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Dell and the Channel – Commitment or Dalliance?

Normally I don’t pay much attention to press releases such as the one that came out a couple of days ago from Lefthand Networks about changes in leadership. However when I saw that  Richard Shea, one of the early employees of EqualLogic who sold EqualLogic’s first iSCSI storage systems and then went on to create its channel program, had left Dell EqualLogic to join Lefthand Networks (LHN) as its Vice President of North American Sales, that more than piqued my curiosity.

Ever since Dell acquired EqualLogic, the entire reseller community has openly and secretly expressed their reservations about this acquisition. Too many have been burned by Dell in the past and are now hesitant to fully believe that Dell is as committed to the channel as it proclaims. So when I read this press release that Richard Shea had joined LHN, it brought all of those concerns to the forefront of my mind so I asked Richard if would join me on the phone for a few minutes to discuss his rationale for joining LHN.

He cited two reasons for joining LHN:

First, EqualLogic was a smaller company and more dynamic as an independent company. However, once it was acquired by Dell, he was now working for a company with 80,000+ employees. As a result, the decision-making process slowed dramatically and he lost some of his ability to “exert his influence”, as he put it, and get things done. Going back to work for Lefthand Networks would allow him to regain some of that autonomy that he lost when Dell acquired EqualLogic plus he would continue to work in a market that he understood – iSCSI storage.

Second, he shares the reseller’s concerns about Dell’s long term commitment to keeping EqualLogic in the channel. Shea notes that so far Dell has said and done all of the right things and it appears they are totally dedicated to re-selling EqualLogic through the channel. However he questions if Dell can overcome its direct-to-market DNA long term. Right now things are going well and he is not aware of any plans within Dell to abandon that strategy. But longer term if things get rocky, will Dell truly remained committed to the channel or will it become, as Shea says, “Just another dalliance with the channel?”

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