Michael Dell Talks Storage, Professes Love for Channel

By Alison Diana  |  Print this article Print

CEO Michael Dell, flanked by his storage executives, addressed channel partners, vendors and customers at a Dell Storage Forum event, recounting the company's humble beginnings and its growth into a channel-loving storage and computing giant.

Sitting comfortably in an armchair on-stage, flanked by Phil Soran of Dell Compellent and Darren Thomas of Dell Storage, Michael Dell spent about an hour discussing the company’s humble dorm-room beginnings as a storage business, its evolution into a PC powerhouse, and its embrace of the channel during a "Fireside Chat" at Storage Forum 2011 in Orlando this week.

"Storage is obviously a very important part of our business, an exciting part of our business," Dell told the audience, which primarily consisted of solution providers, end-customers, and vendor partners.

To the laughter of the crowded ballroom at the Hilton hotel, Dell briefly recalled his eponymous company’s early years as the vendor of storage subsystems for IBM PCs. That changed after an executive from customer Martin Marietta, who had insisted on visiting Dell’s office, asked about the company-made computer Dell used to format the hard drives, Dell said.

"Within about three months, the whole business turned," he remembered.

After briefly introducing themselves and addressing their rosy views of Dell’s future in storage, Soran, founder of Compellent who is now president of Dell Compellent, and Thomas, vice president and general manager of storage at Dell, took turns interviewing their boss. Pulling no punches, Soran immediately asked Dell whether the company was a channel-friendly company.

"We love our channel partners," Dell replied. "The reason we’ve grown predictably and consistently is because our approach has been partner-friendly."

In some countries, Dell’s entire sales strategy is channel-based, he said. In addition to compensating sales people for indirect, as well as direct, sales, Dell continues to create both general-business and vertical solutions such as healthcare, education, manufacturing, and finance, said Dell.

"The transformation is working very well," he said. "It’s a very different company than it was five years ago."

Much of the IT transformation occurs in the midsize world, Dell continued, rather than at the enterprise level.

"Many of you are midsize organizations or large organizations, but not the world’s largest organizations," said Dell. "I think IT [trends] tend to start in the midsize organizations and move up."

Dell recalled visiting a large automotive manufacturer in Detroit during the x86 server evolution. The CIO, while impressed in theory, told Dell to return after he had retired. "You see barriers to adoption, barriers to acceptance," Dell said.