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While Dell won’t ever say it, the chances that its partner program for MSPs will ever grow to significant numbers don’t look good at the moment, and it’s not clear that Dell really cares whether or not they do.

Dell’s channel executives themselves have said the company’s MSP partner numbers have remained stagnant, and by our count they have actually declined since the company purchased Silverback and Everdream, which became the basis of the company’s managed services offering. Some Silverback partners have abandoned the platform under Dell.

Now Level Platforms CEO Peter Sandiford has pointed out Dell as the poster child for the group of vendors that are looking to sell managed services direct to customers, in the latest edition of his blog. Sandiford is using his blog to write about the seven megatrends he perceives in the MSP market, and the first is vendors entering the space.

He categorizes technology vendors that provide managed services into two groups – those that have a significant commitment to support channel partners, and those “with no existing channel to offend,” and he puts Dell into the latter category.

“It is clear to me that Dell is the leader in this second group. It makes perfect sense for them after 20 years to simply shift their tag line from “product direct” to “service direct.” While they have retained a handful of MSP channel partners, these are simply resellers of a centralized Dell service rather than MSPs defining a unique service offering to their end customers.”

Vendors like Dell are looking for end customer loyalty rather than channel loyalty, and include telcos, retailers, ISVs and enterprise service providers, according to Sandiford, who says that he expects the list to expand to include non-IT organizations looking for additional revenue streams.

But it’s all good for the channel, he says, noting that companies like Dell will be creating an awareness of the problem and solution to potential customers that MSPs themselves would never have been able to buy.

And Dell aside, Sandiford also offers a list of vendors and distributors he believes have done a good job of showing support for their channel partners. He believes more partners are likely to turn to packaged offers from organizations such as Ingram Micro.

“The idea that each local solution provider should define and build their own managed services business themselves made sense in the early adopter stage of managed services. In the future even larger MSPs will integrate into these programs and services as they ultimately grow to influence the direction of the MSP market.”

Free marketing and an easier back end seem like a pretty good thing.

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