There was a deep sense of foreboding on my first day at Dell in January. My boss brought me into my dark cubicle, stacked with Dell Storage manuals, technical reports, and data protection studies from the top analyst firms. My assignment was to research assiduously and write prolifically about Dell Storage products. While thrilled with the prospect of working at Dell, I envisioned myself sitting at my desk for days on end, churning out technical tomes while having no interaction with Dell customers.
However, fate interceded and I was recently given the opportunity to meet the people who are responsible for my bi-weekly paycheck- Dell storage customers.
Interacting with customers during the Dell Storage Forum was an incredibly favorable experience that reinforced my belief in Dell’s mission to be a major enterprise solutions provider. Customers like the EqualLogic and Compellent products primarily because of the innovative technology, scalability, and technical support.
Each customer said basically the same thing. “I was a little nervous when I heard Dell was buying (take your pick – EqualLogic/Compellent) but Dell has done a great job of allowing EqualLogic/Compellent to continue to do the things that made us buy EqualLogic/Compellent, in the first place. I was worried that my relationship with remote technical support would change but I’m still getting great support. And, seeing the money Dell is spending on R&D and seeing the benefits of Dell’s expertise in systems integration and manufacturing, I’m really impressed.”
I’ve also recently had a chance to interview a number of Dell account teams about their success selling Dell Storage solutions. When I ask “Why do customers choose Dell?” the answers usually include:
Integration: Customers that have experience with Dell servers and storage products are now buying additional products and services including AppAssure backup and recovery, DR4000 deduplication, Force10 switches, professional services, etc. The term “one throat to choke” has been thrown out several times and although the phrase may not win style points it illustrates that customers want to deal with companies that can provide multiple services. If the vendor is financially stable and has a reputation for high quality/well priced products- so much the better.
Technology is important but it’s only part of the selection equation. There’s so much noise as some vendors talk up their virtualization and tiering capabilities and others drive home thin provisioning or snapshotting. It’s hard for prospective customers to focus on what’s important- particularly when technology changes every day and a new cool storage software company sprouts up every week.
The customers I have spoken with want a solution that is easy to deploy and manage and will be scalable rather than forklift upgradeable. And they want to know their account team will be there to answer tough technical questions and provide assistance if problems occur.
Well, I’m heading back to my dark cube to write about enhanced deduplication ratios. However I’d love to hear from you on what’s important when you’re making a buying decision.