VMware, Cisco, EMC Launch New Channel- Friendly Cloud Company

VMware, Cisco and EMC are relaunching their much–hyped private cloud coalition as a new company with a charter to work more closely with channel partners.

The new Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) Company, which includes the founding vendor’s original VCE coalition, unveiled in June 2009, as well as the Acadia joint venture launched by Cisco and EMC 14 months ago to sell VBlock private cloud building blocks, has a channel-focused sales strategy that will push pre-sales and post-sales support to the channel.

In fact, the new VCE Company in the next 45 to 60 days will launch its own channel program, said Pete Koliopoulos, vice president of global channel marketing and channel programs for the Dallas-based VCE.

VCE is also planning to offer a deal-registration program instead of forcing solution providers to register deals separately with EMC, Cisco and VMware, he said.

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Also new for the channel will be specific list prices for the different Vblock configurations, a marked change for partners who were frustrated by the old business model under which all of the different components had to be priced separately by the three vendors, said Koliopoulos.

VCE also plans to offer specific rewards that solution providers will receive in addition to the channel program benefits they get from the individual VCE vendors. Finally, VCE will offer market development funds to help partners with demand generation.

Both Acadia and the original VCE were criticized by some partners as notoriously difficult to work with on private cloud design and deployment. In fact, it may have opened the door for channel-focused NetApp to score private cloud wins with its FlexPod architecture for virtualized environments in concert with Cisco and VMware.

Jamie Shepard, executive vice president of technology solutions at ICI, a Marlborough, Mass.-based solution provider and partner to VCE, said the changes will greatly benefit partners.

The original VCE reference architecture was a real problem, Shepard said. "The vendors said, 'Here's the reference architecture, now go and build it,'" he said. Now, Shepard said, ICI looks at customer requirements, collects the necessary information related to a specific customer implementation and passes it to VCE.

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"VCE takes our architecture numbers -- such as spindle count, RAID levels and so on -- plugs it into a formula and comes out with the specific predefined architecture for the customer," said Shepard. "They'll build it, rack it up, do full testing, and have it to us within a couple weeks. They then take five business days to set it up and plug it into the customer's infrastructure, and then hand it to us to configure."

Another change involves code updates, said Shepard. In the past, each of the partners in the VCE coalition had their own update schedules, which was a major headache. "Now with VCE, code updates are done every six months," he said. "All the Cisco, EMC and VMware updates are sent to us together."

Bob Olwig, vice president of business strategy at World Wide Technology, a St. Louis-based solution provider and VCE partner, said the changes at VCE are quite significant given that Acadia was built around a build-operate-transfer-managed services model.

"Now the emphasis is less on services and more on presales and product integration," Olwig said. "We meet regularly with VCE and they seem to be listening to our feedback. We are seeing first-hand the investments, the dedicated partner managers [and the] certification training they are making [in] building out their channel program."

Olwig said it is good to see VCE’s strategy starting to more clearly unfold. "What will be key is VCE’s ability to execute and navigate amid the legacy channel programs from the founding partners, particularly EMC and Cisco," he said.

While the original VCE coalition was focused on developing a reference architecture for a cloud computing infrastructure, partners were seeing the market move toward a more converged infrastructure that allowed additional flexibility and better supported specific user requirements, said "D" Martin, vice president of worldwide channels for the VCE Company. "We want to enable our partner organizations to drive these solutions," he said. "Our primary route to market is for our partners do the services. We will also have a mentor program to help them get started."

Martin said VCE is putting in place new training programs for solution providers' sales reps, presales engineers and post-sales deployment personnel. He said the new company eliminates a lot of confusion in the partner base surrounding Acadia. "Partners thought Acadia was set up to do services," he said. "Partners thought we were competing with them."