One of the toughest jobs in the IT industry might just be that of channel chief at the new Dell Technologies entity, which is expected to emerge in October. The company revealed, ahead of the merger with EMC, that John Byrne, formerly global vice president of sales strategy, planning and channels for Dell, will assume that role.
Byrne has been running Dell’s global channel for the last two years, with Cheryl Cook, vice president of global channels and alliances, reporting to him. Greg Ambulous has been the channel chief for EMC. All the indications thus far concerning how the unified channel program will operate beginning Feb.1 suggest it may lean a little more in the direction of the existing EMC channel program.
Byrne has been at Dell for only two years after working for Advanced Micro Devices for 25 years. The chief integration officer at Dell is Rory Read, also an AMD veteran. A crucial issue that still needs to be worked out is whether the overall Dell Technologies channel program will resemble the global model used by EMC that runs all but very high-end deals through the channel, or the regional model used by Dell that drives sales via a combined direct and indirect model.
Dell recognizes that sorting out a range of channel issues even before the merger is completed is a high priority. A major part of what makes the Dell channel chief position challenging is the overlap that exists between Dell and EMC server and storage products in the midmarket.
The relationship between Dell and a semi-autonomous VMware business unit with its own channel strategy could also pose challenges, as could Dell’s decision to sell off its SonicWall security products along with a raft of software that the tech giant gained when it acquired Quest Software.
The relationship between Dell’s software and hardware product groups has always been a little tenuous. Dell made some progress getting partners to bundle backup software and SonicWall firewalls with Dell servers. But Dell’s hardware and software channels were never really unified.
The fact is that the purchasing of various technologies remains fragmented. Very few customers, for example, are going to acquire a firewall at the same time they do a server, no matter how much financial sense that might make. Nevertheless, there are more than a few channel programs involving Dell software products that to one degree or another have to be reframed.
In the meantime, partners are waiting to find out what products Dell will continue to invest in. Dell has said it will continue to support everything in the portfolio. In reality, however, strategic decisions concerning what Dell will invest in from an ongoing research and development perspective will ultimately dictate much of the company’s channel strategy.
It will fall to Byrne to detail what that strategy will ultimately be. However, given the amount of debt Dell Technologies will be carrying, the pricing strategy Dell is likely to pursue once the merger is completed will give new meaning to the word “aggressive.”
Mike Vizard has covered IT for more than 25 years, and has edited or contributed to a number of tech publications, including InfoWorld, CRN and eWeek. He currently blogs daily for IT Business Edge and contributes to CIOinsight, Channel Insider and Baseline.