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The portfolio is available to customers now from Dell. Channel partners will get the tools in the coming months, a spokesperson said. For better or worse, Dell started out its existence and spent most of its life boasting about the benefit of its direct-only sales strategy. So over the last year the company has been working hard to woo channel partners to its new religion–that multichannel is good and that it will play fair with channel partners.

But it’s not clear yet whether the whole company got that memo.

Dell announced Feb. 13 that it plans to offer a Dell Storage Simplification Assessments portfolio to customers, to help them “improve the management and scalability of their storage infrastructure while helping them cope with the dramatic increase in the volume of data in traditional and virtualized settings.” (That’s directly from the company’s announcement today.)

Dell promises the service will deliver information to customers in days instead of weeks by “leveraging non-disruptive tools and processes.”

From a channel standpoint, this seems a lot like the sort of service that VARS have already been offering to their customers for quite some time. Now Dell is offering a similar service and selling it directly to customers, starting today. A company spokesperson said Dell would also be offering the service through channel partners in the coming months.

For a company that is trying to win over channel partners and persuade them that it has indeed become channel-friendly, the difference in timing is a little troubling. Why not release the service through direct sales and channel partners at the same time? Why does the direct sales force get the first shot at customers?

If you look at the press release on Dell’s site, at the right-hand side of the page is a section with “Links to Additional Information.” If you follow any one of those links, the “buy now” contact information on the page is for Dell’s direct sales force. Now, I don’t know if Dell will be sharing any leads it gets through those contacts. But if I were a channel partner, or if I were considering joining up with Dell, something like this might make me pause for a moment.

But not everyone feels that way.

Paul Byrne, president and CEO of managed services provider ReadyTech, said “it sounds like something that would be of great use …. Dell is helping to build awareness around an issue that I can then come in and address.”

“A year ago I wouldn’t have been able to get the time of day from Dell and now they are valuing me as a partner,” Byrne added. “They are suddenly realizing that we add to the customer relationship.”

What do you think?