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Dell EMC midrange storage launch put on hold

Dell COO Jeff Clarke says he's to blame for delays in shipping the Dell EMC midrange storage array, claiming he pushed the launch so the vendor's sales force can get up to speed.

Dell EMC midrange storage customers will have to wait a little longer to get the vendor's new Power-branded array.

Originally scheduled to ship in 2019, the Dell EMC midrange storage product launch -- code-named Midrange.NEXT -- was postponed to sharpen training of its sales force, Dell chief operating officer Jeff Clarke confirmed.

Clarke said "dozens and dozens" of beta customers are testing the product, but getting salespeople up to speed took longer than expected, Clarke said on Dell's earnings call last week.

The new midrange storage system is now planned for before the annual Dell Tech World conference in early May.

Clarke took blame for the array missing its target date, saying he misjudged the time it would take to prepare for a big launch.

"It didn't get done by the end of the year. That's on me," he said. "Quite honestly, I underestimated how long it would take. And as a result, we've been late as sort of the byproduct of that decision that I made to do a larger -- the most comprehensive at-scale -- system test."

Can new array meet midrange challenges?

Dell EMC is the revenue leader in storage, although midrange storage has been a weak spot since Dell and EMC merged in 2015. Dell midrange storage includes the all-flash and hybrid Unity XT (a legacy EMC product) and the SC Series (formerly Dell Compellent). Dell has said it plans to integrate features from SC and Unity into a single converged midrange platform.

"Midrange is the area where we've been most challenged," Clarke said. "We need to get the product done. It will be done. We will be taking orders and delivering before the end of [April]."

The vendor last month combined its server and storage team into one sales force in hopes of gaining "synergies" such as selling more storage and data protection to its PowerEdge server customers. Clarke said Dell has about 30,000 server customers, but only half buy Dell EMC storage.

Server and enterprise storage revenue declined during the quarter that ended January 31. Dell blamed softer demand in North America and China. Overall Dell Technologies revenue, including networking, workstations and consumer computing products, tumbled 7% to close the fiscal year at $34 billion.

Dell Infrastructure Solutions Group (ISG) includes Dell EMC storage and Dell PowerEdge servers. For the quarter, ISG revenue of $8.75 billion fell 11% from the same period a year ago. Storage revenue of $4.49 billion slid 3% and offset double-digit revenue gains in Dell hyper-converged infrastructure. Sales of servers and networking were down 19% to $4.26 billion.

The disappointing hardware sales were propped up by record VMware revenue of $3.1 billion, with product bookings for NSX networking, vSAN software-defined storage and end user computing each growing more than 20% for the quarter.

Storage consolidation and sales training

Dell is banking on regaining growth in 2021, fueled mostly by enhanced sales training and a rationalized storage portfolio. Dell last month combined its server and storage team into one sales force to sell more storage and data protection to its PowerEdge server customers.

Clarke said Dell has winnowed its storage portfolio from more than 80 products two years ago to about 20 products at present. The Dell EMC Power branding refresh is expected before Dell Tech World.

"We are planning to grow (fiscal year 2021) storage revenue at a premium to the market with growth strongest in HCI, followed by core storage and data protection," Clarke said.

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