Who is the biggest competitor for the VCE?
I think the question is, who will be? I think we have got a nice advantage in the market. But as we know, gaps close over time. We expect HP over time to make more investments in this area and be a serious voice in this market. Microsoft has started making noises around the Azure appliance. We haven't seen any deliverables yet. I think they have a strong interest in being a player here.
The real competition here is what I would call public cloud or commodity cloud. Think Amazon. Think Google. All that cheap and cheerful [stuff]. Our competitors with VCE are less the traditional IT vendors. It is more of the 'good enough is good enough.' I have met customers who have said collaboration and end-user productivity is not a core competency, I am going to send all my guys over to Google. They didn't have any security concerns or compliance concerns. IT was more of a necessary function than something critical to their business model, and they have been very happy with the experience. So I think that competition over time will be the public services that are available that satisfy 80 percent of what people want to do for a fraction of the cost.
Anyone who surprised you that came out of nowhere?
Google more than anything. I meet people all the time who are using Google Apps: smaller companies in industries where IT is not a front-burner type of issue. They need some stuff and they are reasonably happy with what they are getting.
Are you surprised that HP has not made a bigger push here?
I think the challenge with HP, IBM and a lot of the vendors is their legacy. The technology and the business models that got them to this point won't be the technologies and business models they'll need for the next five to 10 years. When you look at the VCE stack, you have VMware, not a lot of legacy, they can virtualize and go. Cisco, relatively new to the server business, doesn't have to worry about 10 years, 20 years of an installed base to bring forward. In our world, storage is storage. We have security and management technologies. I think different large IT vendors will react to this differently.
Getting back to your audience, you also have to ask what is the role of partners: VCE is 100 percent partner-centric. It is the rare VCE stack that shows up in a customer environment that didn't have at least one partner involved, if not several. EMC is not going to learn all of VMware and Cisco. Cisco is not going to learn all of VMware and EMC. And VMware is certainly not going to learn all of EMC and Cisco. That is just not going to happen. You need integration. It is not partners are a 'nice-to-have.' This model does not work without a heavy investment and collaboration with industry-leading partners.
Talk about that. What is the next marker on that partner road map?
I think the biggest marker is the acceleration of partner enablement. There are new skills. There are new services to be delivered. This whole VCE thing is about this [cloud] wave is coming: Let's get there before everybody else.
The strongest demand we see from our partners is helping them get next-generation services offerings, whether it be technology, operational or consulting. So all three companies are working very hard to stand up and blueprint and provide the expertise to enable these partners to offer the services. Cloud is all about transformation. It is all about services. Technology is there. It has been for a while.
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