Dell Technologies Chairman and CEO Michael Dell has one question for the more than $70 billion IT giant he's built: "How high is up?" Dell and his leadership team are pushing aggressively to make Dell Technologies, the IT behemoth created by Dell's landmark acquisition of EMC last September, the world's dominant technology company.
And confidence is something they have in spades. "We just see tons of opportunity to grow," said Dell in a recent interview with CRN ahead of the Dell EMC World conference, which kicks off Monday in Las Vegas. "VMware in the multi-cloud era, it's a super-important part of our architecture. You look at the momentum with NSX, AirWatch, the vCloud Air network, everything we're doing with hyper-converged, vSAN, VxRail, they all grew very, very strong.
"Transformation isn't really an IT project, it's right at the center of the evolution of a company," said Dell. "Digital transformation, IT transformation, then you have the workplace, workplace transformation where work is not a place you go, it's a thing you do, and you need secure, connected devices to access your information wherever you are. Then there's a security transformation required as well. Only Dell Technologies has the broad portfolio to help our customers across all four of those areas," he said.
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For Bob Olwig, vice president of business development and innovation at St. Louis-based solution provider World Wide Technology, Dell EMC truly does have the hot hand.
"VMware is a dominant player in the virtualization space, and they're going to be important in cloud management platforms with vRealize," Olwig said. "VMware is also strategic around software-defined networking with NSX."
Olwig said WWT is seeing an uptick in customer interest and has done several "very large" deployments with vRealize.
"We've been a big proponent of enterprise hybrid cloud solutions, and the reference architecture Dell EMC created with VMware," he said. "Architecturally, we are demonstrating and designing customer solutions and we can customize that and optimize for specific customer environments in terms of the components and integrations that need to occur."
In addition to the powerful solution-building capability of the Dell EMC portfolio, VMware has become much more channel-friendly, said Michael Tanenhaus, CEO of Mavenspire, an Annapolis, Md.-based solution provider.
"There are whole groups of VMware employees looking to form alliances. They want to work with you. That's magnificent, and so far they've lived up to what they've said. Caring for and wanting to be part of the partner ecosystem is huge."
A VMware that's more active and engaged with the channel means Mavenspire is booking hyper-converged and software-defined business as fast as it possibly can.
"Hyper-converged is hot. Software-defined is hot, and having a product now that's based on Dell [server] technology is amazing," Tanenhaus said, referring to VxRail and VxRack, which are now both based on Dell's PowerEdge servers. "We have a lot of opportunities, and we're talking about it in all those conversations."
The growth Dell EMC is seeing in hyper-convergence and other emerging technologies is rooted firmly in customer need, Tanenhaus said. "People are trying to simplify, and hyper-converged solutions are positioned as an alternative to public cloud where you get a simple experience without it being outside your walls."
Dell EMC will be keeping the accelerator on the floor at Dell EMC World this week, introducing a number of enhancements to its partner program, as well as a slew of new products.
Customers of all sizes are transforming, or planning to transform, their IT infrastructure to make better use of their data and become more agile to avoid being disrupted by fast-moving competitors, said Marius Haas, Dell EMC's president and chief commercial officer. "They don't want to be the ones that get disrupted by the new up-and-coming, more innovative companies. They want to do the disruption themselves. The last thing they want to be is an integrator of all different silo components. They're looking for a partner that can holistically come and join them in this journey and help them define the blueprint for success, and they're looking at us to do that.
"You look at our share of wallet in the channel today and it's less than 12 percent," Haas said. "There's no reason that can't be 24 percent or 36 percent. Our collective channel business across Dell Technologies is $35 billion, well what if it goes to 24 percent or 36 percent? That means we can get close to $100 billion just in business with the partners."
Haas said partners are wholeheartedly embracing the complete portfolio call to action because they also recognize the outsize growth potential Dell Technologies offers.
"Today partners on average have 1.6 lines of business with us, which tells you it's a big opportunity to expand the portfolio," Haas said. "The customer wants to have a digital transformation story. They want to understand the IT transformation, the workforce transformation and the security transformation taking place in order to make it happen. They look at Dell Technologies and see that's the best one, bar none."
