski, vice president of technology solutions for Cxtec in Syracuse, N.Y. Kobuszewski said he appreciated such an honest response.

"They really didn't skirt the issue," he said. "They were really frank about that."

"On their word, it sounds like they've got a handle on it," Noordyke said. "But they're still mapping out territories and developing a go-to-market strategy, so they have a lot of work to do."

EqualLogic partners also weighed in on the new Dell EqualLogic PS5000 disk array series, unveiled Monday as the first Dell product to take advantage of EqualLogic technology. Noordyke said he was surprised Dell integrated the EqualLogic product line so quickly, and he thinks the name could cause some issues.

"That thing's going to say Dell all over it," he said. "We have to decide. If we're going to sell it, it's going to be fairly obvious to customers that it's a Dell product."

Westwood said he didn't have any problems with the new product.

"We've been used to EqualLogic not having a big-name presence," he said. "The Dell thing could make it easier in some cases and in some cases make it harder."

Kobuszewski agreed.

"They've got a very recognizable and credible brand," he said.

Meanwhile, as EqualLogic partners continue to sort through the aftermath of the Dell buyout, it could be time to shine for rival iSCSI storage vendors and their partners.

"There is some real opportunity there for us as EqualLogic goes through this transition," said Scott Winslow, CEO of Winslow Technology Group, a Boston storage specialist aligned with EqualLogic rival Compellent Technologies.

Senior news editor Barbara Darrow contributed to this report.


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