Channel Marker

Oct 13 2008   12:03PM GMT

Man bites dog; VAR loves vendor

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

When a VAR gives an unsolicited testimonial for a technology vendor, it’s unusual enough to warrant attention.

While researching a storage-related story a month or so ago, I called this VAR who answered the questions posed and then started talking about how much he loved working with Compellent Technologies. “They really get it,” he said. He lauded the Eden Prairie, Minn.-based vendor for its 100% channel fulfillment model. Compellent is publicly traded and is facing a world of consolidating competitors — Dell/EqualLogic, Hewlett-Packard/LeftHand Networks.

This seemed too good to be true. Was there a fix in? But there was no way the VAR (Scott Winslow of the Winslow Technology Group if you must know) was a set up. The phone call was out of the blue.

“What I love about Compellent is if their sales force finds a customer, they have to find a partner for that deal,” Winslow said. In world of bitter contention between vendors and VARs, that is indeed a man-bites-dog tale. Anyone who spends any time in the channel trenches hears the bitching and moaning that goes on about vendors. Margins are never enough, channel conflict always too much, ya de ya de ya. Most of the negative stuff is not for attribution But that doesn’t necessarily make it untrue.

This Compellent love fest bore further investigation. What I found — admittedly after calling some Compellent-supplied partner names — sounded too good to be true.

From Keith Groom, SoftChoice Corp.’s solutions group director for infrastructure and client computing: “Compellent is 100% fulfilled through the channel and that is a driver for us.”

Compellent follows through on its channel commitments, agreed Joe Healy, vice president of sales for Insight Investments, a VAR based in Orange, Calif.,

“No doubt about it. Their channel-only model is exactly what they say it is. They talk the talk and walk the walk,” he said.

Healy  said the distributed manufacturing model works well because of tight monitoring and quality control.

Paul Clifford, president of The Davenport Group said his St. Paul, Minn.-based company started out as a vendor agnostic SAN specialist that used to sell EMC, Hitachi, HP, and Raidtech storage. Now it’s in the Compellent camp, both because of what he calls the company’s superior architecture and its business model and leadership.

“We had to decide whether to be agnostic or evangelistic. [Compellent’s technology] was that good, but Betamax was better than VHS, so we had to look at the management team and the funding. This is an all-in bet,” Clifford said.

Put simply, he said Compellent’s architecture is flexible. “If you look at EMC and EqualLogic, they put all the disks on a box and break them into RAID sets. Once that’s done, if you run out of space in an individual set, you can’t move it. [all of these systems] write to blocks but are limited architecturally to disks locked onto a particular RAID set,” he noted.

Compellent is different. The same drives go into the box but there is no breaking out of RAID sets, Clifford said. “You just tell the system ‘right RAID 5 or RAID 10 and you’ll write that on the same physical disk drive where other vendors say you can’t. Compellent doesn’t care about disk drives — they act as engines that serve up to 2MByte blocks and then just manage the blocks. It’s a software thing.”

Phew!

Clifford says selling Compellent vs. other storage solutions is like selling a power tool vs. a filing cabinet. It’s just smarter.

Partners use a secure portal to order and configure the solution to customer specs. Compellent storage will work with Fibre Channel or iSCSI. The VARs contacted loved the deal registration and quoting system which provide near instantaneous results.

Mike Beach, Compellent’s vice president of sales operations said the vendor gives both partners and customers what they want. “We are 100% channel focused. We sell nothing direct. Period. All of our resources are dedicated to partners.”

How’s a reporter supposed to work amongst all this positive energy?

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