Following an attack on manufacturers that use the channel, direct vendor Dell will today launch its networking products in Europe.
Speaking at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Cannes last week, Michael Dell, chief executive of Dell, said the firm is more "agile" because it sells direct. He added that it knows what customers are buying, how much and when, in real time.
"That allows us to know what's going on and adjust," he said. "Because we sell direct to customers we know demand. There are a number of businesses where sales are not really sales - they are sales into the channel. Ours is real demand."
However, channel executives claimed they were unruffled by the launch of Dell's network switching range in Europe, which sees Dell offering the same sales and support model as for its PC and server range.
Dell's rivals said the threat is minimal, with the channel's value-add differentiating it from Dell's low-cost offering.
The PowerConnect range of layer-two LAN switches will connect PCs and servers at wire speed and build LANs in branch offices. They can now be bought alongside Dell servers, desktops, notebooks and storage products.
Keith Humphreys, analyst at EuroLAN Research, said: "The products are 'meat and potatoes', and are aimed at the higher end of the SME space where customers can support themselves."
Des Lekerman, managing director of Cisco VAR Eurodata Systems, said Dell's reputation as a PC and server manufacturer will mean it is "pigeon-holed" by users. He does not see a threat to his Cisco business.
"The lower-end networking vendors will be more threatened, although Cisco will have to sharpen its pencil to prepare for new competition," he said.
Nick Watson, head of unified channels UK at Cisco, said the vendor will not react specifically to Dell but will "continue to explain why our technology and resellers bring more than just the sale of a product to businesses".
Nick Ruczaj, sales and marketing director at vendor Allied Telesyn, said Dell has shown the weakness of its networking sales capabilities. "Dell has sold network products from other vendors but has not been successful because users do not associate it with that sector," he said.
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