Dell VP on virtualization, EMC and support


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Q: What's your opinion on the future of Fibre Channel (FC) and Gigabit Ethernet?

Thomas: You've got an arms race. Ethernet offers great performance and there's an awful lot of Ethernet out there, a lot more than Fibre Channel. At some point you've got to believe that customers will want to unify their fabrics and the two [Ethernet and FC] will have to come together. I think it's inevitable.

Q: Considering your close relationship with EMC, there's an impression that Dell isn't doing much innovating and is just reselling EMC storage technology. Is that true?

Thomas: We're constantly fighting the assumption that the Dell PowerVault MD3000 comes from someone else and I just slapped the Dell nameplate on it. My team designed almost all of the MD3000's components; the only thing we bought from someone else is the array controller.

Q: According to several of our product surveys, users haven't given high marks to the technical competence of the Dell sales force. How would you respond?

Thomas: It's a bit of a frustration. Our sales force is not a specialized sales force. For example, we have ISRs [internal sales reps], basically phone reps that know very little about the products they are selling. On the other side of the continuum are TSRs [technical sales reps] and consultants that make up our Advanced

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Sales Group [ASG], and they know our storage very well. I'd put them close to EMC's sales reps.

One reason why I think we get a bad rap is that Dell has a different [sales] model [from other storage vendors] and we've got thousands and thousands of sales persons. The ISRs sell everything from laptops to big-screen TVs; when a customer is buying a bunch of laptops, he may ask the ISR a technical question about one of our storage devices and the phone rep can't answer him.

Even though our ASGs are top notch, I acknowledge that our entire sales force needs more training. It's a corporate balance sheet issue.

--Rich Friedman

This was first published in January 2008

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