The kind of growth Dell Technologies is targeting doesn't come easily. The company's leaders know they have to make gains by taking share from other major vendors.
Jeff Clarke, the company's vice chairman, operations chief and head of its PC business, has been with the company almost since its humble beginnings in Michael Dell's University of Texas dorm room, and he's not shy about how it intends to beat the likes of HP Inc., Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Lenovo and others.
"No one else can do this," Clarke said. "You think about what we're doing to specifically address what's changing in the workforce. What Dell Technologies is capable of doing with Dell EMC, VMware and Dell, it's just, ‘Wow.' I've got competitors that are splitting," he said, referencing the former Hewlett-Packard's split into the PC- and printer-oriented HP Inc. and the enterprise-focused HPE. "Maybe they're talking about the edge, or they're talking about their consumer business, and we're talking about how to solve today's problems and tomorrow's problems for our customers in a very comprehensive way.
"We can talk about PCs and how they're more secure than the competition's, which they are, and we can talk about the capabilities that our products have that others don't, and we're very proud of that," Clarke said. "But now we can change the discussion and step back. How do we make the overall enterprise more secure, more manageable, more optimized? We can now talk about the edge to the data center and everything in between. ... It helps customers think about us not like, ‘OK, I have a PC quote, who's going to sell it to me for the least amount of money?' We can change the dialogue into a much higher-level discussion."
Many of the company's partners already are seeing the growth potential that comes with selling across the large Dell Technologies portfolio.
Dan Serpico, CEO of FusionStorm, a large San Francisco-based solution provider that worked with both Dell and EMC before the acquisition, said his business with both sides of the Dell EMC ecosystem is up and it's becoming clear that partners will see huge benefits in tying together everything from PCs to high-end data center gear.
"Our Dell business is up 39 percent," Serpico said. "Our EMC business is up 10 percent. Among the major players, it's better than others. ... Our server business alone finished the year at almost $150 million in billings."
Until now, FusionStorm has been a data center-focused solution provider, and Serpico said he's been struck by the fact that it's been legacy EMC personnel reaching out to him about the importance of the PC business.
"We're getting a lot of feedback from EMC about the connection between client and the opportunity it generates for the future in the data center," Serpico said. "Customer acquisition starts at the client level. That's encouraging. We are working on some desktop, some client initiatives, albeit at scale, between 500 and 1,000 [seats]. It's real."
Serpico also said the new partner program introduced in February by John Byrne, president of global channels at Dell EMC, is driving growth and clearly incentivizing partners to sell across the portfolio, including services.
That's music to Byrne's ears. "When you look at what Jeff and Marius and myself want this channel program to look like, we want to attack the market, sell multiple lines of business," Byrne said. "We've got to be attaching products and services, and a big part of our incentives is the new business incentive, and one of the best ways to acquire new customers is through the PC. We are aggressively incentivizing our partner community to sell a richer mix. Sell more notebooks, attach services and go and acquire new customers.
"We want partners to be selling multiple lines of business, solutions, services," Byrne said. "Those partners that we have that just go for the lowest price, no services, the world is evolving quickly. The partners that are going through aggressive M&A or are growing organically know that this is the future. The whole world is moving fast. If we map out the partners we want, we need you to be capable. That will ultimately define our future partner set. This is getting us ready for next year, three years, five years. Selling the full portfolio."
Michael Goldstein, CEO of LAN InfoTech, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based solution provider that works with Dell EMC and is relatively new to EMC, said he's seeing double-digit growth with Dell Technologies.
"People feel more comfortable knowing it's all going to work together," Goldstein said. "It really does bring a lot to the table. It moves us out of our comfortable space and allows us to get more aggressive, to look for growth into bigger, more demanding customers, moving into enterprise. They have the pieces. It might have taken me longer to form that piece — now I don't have to start from scratch, and that's important. There's a lot out there that we can now bring to the masses. There are clients that like it a la carte, but now we have the resources we need to get to the next level."