VMware's 'Cloud Cred' Contest: Silly, Or Stroke Of Genius?

VMware's recently launched "Cloud Cred" contest, which invites IT pros to show off their cloud computing skills in return for prizes and promotional perks, is getting a decidedly tepid reception in some segments of its user community.

Cloud Cred represents VMware's embrace of the gamification trend, which some enterprise vendors are using to inject fun into complex (and often dull) employee tasks, such as data entry, to help achieve broader business goals.

VMware is using gamification to get its user base excited about showing off their cloud computing skills. For completing various cloud computing tasks, contestants receive points and badges, which are redeemable for material prizes such as pens and t-shirts, as well as professional rewards such as exam vouchers, mentions on VMware blogs and social media, and even a speaker session slot at VMworld.

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The Cloud Cred grand prize is a trip for two to VMworld Europe, being held in Barcelona in October.

While the contest is aimed at VMware's broad user community, some of the vendor's channel partners feel it trivializes the expertise they've spent years building.

"As a virtualization professional, I don't need to be motivated by games and prizes to be educated about the cloud, or to evangelize it," one VMware partner told CRN, speaking on condition of anonymity. "My job requires me to constantly educate myself. I'm not sure who the target audience is, but it's not me or my colleagues."

Some Cloud Cred tasks require no technical expertise, such as taking a team member to grab coffee or lunch; bringing food and sharing it at a cloud user group meeting; or filming a music video with team members. Others are more complex, such as writing a cloud-related blog post, submitting a technical whitepaper idea for VMworld, or using an iPad to control a vSphere instance.

"It's an interesting concept, but the tasks in the contest don't really help me do better work," said another VMware partner, who also asked to remain anonymous. "For example, [one task] gets you 100 points if you take a photo of yourself wearing a VMUG [VMware User Group] t-shirt. Really?"

In a blog post earlier this month, Maish Saidel-Keesing, a virtualization architect with NDS Group, a Jerusalem, Israel-based software vendor, said Cloud Cred "seems to diminish a good amount of what all the VMware evangelists, bloggers [and] vExperts do. We are not doing it for the points or trinkets, but because we believe in what we do."

NEXT: VMware Says It's Not About Gamification

A VMware spokesperson reached by CRN Wednesday downplayed the gamification angle, noting that Cloud Cred is meant to enable interaction and team-building between senior and junior IT professionals.

"Cloud Cred does use badges and rewards, but really attempts to offer a team environment which is more than just gamification," the spokesperson said in an email.

Cloud Cred could be a test balloon for a company that is fervently positioning itself as a leader in the cloud space. Some enterprise vendors are already seeing results from adopting gamification.

At IBM Connect 2013 in January, Kudos Badges, a subsidiary of Australia-based IBM partner ISW, won the "Best of Show/Chief Technology Officer" award for a product that rewards users of IBM's Connections collaboration app. Ovum analyst Carter Lusher, in a blog post after the event, described this as "an important milestone for the emerging gamification market."

Badgeville, a Redwood City, Calif.-based startup, sells a product that rewards users of Salesforce CRM for diligently entering customer data, which, it claims, gives companies a better sense of their sales performance and pipeline.

If Cloud Cred succeeds in energizing VMware's user base and fostering team-building, it will be hard to argue against the move -- no matter how clumsy and misguided some channel partners might view the contest.

VMware's channel partners should find themselves ahead of the game by virtue of the cloud expertise they've already gained in selling and deploying the vendor's products. Chris Ward, CTO at GreenPages-LogicsOne, an Alpharetta, Ga.-based partner, recently signed up for Cloud Cred and instantly racked up 2,000 points for his existing VMware certifications.

"This looks like a fairly interesting site and will no doubt spur some interesting competition between individuals," Ward told CRN.