VMware Touts NSX As Game-Changer, But Partners Want To See The Playbook

VMware is pitching NSX as a game-changing technology, one that readies switches, routers and other networking hardware for cloud computing by turning their high-end features into software.

But with a little more than five weeks until the fourth quarter begins, VMware partners say they haven't been given a chance to work with NSX, and some are getting restless.

VMware unveiled NSX Monday at VMworld 2013 in San Francisco and said it's expected to be generally available in the fourth quarter. CEO Pat Gelsinger spoke of an "extraordinary amount of activity" in the partner community, with more than 20 vendors in the NSX ecosystem, and early customers eBay, GE and Citi already seeing the technology's benefits.

"This is the coming out party for network virtualization," Gelsinger told VMware attendees in a keynote address.

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The key advantage of server virtualization was letting customers get more usage out of their servers. But with network virtualization, VMware says the benefits are more about speed and agility.

For example, the network has always been the obstacle to on-boarding cloud customers, but with network virtualization, customers can do it much faster, Martin Casado, chief architect of networking at VMware, told VMworld attendees.

Right now, though, a majority of VMware's channel partners are on the outside looking in. VMware's internal professional services staff are enabled to deliver NSX, but VMware hasn't yet done any partner enablement for NSX, one VMware partner told CRN, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"We have been begging for a deep dive and enablement for the past year, [but] the message from VMware to its partners is essentially 'stay away' for the time being," said the partner.

"I was quite surprised to see the number of NSX sessions being run at VMworld, since there are very few customers who are even allowed to look at or purchase it, and even fewer technically enabled people on the planet able to deliver on it," the partner added.

VMware does about 85 percent of revenue through the channel, so more partners are going to be involved with NSX at some point. And NSX is complex stuff, so VMware is going to have to do a lot of education in the partner ranks to make sure the technology gets deployed the right way.

Dave O'Callaghan, senior vice president of global channels and alliances at VMware, gave a preview Sunday of an upcoming partner program focused on emerging products. VMware's goal is to introduce partners at an early stage to the company's go-to-market approach for NSX and other products, Toni Adams, vice president of global partner and alliance marketing, said in an interview.

VMware is "actively engaging" top partners with NSX, Adams said.

"We've done a lot of due diligence around sales motion and education. We're really in the program definition phase and will be rolling this out more broadly to partners in 2014."