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Ultimately, the sale of converged data center infrastructure comes down to flexibility and what the customer wants, said the president of a top East Coast-based solution provider. Because Vblock opportunities can't really be "modularized" -- that is, easily reworked and customized based on changing customer conditions -- they don't appeal to the majority of customers who want to make changes throughout their infrastructure depending on the workloads they need to support.
VCE Vblocks can be tailored to customer specifications, sure. But because larger, enterprise-focused VCE partners also have relationships with the individual vendors' reps already, it's often easier to go the V plus C plus E route or customize a customer opportunity using other networking, storage or virtualization products and services.
"If you have an opportunity, those various reps have quotas -- they have to forecast that opportunity, and they want you to keep them in the loop," the executive said. "So it's easier for us to leverage these relationships we've already had for years, especially when VCE has had all that turnover. It's just easier to do business that way. VCE still has a lot of work to do to figure how they become more appealing."
"I don't know that VCE means a whole lot to us," added the CEO of a well-known West Coast solution provider and longtime Cisco partner. "We have had some success with it, and yes, these are $1 million deals that are nice to have. But at least as many opportunities we have become un-integrated solutions, and what we strive to do is enable what the customers want. We're able to have flexibility around the solutions and apply the technical aptitude."
Other partners describe VCE's future in practical terms. "VCE is in the middle of a couple of big parents, and between its parents and its partners. So customers actually deal with four entities: EMC, Cisco, VCE, and the VAR," said World Wide Technology's Olwig. "There are multiple sales managers and account managers. But on the flip side, it brings in more resources to customers from the vendors and World Wide."
"It started out rough, but it's gotten better and better," said Gary Alexander, CEO of Alexander Open Systems, an Overland Park, Kan.-based solution provider. "We had a heck of a time early on getting pricing and responsiveness from VCE. We had one deal I remember where we could have sold a Vblock and on the way down to the customer, VCE called us and said, 'We're not too sure about the pricing.' So we sold some Cisco, VMware and EMC separately and made more money. They had to get more sophisticated, and they have."
VCE has continued to attract new partners. Denali Advanced Integration, a Redmond, Wash.-based solution provider, started working with VCE in 2011 and positions Vblocks for high-end customers with growing demands for VMware services who are looking at implementing cloud infrastructures.
"We held back from VCE for a while to see demand. But by the second half of 2011, we saw we would really need to get in the game," said Jerry Pezzino, Denali managing director. "We were seeing customers look for purpose-built solutions, especially if customers work with those three vendors."
Pezzino sees the fact that Vblocks are shipped fully integrated as a benefit.
"We get to stand behind the fully integrated offering. We don't have to worry about what version the customer is on, or which upgrade."
FlexPod is more flexible. "If the customer swears by XenServer, I have to make the argument for VMware to sell a Vblock. That's a challenge. It's not a red flag, but a yellow one. But it just so happens the VMware is the most popular hypervisor by far. But as Microsoft Hyper-V and Citrix XenServer grow popular, it will be more of a battle."
Pezzino said he isn't worried about VCE's future. And if it folds?
"I look at their investment, and see [the vendors] are in it for the long term," Pezzino said. "They said they didn't expect to make money for five to six years. In a worst-case scenario, we already sell VMware, Cisco, and EMC products, and could always go back to selling the individual parts."
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