VMware has reorganized both its channel team and its channel programs and is looking to help partners prepare for the imminent launch of its new vSphere product family.
That's the message from Carl Eschenbach, executive vice president of worldwide field operations at VMware, who took the stage Wednesday at the company's partner summit, held in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Eschenbach started his keynote presentation with a look at channel opportunities for VMware's new vSphere product family, which is widely expected to be unveiled next week.
The vSphere line is VMware's follow-up to its Virtual Infrastructure 3 (VI3) product line, and will include several new technologies for helping customers build internal compute clouds, access external compute clouds, and bring the two together in what VMware terms a "private cloud."
Eschenbach called vSphere a $22 billion sales opportunity for the channel, based on VMware's estimated $11.26 sales of related technologies, such as storage and networking, for every $1 in sales of VMware licenses.
That figure does not include solution provider services opportunities, Eschenbach said. Nearly all services related to any VMware product, including the upcoming vSphere line, are done by the channel.
About the only services that VMware does is related to collecting services intellectual property that can be passed on to partners to improve their deployment, Eschenbach said. That is a very tiny part of the total services related to VMware products, Eschenbach added.
Partners should not think that vSphere and cloud computing are limited to enterprise or service provider customers, Eschenbach said. "We're bringing on the first always-on IT infrastructure to SMB customers ... where IT service becomes a utility," he said.
Starting in January and continuing forward through the next couple of calendar quarters, VMware is making several changes to its channel programs.
The company has since early this year built out three new channel organizations based on geography, including organizations for the Americas, EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa), and APAC (Asia/Pacific), Eschenbach said.
He then introduced Rich Geraffo, the company's new general manager for the Americas, who made his first appearance before partners. Geraffo told solution providers that partners are essential to helping the company reach new geographies, new vertical markets and new markets such as virtual desktops.
"You have my personal commitment to value our relationship," he said.
Eschenbach on Wednesday also introduced the new VMware Partner Network program, which he said consolidates the best parts of several other VMware programs.
Within the new program, partners are classified and receive support and benefits according to type of partner, such as system integrator, system builder, OEM, distributor, and so on.
VMware has also combined its sales partner program and services partner program into a single network under which each partner is classified as premier, enterprise, professional or registered.
VMware wants all partners to eventually be at the premier level, which is done by meeting specific requirements and is not an invitation-only program, Eschenbach said.
"We want to drive customers to be 100 percent virtualized," he said. "And it's our premier partners who will get us there."
One of the requirements is to meet three of four new competencies, including infrastructure virtualization, virtualization management, desktop management and business continuity.
One requirement that was dropped by VMware as part of its new program is the $5,400 fee partners had to pay to gain access to the company's services capabilities, Eschenbach said. "No more," he said, generating a round of applause.
Eschenbach also discussed VMware's new Partner Central, a new partner portal built on top of technology from Salesforce.com. Expected to be launched late this quarter, Partner Central includes such features as a partner locator and a variety of marketing material partners can use.
During the third quarter of this year, VMware will also launch a new partner portal specific to license renewals, which Eschenbach said has been a major challenge for partners.
"I'm sure you're tired of telling us about problems, and we're tired of hearing about it," he said.
Fixing issues related to VMware's partner portals, and especially renewals, are major moves, solution providers said.
One solution provider, who asked to remain anonymous, said VMware renewals are a big issue, especially with the way the vendor contacts customers directly.
Another solution provider, who also asked to remain anonymous, said renewals are a major issue for partners who have not put in place a very structured way of tracking customer licenses.
Eschenbach later told Channelweb.com that renewals are a major problem for any fast-growing vendor, and that VMware is no exception.
"It's something we're extremely focused on," he said. "Partners have raised the issue for years. You've heard it, I've heard it."
VMware will fix the problem in phases, Eschenbach said. The first phase, expected to be complete late third quarter, will give partners access to all the customer renewal data and allow them to request quotes for renewals through VMware. Eventually, however, the goal is to let partners prepare their own renewals quotes, he said.
John DeRocker, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Nexus Information Systems, a Minnetonka, Minn.-based solution provider and VMware partner, said that it was good to hear Eschenbach talk about cloud computing opportunities, even though it is still early.
"I got more clarity on his vision of the cloud and where VMware is taking it," DeRocker said. "But I still think it's a little bit away."
Keith Norbie, director of Nexus' storage division, praised VMware's decision to revamp its partner portal.
VMware's partner portal currently has several issues, such as finding specific information being as difficult as finding a needle in a haystack, Norbie said.
"What's really needed is something like at Amazon and other sites where they track you and customize your experience according to what you looked for in the past," he said. "For some reason, none of the partner portals do that."