"The more [the market] moves to hybrid, the more those two have to be presented to the end customer as one," Woollacott said. "The end customer gets the experience they want, and it has as much EMC core technology as possible. They have to be encouraging partners, enabling the partners to work that same way."
When customers decide to make a move to the cloud, Woollacott said, Riley and Snyder "have to make sure it's to a cloud that uses their core technology. If they just let it go, it could go to Amazon rather than someone using EMC."
In an interview at the EMC World conference, Scott Millard, EMC vice president Americas channel sales, acknowledged that EMC's sales force was due for a shake-up, telling CRN, "We're evolving from a product sales force to a solutions sales force. We have a lot of legacy EMC sales folks, and we're changing the way they've done things for a long time.
To Arnold Bennett, director of sales for EMC partner Northern Parklife, of Wakefield, Mass., the move also means EMC is finally ready to accelerate its transition from pushing traditional hardware to offering converged, hyper-converged and software-defined solutions. EMC brass, Bennett said, may have decided the company's stable of top sales executives were too old-school and hardware-centric to spearhead an effective digital, solutions-based sales strategy.
John Gentry, vice president of marketing and alliances at San Francisco-based EMC partner Virtual Instruments, praised EMC's decision to promote Riley, as well as the company's apparent willingness to change with the times and truly embrace its partner ecosystem.
"They're definitely showing the market they're interested in evolving," Gentry said. "The focus is not just on the traditional EMC direct enterprise model. From our perspective as a partner, I think that's a very positive sign."
"I wouldn't consider [Riley] an outsider, but it is someone who brings a fresh perspective," Gentry said. "I think they've tried many times to be a different EMC. With these new people on top, it looks like they're actually making that change."
There were between 2,500 and 3,000 EMC partners at the conference earlier this month, and Riley addressed many of them during a keynote, saying EMC's goal is to make its partner program simpler, more predictable and more efficient as partners are encouraged to engage the EMC Federation.
"How can you partner more effectively with the Federation? We can take a leadership role to bring that together," he said.
"Yes, it's about products. Yes, it's about solutions," Riley said. "But it's really about customer outcomes. The market for on-prem is shrinking. That's a big opportunity, and we're going to capture this by working as a team," Riley said, adding that the company has to make sure it's developing the right solutions and putting the right benefits in place for partners.