Dell is looking to ramp up its networking channel engagement as it aims to become resellers' and customers' go-to vendor across the breadth of enterprise IT infrastructure.
The vendor has also been busy building the routes to market for its recently acquired Force10 wares, with the networking player's existing distributors set to be swapped out for incumbent Dell VADs Magirus and Hammer.
Leading the PC giant's networking charge is Armughan Ahmad, who joined a month ago as vice president of global networking sales. He arrives from HP Networking, where he oversaw the North American channel, and has previously held senior posts at 3Com and Enterasys.
"We are not just getting into networking since [the] Force10 [acquisition last year] – Dell has been in networking for over a decade [with] PowerConnect, but it has been more geared towards the campus," Ahmad told ChannelWeb. "It is a great attach to our servers, our storage. It gives us a great story in the datacentre. It gives us an end-to-end product portfolio: edge, to core, to datacentre."
Buying into Dell networking could save customers "15 to 20 per cent" compared with Cisco, HP and others, he claimed. Ahmad cited the vendor's rounded enterprise portfolio and its supply chain clout as key differentiators.
"Customers have been purchasing networking as a standalone product for a long time," he said. "Taking everything together is a huge value proposition, versus standard networking companies that are partnering with [a firm such as] EMC."
Ahmad claimed that partners can make "two or three times as much" by selling Dell networking compared with Cisco. He added that the Texan vendor's Virtual Network Architecture (VNA) framework will shake up how end users fulfil their networking needs.
"What VMware did to servers with its virtualisation, VNA is doing to the network," he said. "[Partners] are putting extra effort around VNA, and they are able to make more margin [as] we have created certification tracks around networking."
Eric Velfre, EMEA executive director of Dell Networking, revealed that 175 partners across Europe are on the road to attaining the networking certification.
"We allow them to have access to our sales force, we assist them with the selling process," he said. "Over time I am sure that partners will bring their own strong business [opportunities]. But, for the time being, the idea is to work together to close the opportunities."
Velfre explained that when Dell acquires companies it often has different distribution requirements from the vendors it buys.
"Usually with these companies, because they are too small, they have to have a distributor to remove complexity," he said. "We do not really need [anyone] to manage that complexity. We have strong back-office processes and distribution may not add value. We often move away from that model. That does not mean we do not love distribution, but we want them to add value, not just manage back-office systems."
Dell storage VADs Magirus and Hammer were handed Force10 franchises a few months ago. Incumbent Force10 UK distribution partners Avnet and Zycko look set to be phased out.
Grant Reddin, business unit director – networking and security for Avnet Technology Solutions UK, said: "Avnet is currently supporting Dell while Dell integrates Force10 and transitions to a new model. Avnet will continue to support Dell until such time as the relationship between the two organisations comes to an end."
David Galton-Fenzi, Zycko's group sales director, was also stoical about the end of his firm's UK Force10 relationship, explaining that the distributor will continue to work with Dell in a number of eastern and central European countries. He also pointed to the wider strength of Zycko's networking proposition, including a nascent relationship with Edge-Core Networks.
"Dell's acquisition of Force10 brings our relationship with the networking manufacturer to a natural close in the UK due to Dell's direct business model in this region," said Galton-Fenzi. "However, we are still working with Dell in emerging markets including Russia, Hungary and the Czech Republic. The ongoing agreement to deliver Force10 into these regions is testament to the success we've had with Force10 as its biggest partner.
"Our networking portfolio remains strong as ever and the recent addition of Edge-Core Networks will fulfil the 10Gb requirement in the enterprise space. Edge-Core is an innovative networking vendor and its addition to the Zycko portfolio aligns with our strategy of bringing exciting new technology to the UK and European channels."
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