VMware Names Microsoft Veteran As Channel Chief


VMware has filled its long-vacant channel chief position, bringing into the company a veteran of Microsoft's channel organization who last led a consultancy advising vendors on partner strategy, the virtualization leader announced Wednesday.

Jenni Flinders, who spent 15 years at Microsoft, stepped into a job Monday that was vacated last August by Brandon Sweeney when he was promoted to VMware's global sales leader.

As vice president for worldwide channels, she'll be responsible for developing and executing strategy and programs for solution providers, distributors, OEMs and telecommunications partners, reporting directly to Sweeney.

[Related: VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger Talks About VMware's Second Act: The Multi-Cloud Era]

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Sweeney will be hard to replace in some ways, said Dan Molina, chief technology officer at Nth Generation Computing, a San Diego-based solution provider and premier-level VMware channel partner now investing heavily in VMware's software-defined data center strategy.

"Brandon did amazing work for the channel," Molina told CRN. "He is a very dedicated, passionate guy."

Molina said VMware has a lot of opportunities to improve its presence in the channel. "We have a regular cadence with VMware," he said. "But VMware doesn't have a lot of face-to-face presence with us. Instead, VMware works with us with a remote channel manager who works with several partners."

VMware does not have the same level of high touch with channel partners it did in the past, Molina said.

"The relationship is good enough," he said. "But more could be done to establish closer relationships with the channel teams and the channel partner teams in the field. I'd like to see better coordination between them. It hasn't been consistent."

Nth Generation, however, does have great relationships with several folks at VMware, Molina said. 'We're able to leverage those relationships, especially some recent hires at VMware who came from HPE," he said. "They are helping us get more involved with the company's overall field teams."

Mike Braico, CEO of InData Consulting, a Valencia, Calif.-based solution provider and VMware channel partner, told CRN he would like to see VMware get more engaged with smaller partners.

"VMware has so many business partners, and unless you really engage with them, you don't hear much from them," Braico said. "That's not a knock really on VMware. It's on us."

Dell EMC, a sister company to VMware in the Dell Technologies family of companies, has been doing a very good job of engaging with VMware partners, Braico said. "EMC has been more organized about working with VMware channel partners than anyone else," he said.

Braico said that market is changing as it moves from virtualization to cloud and hosting services, and channel partners would benefit strongly if VMware would spend more time building recurring revenue models to meet the changes.

"I'm different from five years ago," he said. "I focused then on hardware. Now we're a hosting company, a cloud provider, a services provider. Everything is cloud-based. Software companies like VMware need to gear up with partners on the services side."

Flinders, a CRN Woman Of The Channel, joined Microsoft in 2000 after stints working for IBM and Lotus in South Africa, where she was raised. She spent her first two years at Microsoft in its South Africa subsidiary, overseeing marketing initiatives for its Enterprise Partner Group (EPG).

Flinders was appointed regional lead for Microsoft's Latin America headquarters in 2003 and joined the Worldwide Partner Group in 2005 as chief of staff for former Microsoft channel chief Allison Watson.

In 2009, she took a role overseeing Microsoft's efforts to get more of its 640,000-plus channel partners selling cloud services.

The last few years Flinders was CEO of Daarlandt Partners, a firm advising industry clients on their channel strategies and helping them scale indirect sales.