VMware Shores Up Channel To Ward Off Competition

At the VMworld annual conference in San Diego last week, the Palo Alto, Calif., company said it is expanding its Virtual Partner Network with a new Premier Enterprise partner tier to complement its Enterprise and Professional levels.

VMware will offer these partners marketing, financial and support benefits customized for each geographic region. The program is for partners that employ VMware Certified Professionals and are members of the VMware Authorized Consulting Program.

Mitch Northcutt, CEO of Chicago-based RapidApp, which was named a Premier Enterprise partner last week, said the program emphasizes technical qualifications, not quotas. He said it is worth the investment, which includes having 25 percent of his staff certified on VMware products.

"There are additional marketing opportunities, access to their [intellectual property], and the same support tools as the internal tech people at VMware," he said. VMware is also implementing a partner relationship management system for its partners, which have effectively doubled in the past year to 1,000.

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Some partners were worried when EMC acquired VMware roughly a year ago, but most are pleased with VMware's high degree of independence from EMC, Hopkinton, Mass. VMware president Diane Greene said EMC is acting like a "big brother" to VMware but is not intruding in its services plans.

"From [EMC President and CEO] Joe Tucci and on down, there's a very clear understanding of the ecosystem," she said.

Greene noted that some of EMC's biggest competitors--IBM and Hewlett-Packard--are VMware partners. "And our competition--singular--is a big EMC partner," she said, referring to EMC's ties to Microsoft.

Microsoft became a competitor to VMware with the September release of Virtual Server 2005. But VMware claims 5,000 corporate customers and 2.5 million users.

VMware expects to widen its technical lead over Microsoft and other virtualization alternatives with the debut next year of expanded support for multiple-way servers, 64-bit computing, blade servers, larger memory blocks, and support for 10 Gigabit Ethernet and NAS. It also plans to work with Fibre Channel, Ethernet, and InfiniBand interface vendors to expand VMware's virtualization across networks, said Edouard Bugnion, founder and CTO of VMware.

The 4-Way VMware Virtual SMP product, an add-on to the ESX server, will ship in the second half of 2005. VMware also is beta-testing ESX 2.5 but would not discuss release dates and would not comment on multicore-processor licensing plans.

Partners say ESX's maturity, cross-platform support and SMP support give it an edge. "For us, the services and consulting aspects that are presented by being a VMware partner outweigh the VMware license revenue by a large factor," said Mitch Kleinman, executive vice president and general manager of Computer Configuration Services, Irvine, Calif.