Dell’s Network Push

With the company now privately-owned and a revamp to its partner programme following a string of acquisitions in the past three years, Channel Middle East spoke exclusively to Tom Burns, VP and general manager, Dell Networking and Peripherals, about what the changes mean for the company’s networking business in the region.

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Dell’s Network Push
By  Manda Banda Published  December 3, 2014

Channel: Ever since Dell made several acquisitions in the past three years, the company has reorganised its business units and outlined new channel programmes. Can you explain how the Networking and Peripherals unit is implementing this in the region?

Tom Burns: Well let me begin by explaining that I head Dell’s networking business globally and part of the group’s quarterly engagement is to meet and review the team’s business in the enterprise space. We decided to come to Dubai this time around because our networking business has been growing tremendously here in the Middle East. I believe there are several factors for this growth we are witnessing. Firstly, we have not fundamentally changed out go to market strategy with all the acquisitions the company made in the last three to four years and that’s important. Dell has been in the networking business in the past but the acquisition of Force 10 Networks has pushed the company to emerge as a major force to be reckoned in this space. We continue to work with partners with our networking business under the umbrella PartnerDirect Program although we have recently introduced a new Networking Specialisation for old and new partners.

Channel: How is your networking business doing in the Middle East region at the moment?

Tom Burns: Our overall EMEA networking business has been doing well in both mature and emerging markets. We have moved from being outside the top 10 networking vendors to being recognised in the top three depending on the markets and countries in this region. After the Force 10 merger, we have enhanced our engineering, research and development (R&D) capabilities, which is spurring growth for us. Last year, our networking business grew 20% in Europe and here in the Middle East, in Q1 and Q2, 2014 our growth has been a bit soft as we only managed single digit growth. However, we have a strong pipeline especially with legacy Dell clients in countries like UAE, Oman, KSA and Qatar. Dell’s legacy business in healthcare, education and public sector is solid and continues to perform well here in the Middle East. We have already mapped out a plan that will see the team together with our channel partners go after this installed base with our networking offerings.

Channel: What is Dell doing in the cloud computing space and what influence is the networking business bringing to ensure that partners are capitalising on the opportunities emerging in the cloud arena?

Tom Burns: There is no doubt that cloud computing has changed the way enterprises consume and use IT. That said, it is crucial to point out that not every player that talks about cloud does in fact have an offering in that space. For us, it’s vital to emphasise that we remain committed to advancing the era of open networking. To this end, Dell is working with business alliance partners VMware and Cumulus Networks to deliver a pre-configured solutions, available from the company, that combine VMware NSX with Cumulus Linux on Dell networking switches. As a result, it’s important to unpack the opportunities that are opening up in the cloud space and software defined networking (SDN) arena. Our approach is three fold and includes programme paths for partners, virtualisation and SDN open flow protocol.

The feedback our partners and enterprise customers have been giving us is that our open network approach gives them more flexibility and agility that isn’t available from the competition in the market. This is compelling value proposition our partners are taking to the market.

Channel: A lot of your rivals have specific offerings for SMBs in the networking sphere. What solutions does Dell have for this segment?

Tom Burns: The SMB sector remains an important market segment for Dell in the region. In fact, the company is readying to refresh SMB networking solutions by year end and this will put partners serving this market on a growth path. The Middle East and most emerging markets have a large SMB base. In targeting this market, we are bringing solutions that can easily be scaled as these organisations start to grow to become mid enterprise firms. The partner opportunity is there and with our open network approach, the company has the right solutions to fit in any SMB environment regardless of the vertical it is in.

Channel: Talk us through some of the local channel initiatives and programmes Dell Networking is rolling out to partners in the region.

Tom Burns: As pointed out, we have strengthened our PartnerDirect Programme by unveiling a new Networking Certification Competency for resellers in the region. The new competency features specialised modules for networking to ensure that partners are up-to-date in an ever-changing world of technology and business. The competency offers a wide range of benefits, which are only available to those partner organisations that hold the accreditation. We are training our partners to maximise opportunities by sharing insight into how to convert potential clients into actual sales. With the certification, the company expects partners to take advantage of discounts and extended deals on products.

Channel: How is Dell Networking innovating and differentiating itself from competition in the SDN arena?

Tom Burns: Our SDN strategy looks beyond networks and we are developing an infrastructure controller that goes beyond SDN to deliver control of storage, servers and networks. We are taking a much different approach to SDN than most of our competitors in the market. Our strategy rests on the Active Fabric and associated network management and orchestration software that is designed to automate many of the manual tasks required to deploy and configure a Layer 2/Layer 3 fabric, including support for several network topologies. I think what we are doing is differentiating ourselves, and I think it is a great approach because I don’t know another vendor that is doing this. I have seen the competition approach and the white-box approach they all don’t have what we have in our SDN strategy. We are generating interest and demand in our products, and I believe that is a novel approach.

Channel: What major trends is Dell networking tracking in the next 12 to 18 months?

Tom Burns: There are several but with doubt cloud is up there but not the only one. Enterprises are still determining whether to have a public, private or hybrid cloud model. For partners, this is an opportunity for channel partners to go into a client’s IT environment, understand fully the IT infrastructure and data centre and recommend the appropriate strategy on which cloud option a company can to adopt.

Channel: What can your partners expect from Dell Networking in the region this year and beyond?

Tom Burns: They can expect to see more solutions in both the enterprise and SMB markets. We will be putting a lot of focus in the SMB market with new products that we hope we can bundle with the legacy Dell solutions. From a networking product perspective, we will be bringing out new products that are based on open standards, are competitive, offer high performance and capabilities around compute and storage for both enterprises and SMBs.

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