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VCE has plenty of positives these days. Earlier this year, VCE executives told CRN that the company sees more than 40 percent repeat customer business. All partners interviewed by CRN said that customers who had bought their first Vblock are often coming back for their second and third -- an admittedly strong sales hook for the company.
"That is true," said the first solution provider. "The VCE messaging is get the first one in and the second and third will follow, and they're right. Customers who have bought it and need it like it, and if they're big enough and have the needs, they're buying them again."
"It's a sticky solution," said Alexander Open Systems' Thatcher. "We would prefer selling VCE than a V plus C plus E, because we think that's a much stickier sale for AOS. So my recommendation is that VCE now teach the partner community to take this from a tactical product sale to a true business applications sales. They don't have the bandwidth to do this without partners."
Signs that VCE is evolving its sales and marketing model are starting to appear. While the company did not offer much in the way of strategy beyond redirecting partners toward the same converged infrastructure conversation, solution providers said VCE plans to deliver its long-promised "downmarket" Vblock early in the new year, and that that's only one part of a significantly bolstered product road map.
VCE also told partners to expect a substantial announcement regarding VCE from Cisco and EMC in January, although they did not disclose to partners what that is.
"The road map is pretty exciting," said Kent MacDonald, vice president of converged infrastructure for Long View Systems, a North America integrator based in Calgary. "They asked us to tell the story -- the value of the integrated stack and how much market there is to capture. Their growth, with respect to some of the earlier hurdles we had with the channel, has been a good story, and if we can move further down into commercial [midmarket] territory they're expanding the market."
Partners said VCE executives told them the first entry-level Vblocks will hit the market as soon as January.
"We expect to see a lot of new opportunities there," said Tony Balistrieri, executive vice president of marketing and partner strategy at FusionStorm, a San Francisco-based solution provider. "We don't do a lot of enterprise; we focus a lot more on midmarket so that should expand the appeal. VCE's best story is repeat business so I'm not sure they'll be able see that benefit there, but it is more customers."
Another area where partners expect to see more from VCE is in Vblock packages that are prevalidated for work with specific applications. Such an offering around SAP HANA already exists, and offerings for other major application workloads are in development, partners said.
"More stuff like SAP, Epic, some of the UC stuff from Cisco, that will be helpful," said Tony Berg, data center practice director for World Wide Technology, a St. Louis-based solution provider. "They seem like they're taking a lot of the ideas we have for certified-type Vblocks with specific applications and that they want to come back with more. I see that as our biggest task: getting more of those things certified so customers know it's a validated configuration."
NEXT: Can VCE Thrive In A Changing Market?