VMware introduced to its broader ecosystem of partners on Wednesday a professional certification for its joint hybrid cloud product with Amazon Web Services.
The new VMware Cloud on AWS Solution Competency comes as the leading public and private cloud vendors, once bitter rivals, are seeing their channels meld around the hybrid service launched last year.
The latest addition to the VMware Partner Network extends a "tried and true program" to VMware Cloud on AWS to incentivize partners and engender expertise in the service, said Brandon Sweeney, VMware's senior vice president of worldwide partners and alliances. The service expanded into the U.K. Wednesday and will soon become available in Germany.
While solution providers are not mandated to be formal AWS partners to earn the competency, VMware does recommend they join Amazon's partner program and get trained and certified in AWS infrastructure.
More than 15 early-access partners earned the competency in time for the general launch.
Resellers and consultants will see front-end discounts and a consumption rebate, Sweeney said.
Managed services providers participating in the VMware Cloud Provider Program will have access to an infrastructure environment that allows them to scale beyond their infrastructure, and the opportunity to pre-buy the service with discounts.
While the early-access partners were those with established practices for both vendors, VMware is seeing a surge of interest from solution providers new to its technology.
"The number of conversations we're having with partners that aren't our historic partners around resell is exciting. There's a lot of interest from non-VMware partners about how they can monetize VMware Cloud on AWS," Sweeney said.
More than 5,000 firms have formally expressed interest in joining that product's channel—many almost immediately after the hybrid cloud product launched last August.
It is no surprise a significant number come from the AWS ecosystem; born-in-the-cloud solution providers see VMware Cloud on AWS as a vehicle for extending their practices into the data center for the first time, said Terry Wise, vice president for the AWS worldwide partner ecosystem.
At the same time, traditional VMware partners are looking to establish AWS practices, Amazon's channel chief told CRN.
"You're seeing a convergence of ecosystems," Wise said. "And you're going to see these ecosystems converge more and more based on huge customer demand and the opportunity to deliver a massive set of offerings when you combine both capabilities."
While both companies welcome new partners, those that came in with deep expertise working with both vendors are the "center of gravity" around the product's go-to-market strategy, Wise said.
AHEAD, headquartered in Chicago, was one partner with both practices that participated in the early-access program, earning the competency last week.
Eric Kaplan, AHEAD's CTO, said the enterprise IT consultancy has been onboarding customers to VMware Cloud on AWS almost since the product's launch half a year ago and providing VMware and AWS feedback.
With the formal certification, clients "understand we're competent and capable and we've put in the investment to understand how the platform works," Kaplan said. "They see we understand the platform, and have skilled people that can work on AWS and the VMware platform, and the intersection between the two."
The value of VMware Cloud on AWS is customers can take workloads running on VMware environments and easily get them out of their own data centers. It is well-suited for enterprises wanting to avoid refactoring applications, or those with capacity constraints, or those that want to scale without investing in more hardware, according to Kaplan.
"We believe there's a still a lot of data center footprint, and a lot of customers going to the public cloud, and we straddle the line of understanding," he said.
"This allows easy migration to a platform run by Amazon with all the familiarity of VMware, and also allowing customers to decide how to dip into native Amazon services."
AHEAD will continue investing in training its engineers around the product and building out solutions to differentiate its practice. The job of partners is to help customers make the best decision about "what lives where and how to get there."
The offering is gaining traction in the market, Kaplan said, and its share should steadily ramp.
"It doesn't happen overnight," Kaplan said. "This will allow for some interesting second-half of the year opportunities."
Sweeney, VMware's channel leader, said his company has been aligning with AWS at multiple levels.
That starts with their respective CEOs—VMware's Pat Gelsinger and AWS' Andy Jassy—and extends to the sales teams and his own relationship with Wise to align channel programs and enable the transition for partners.
"There's tremendous alignment to go drive this service with a sense of urgency. We're going to get into a quarterly cadence talking about incremental services both of our partners are building to continue to drive this infrastructure," Sweeney said.
The new competency will work under the same framework as the dozen others VMware already offers its partners. VMware has seen that partners with those competencies end up driving deals two to four times larger than those without them.
"I've never personally seen this level of interest from customers and partners in a service. We have to help them figure out how to monetize, drive profitability and create incremental IP around the product," Sweeney said.
Groupware Technology, headquartered in Campbell, Calif., secured the competency just in time for Wednesday's global launch.
Ed Horley, vice president of engineering, said experienced VMware partners should not have trouble meeting the requirements laid out by the new program.
The more substantial challenge for partners will be figuring out where they fit in the ecosystem, and what use cases they can solve for their customers, Horley said.
Groupware has found a novel use case the new service enables—helping companies combine and manage infrastructure after mergers and acquisitions.
"Every partner needs to figure out what the use cases are going to be that makes sense for their customer base," Horley said. That requires understanding the nuances of the service, from billing to accessing native AWS capabilities.
"What's nice about what VMware has put together, they've given an onramp for a bunch of partners who may have had no experience working with AWS in the past to get into that game," he said.
"This is an easy initial onramp to start exploring things with AWS. Where it goes from there is anybody's guess," Horley told CRN.