It always energizes me when I have a chance to talk to one of our customers, and our resellers, distributors and other channel partners are especially interesting as they are both our customer and our face to other customers.
So, when I first spoke with Steve Hipskind of Hipskind Technology Solutions Group, I knew I wanted to share his story with more people. Hipskind Technology Solutions Group’s goal is to provide a total IT solution for their customers by selecting from the best manufacturers in the industry.
A Dell partner since he started the business in 2006, Steve’s seen us evolve and grow our business, while he grew his own. With last week’s announcement about the close of our acquisition of SonicWALL, the timing was right to share our recent conversation about the impact of acquisitions on Dell and our channel business.
Steve, you’ve been a Dell partner for six years, what’s it been like going through acquisitions with us?
Well, EqualLogic was the first one. When we started the business in 2006, we resold both Dell and EqualLogic but when Dell bought EqualLogic that’s when we saw them really begin to embrace the channel with the PartnerDirect program. At that point, we switched into being a Dell-only partner for servers and storage, but our business continued to evolve around solutions such as VMware, and Dell evolved as well being a strong VMware partner. And throughout that time Dell was doing additional acquisitions like Silverback and MessageOne, and then Ocarina was the beginning of a new acquisition phase.
How did you feel about that “acquisition phase?”
I’ve embraced it and it helps me grow my business. While we were very aware of Compellent prior to Dell’s purchase, we did not resell them because at that time, we focused on EqualLogic. But there were accounts with a scale too large or a different technology need that Compellent was able to meet, so once Dell did buy Compellent we embraced it. It’s been very good for our business. It definitely is a technology that increases our portfolio and who we can speak to about storage and virtualization. We see them as very complimentary – there are things that one does that the other doesn’t, so it’s great to have options to find the right fit for the size of the customer and their applications. Force10 was another great acquisition – almost the EqualLogic of switches. From a technology standpoint, Dell owns the IP now.
You look at all those acquisitions and you begin to see that it’s really a differentiating factor as opposed to partnering with IBM or HP. From a technology standpoint, when you talk about the stack – a collection of hardware housed within a rack – usually at the top or the bottom of the stack you’ve got power coming in and then you conductivity and you need to protect that conductivity and you’ll need internet, so all that is in the stack plus the servers, storage, switch, firewall and router. Dell owning the entire stack – not only manufacturing the hardware, but owning the IP in there that’s a change that’s going to change the valuation of Dell.
What impact do you think today’s SonicWALL acquisition will have?
SonicWALL is a really interesting technology. Because of what’s happening with the ASA’s (Adaptive Security Appliances) everyone thinks of it as a firewall, but it’s really an infrastructure application device that manages your network. It’s really the next generation– I actually try to avoid using the term firewall because it’s evolved so much. And, now smaller companies have an opportunity to get a world-class piece of technology that’s really in the ballpark of a small or medium size business’ budget as well as larger businesses.
Being a leading edge technology that allows you to bring a solution to your customer in this area and give them value – whenever you can do that it’s helpful for your customer, allowing you to offer a solution for their IT challenge. We resold SonicWALL before the Dell acquisition because of that. Reselling it as Dell will be even better because now you have the Dell name behind it. Now you have one of the largest IT solutions companies behind it. And it will add to the breadth of the product as they’ve proven through other acquisitions. Dell is embracing the channel more and more through it, as well.
There’s going to be challenges partnering with anyone, but we’ve had a lot of successes with Dell. To my SonicWALL channel peers who are not yet partnering with them, I say meet with your channel rep to understand where Dell is today – give it a try and make your decision on whether to stay a year from now. Don’t make it today because you don’t know what you’re leaving on the table.
So you see Dell’s acquisitions as a positive for the channel?
Dell’s expanding portfolio has helped us deliver a lot of world-class solutions to our customers that let them concentrate less on IT and more on their business. Beginning with EqualLogic, and continuing to SonicWALL, several of these companies Dell has acquired also brought a channel culture with them. Plus, I think that Greg Davis [Dell’s vice president and general manager of Global Commercial Channel] has a great understanding of the channel and the challenges that it has within Dell and I think Steve Felice [Dell’s Chief Commercial Officer] has a great understanding of it, too. They’re both pretty smart guys that want to move their business forward not only directly, but also through channel partners to, ultimately, the end Dell customer. The culture of several of these acquired companies is channel-focused and is good to bring to Dell. That influence will ultimately strengthen our partnership going forward.
And you see yourself continuing to partner with Dell?
As we’re talking about all these acquisitions it’s obvious that Dell is leading the market in technology to provide world-class solutions for their customers. We’ve been working in partnership with them for a long time to make sure that those solutions add value for our customers and that we add value for our customers. Without a doubt, I see it continuing for many years.
Michael Dell is leading the transition of this company which is going to take some time, but the reality is this company has been in transition since it started and will continue to be so because this market moves so fast and he [Michael Dell] is without a doubt steering the ship down a path that is going to greener pastures. He gets it. He’s not following HP or IBM’s path, he’s making Dell’s own path. And a very cool path it is. I’m almost hesitant to talk about it because I’d rather keep that secret as long as possible.
I see it and watch it evolve on a daily and quarterly basis bringing Dell-branded solutions to the market place. No one else is doing that. Project this out five years from now, you can envision calling Dell to have the entire stack delivered. Plug it in and it will run for five years, probably flawlessly, at the most competitive price out there.
We’ve seen Dell invest heavily into the R&D of products it’s acquired over the years, and believe they will continue to enhance with each acquisition and be technology market leaders. Dell buys leading-edge technologies and stays on top of what’s happening in the market. And the cool thing about IT is that it will always be here. It’s a market that’s not going away anytime soon.