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Dell-SonicWALL acquisition: Channel benefits and some concerns

The Dell-SonicWALL acquisition could benefit channels from both companies, but SonicWALL partners want to be sure they're recognized and supported in the Dell ranks.

The recently announced Dell-SonicWALL acquisition could mean big enterprise sales opportunities for SonicWALL partners, but they'll have to navigate potential pitfalls during the integration.

Specifically SonicWALL partners may run into product overlap issues, especially when it comes to managed security services. They'll also have to be sure they get their fair recognition among the Dell ranks, considering the larger company has such a vast channel organization.

“The positive side [of this deal] is that Dell is going to have a wider security portfolio, so there will be more attention given to their security products and that will help SecureWorks, Dell’s recent (managed security service provider) MSSP acquisition,” said Gartner research vice president Greg Young. “On the other side, any time a [solution provider] with an MSSP business has their own products as well, that’s a natural conflict. They are going to work for their own competitors in a sense.”

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SonicWALL partners will fight for their place in the larger channel

Brian McCafferty, CTO and president of Automation Concepts and Technologies, Inc., a managed services provider that offers fully managed virtual servers, workstations, and firewall solutions, is most concerned at this point with getting support within the Dell channel organization.

“We have pretty high visibility in the SonicWALL organization and probably pretty low in Dell, so our job is to raise visibility with Dell by the time they start rolling the accounts together. Hopefully Dell places value on SonicWALL’s opinion of the vendors. The next year should be exciting,” said McCafferty, who says SonicWALL is the best vendor his 22-year-old firm has ever dealt with.

On the other hand, Dell has the potential to bring a whole new kind of market recognition to the SonicWALL product line.

“We are a very technical company. We install and support everything we sell. Yet one thing we’ve had a problem with is penetrating at the enterprise level. We are in the upper end of the SMB market, scratching at the door of enterprise, McCafferty said.

“Dell has done a great job penetrating the enterprise. SonicWALL doesn’t necessarily have the same door opening effect as Dell or Cisco, for example. I think the attachment of the Dell name to SonicWALL legitimizes it, and will be a great door opener for us. SonicWALL has the enterprise products, but just doesn’t have the enterprise creds to open the market for us.”

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In the meantime, the average response from McCafferty's clients about the acquisition haven't been worrisome. “One client did email me and was concerned about our continued relationship with SonicWALL and our ability to continue to support them, but I don’t see our relationship changing at all with clients,” McCafferty said.

Dell-SonicWALL deal hinges the right kind of integration

The placement of SonicWALL in the Dell organization is going to be a key factor in how the company stands once the merger is in effect.

“Where SonicWALL is tentatively placed in the Dell organization might be a challenge in the long term because they are placed tentatively in the software group. Normally, we would want to see this closer to the networking products because that’s typically where there’s greater association. Dell has indicated that eventually that’s where they want to place [SonicWALL], but it remains to be seen,” said Young.

While this integration is occurring, SonicWALL will have to say true to their core business and without getting sidetracked by the acquisition.

“One other big problem we’ve seen is that once companies get inside larger companies, there’s a lot of distraction. Many of these acquisitions have gone poorly because of distractions or bad organizational fit. This goes for both SonicWALL customers and the channel. If you start to see those elements of distraction or lack of innovation, that’s a negative that often happens,” said Young.

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