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Compellent Technologies VARs say they'll give Dell a chance

Storage array vendor Compellent Technologies is sold 100% through the channel, but its VARs say Dell's $820 million acquisition of Compellent could have a positive impact.

Compellent Technologies' channel partners say they hope Dell lives up to its promise to evolve more into a reseller organization following its $820 million acquisition of storage array vendor Compellent.

Many in the channel still look at Dell as a direct-sales proponent while Compellent does all of its business through the channel. Still, some Compellent and Dell channel partners said they are starting to see some positive signs of change. Davenport Group has been a Compellent reseller since 2003 and a Dell partner since 2002. Most of its revenue is based on sales of Compellent storage, said Sonia St. Charles, CEO of the St. Paul, Minn.-based firm. St. Charles said she attended a conference in August where Bob Skelley, head of the global enterprise architecture program for Dell, told her that 26% of Dell's revenue went through the channel in 2010 compared to 15% in 2007.

"Overall we are excited," St. Charles said. "We see this as a good thing. Compellent has an excellent channel model. They are one of the best. True, Dell is not as channel-friendly but Compellent can help Dell shift to a channel model. Dell is making a much bigger play to move into the channel. We see this as a great opportunity."

St. Charles said she has noted a change in Dell's channel program in the past two years, with more training, certifications, marketing assistance and portals. "Change is going to come slowly. We are optimistic they will become more friendly, and we are optimistic this acquisition will further that," she said. "Dell still has a ways to go. It's a large corporation, and a big ship turns slowly."

Compellent distributor Promark Technology Vice President Todd Hartung has a more cautious outlook, although he said Dell worked hard to retain EqualLogic VARs who are experts in iSCSI storage after acquiring EqualLogic nearly three years ago.

"Of course, there will be a little bit of change," Hartung said. "We will have to wait and see what happens. The deal is not [closed] yet."

Scott Winslow, president of the Boston-based Winslow Technology Group LLC, one of Compellent's largest and longest-running VARs, told he has heard good things in the past few years about Dell's willingness to work with VAR partners. "We have to look at how this deal might be good for us," Winslow said."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."

One storage analyst said Dell will have to do a better job of internally managing its direct sales force while cultivating a healthy external channel program.

"Dell needs to solidify and embrace the Compellent VARs, so that they continue to sell those [Compellent] products as well as increase the flow of other Dell products across the board," IO Server and Storage analyst Greg Schulz said. "Dell also needs to focus on market expansion and keep the revenue prevention teams on the sidelines so one camp doesn't try to take all of the deals from the other."

In a conference call today to announce the deal, Brad Anderson, vice president of Dell's enterprise product group, said Dell has not been able to directly talk to Compellent partners because the deal has not yet closed. But he said Dell has urged its partners to reach out to Compellent.

Compellent Technologies CEO Phil Soran said he has spoken to Compellent resellers, and "the majority of our partners see this as a big opportunity for them."

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