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Despite efforts to quell partner fears Jan. 29 and the announcement of a series of Town Hall meetings the week of Feb. 4, confusion is still rife for EqualLogic partners since the company’s acquisition by Dell.

Dell, which launched its own channel program in December, said the EqualLogic channel program would remain intact, but partners still have major concerns over Dell’s relationship with EMC, interference from the vendor’s direct sales force and competition from an influx of new Dell partners.

In a major change to its own channel program, Dell has lowered the minimum deal registration requirement from $75,000 to $50,000.  However, there is currently no minimum requirement for EqualLogic partners to register their deals.

Bernard Westwood, chief financial officer of Syscom Technologies, an EqualLogic partner, said that he’d talked to EqualLogic but still wasn’t sure how the two programs would work to register deals that involved both vendors’ products.

Westwood said that his major concern is Dell’s direct sales force, and he said he is worried that the vendor’s relationship with EMC could affect his storage deals, including deals that were in process at the time of the acquisition.

He said that though Dell promised it would keep EqualLogic’s deal registration portal separate and secure, he’s worried that it might leverage its relationship with EMC and "get in the way" of him successfully closing those sales.  "What happens when we register an EqualLogic deal, and [Dell direct sales force] wants to go into the same customer with EMC?"

While Westwood said he’ll give the partnership some time to see how events play out, he added that if Dell interferes or if he begins to lose business, he’ll "have to start considering a Plan B" that doesn’t involve using Dell as a vendor, he said.

Another VAR who wished to remain anonymous told Channel Insider he’s "not pleased at all" and is also concerned that Dell’s direct sales force will "pitch an alternative product, like the EMC/Dell products, against our EqualLogic/Dell offering," the partner said.  "We will be looking to alternative vendors once our current backlog is fulfilled,” the partner added.

Dell has tried to ease partner worries by bringing on board Bob Skelley, formerly EqualLogic’s worldwide channel chief, who will head up Dell’s new Enterprise Architecture division. Skelley said that EqualLogic partners will continue to register deals with no minimum requirement through EqualLogic’s existing deal registration tool.

Westwood said that Dell’s decision to include Skelley is a positive sign, and it puts him more at ease.

"Bringing on Bob Skelley, who’s done a great job at EqualLogic, shows some level of support for keeping things the way they are," said Westwood.  Westwood said that Syscom will most likely take advantage of the opportunities to expand its Dell product offerings to servers, storage and other enterprise hardware since it company already resells Dell laptops and desktops.

However, other partners are also concerned that the influx of new partners selling across both companies’ portfolios will result in commoditization and increase competition. EqualLogic said it has about 500 current channel partners and Dell estimates it has about 15,000 resellers currently in the United States.  Greg Davis, Dell’s vice president of North American channels, said in December that Dell plans to double its number of resellers by 2010. 

Tom Mumford, chief technology officer of Triaxis Technologies, said the EqualLogic acquisition and Dell’s reseller strategy will result in increased competition for the same customers.  "Both companies are trying to expand their channels and add all these partners, and that’s great for them," Mumford said, "For me it means there are thousands of other, new partners selling the same products as me and in some cases in the exact same markets," he said.

Mumford said he’s worried that his EqualLogic business, which has been a differentiator for him with customers, will become commoditized and decrease the value of his specialized knowledge about the EqualLogic storage products.  With so many partners now able to acquire and resell EqualLogic’s products and services, Mumford said he is concerned that he’ll lose out on deals based on price.  "[EqualLogic] wants me to focus harder on selling their products, but I need differentiated products, not just ‘me too’ products," he said.