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One of Dell’s first areas of competency for channel partners will be managed services. Dell announced plans to acquire MSP platform provider Silverback in July and Everdream in November, with plans to combine the offerings into a comprehensive managed services offering for channel partners.

Dell’s channel managed services will be led by Dan Phillips, the former CEO of Silverback. He spoke with Channel Insider’s Jessica Davis about Dell’s nascent managed services powerhouse.

Tell us about Dell’s plan for managed services.

Our certified partner program is a value-based model. It’s about quality. We are looking for quality partners in the hundreds. We are not looking for thousands. We will focus on practice areas where partners can add value for Dell and Dell can add value for partners. We are building very strong capabilities for "Simplifying IT" for our customers with 24-by-7 monitoring and management of their IT infrastructure.

How many partners did Silverback have before the Dell acquisition?

Before the acquisition, Silverback had about 150 partners. Silverback had very much a strategy of quality-of-partner as opposed to quantity. We had 150 very successful partners. We were very well known in the industry for having partners that gained the most traction. We would measure the business success by the number of users that partners brought on. That philosophy was very attractive to Dell.

Tell me about the way the MSP program will work at Dell.

The partner needs to go through Dell online product training to get certified to sell Dell products. It’s a simple online exam. [They] need course completion in tech areas such as Microsoft, Cisco [Systems], 3Com, networking and security. Those are barriers to entry requirements.

Do partners have to pay a fee?

Those who are new to the MSP business—who are becoming an MSP for the first time—need to finish the Business Builder program, which costs $8,999. That price includes technical training, a handful of licenses, sales and marketing assistance to help the partner to design, create, manage and market their managed services offering. They need to pass Dell product training first, and demonstrate that they have skill training and certification. Obviously they would be a Dell registered partner first.

What about if you already are an MSP?

If you are currently an MSP, then you have to complete the Dell managed services audit program. That includes training and an audit to ensure the partner has the capability to deliver managed services at a certain level to be deemed a Dell certified partner. The price for that is $4,999.

Do existing Silverback partners have to pay?

Those who have completed Silverback training don’t have to do these things.

Will partners need to be recertified on a regular basis?

We will have a dedicated sales organization working with them all the time. Recertification will be on an ad hoc basis, based on the judgments of the sales organization.

Will there be deal registration for managed services?

Yes. Partners that are certified in the MSP practice will have deal registration, financing, enhanced support and the ability to participate in coop marketing programs.

Will MSPs have to join all of Dell’s channel programs or will there be a single program?

The partner programs of all Dell’s acquisitions will be merged into a single program. We will have a single partner program for all of our channel partners. Dell is serious about a channel strategy.

Dell’s Channel Chief Greg Davis has said that Dell will launch its deal registration with a minimum of $75,000. MSP follows a different business model. Will the same numbers apply to MSPs?

No minimum size for MSPs.

Will Dell be selling managed services direct?

We will be announcing our forthcoming plans for a managed services offering. We will be seeing some significant announcements through next year. Dell’s direct managed services and its channel managed services will take complementary paths. You will see a strategy unfold over a period of time.

Do Silverback partners have to sign up to be Dell partners?

Silverback partners are being automatically enrolled in the Dell partner program. The program is really very similar to what they received as a Silverback partner but now with the ability to deal directly with Dell and be part of reselling Dell hardware. A lot of the Silverback partners were also Dell partners already.