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Compellent VARs eye Dell ownership

Channel favorite Compellent gets snatched up by direct-sales-focused Dell for $960 M.

Compellent Technologies, known for its 100% channel sales philosophy, will undoubtedly see change under Dell ownership. The question is how big and how much change.

Dell, known for its direct-sales focus, is buying Compellent for $960 million or $27.50 per share in cash.

One true-blue Compellent VAR said the purchase seemed inevitable given the recent consolidation in the storage industry.

"If you look at what's gone on with Isilon, with Netezza, with 3Par, this was kind of expected," said Scott Winslow, president of the Boston-based Winslow Technology Group LLC, one of Compellent's largest and longest-running VARs.

Another storage VAR said Dell ownership of Compellent could also be "the final straw" for Dell's EMC relationship since Compellent competes directly with EMC's Fibre Channel offerings. Dell resells some EMC storage lines but that relationship was already frayed by Dell's buyout of EqualLogic three years ago.

VARs that like working with smaller vendors will have to adapt as their favorite companies get swallowed up. Hewlett-Packard bought 3Par two months ago after a prolonged bidding war with Dell. More recently, storage kingpin EMC snapped up Isilon.

Many in the channel still look at Dell as sort of a direct-sales Darth Vader; however, Winslow and others said they've heard good things in the last few years about Dell's willingness to work with VAR partners. They see the company as being influenced by its EqualLogic purchase after which it worked to retain EqualLogic VARs with expertise in hot-selling iSCSI storage.

"We have to look at how this deal might be good for us," Winslow said.

Dell's promise to keep Compellent in Eden Prairie, Minn., and maintain its vaunted support organization is pretty much boilerplate commentary in such acquisitions, but Winslow was heartened to hear it. "The proof will be in the pudding, but I guess it could be positive for us that [under Dell] more people will hear of and be interested in Compellent SANs."

Still, many VARs prefer to work with smaller, more flexible tech vendors that are often more innovative and faster-to-market than the tech behemoths.

"We love working with the $150 million to $500 million independently run vendors like Compellent -- like CommVault, like Nexsan. They are great to work with. They innovate," said Winslow.

Compellent, for example, pioneered automated tiered storage. The company had "phenomenally flexible snapshot capability" and were one of the first to put both Fibre Channel and iSCSI in the same box, he said.

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