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CloudHealth By VMware Amps Up Channel Partner Program

‘The channel has always been very strategic to CloudHealth,’ CEO Tom Axbey said. ‘The MSPs are a big route to market for the people getting their businesses transformed by the cloud. So we’re going to have a big investment in our partner ecosystem this year.’

CloudHealth by VMware is rolling out an expanded channel partner program that includes a new tiered structure based on experience, and the company plans greater investments in its partner advisory board and highlighting partner success stories as it integrates more closely with new owner VMware.

“The channel has always been very strategic to CloudHealth,” CEO Tom Axbey said. “The MSPs are a big route to market for the people getting their businesses transformed by the cloud. So we’re going to have a big investment in our partner ecosystem this year.”

The Boston-based company’s public cloud management platform helps organizations manage their cloud costs, ensure security compliance, improve governance, and automate actions across multi-cloud environments.

CloudHealth currently has about 150 MSPs in its global partner ecosystem.

“With this relaunch of our partner program, what we’re looking at is exponential growth in the number of our partners,” said Bob Kilbride, CloudHealth’s senior director of global channel sales. “Last year we doubled our partner base—we signed about 70 new partners—and up until now, we’ve had a one-size-fits-all approach.”

The revamped partner program has three tiers based on partner certification, revenue, growth and customer retention, and the names of the levels match those used by VMware for consistency.

The entry-level professional tier is for partners who are new to cloud or CloudHealth and in the early stages of productizing their cloud managed services offerings.

“Some partners are really in the enablement phase, where they are just building out their business and learning how to be a cloud service provider and how to go to market,” Kilbride said. “So we’re going to …focus on helping them grow the business.”

The midlevel enterprise tier is for partners with established cloud managed service offerings, strong technical capabilities and demonstrated investment in training and go-to-market strategy with a growing customer base.

The premier partner tier is for top-level cloud service providers offering suites of managed service capabilities and possessing high-level CloudHealth expertise and a well-established go-to-market strategy and customer base.

“We expect that the premier level [partner] is going to be fully integrated into our partner ecosystem, so we’re in lockstep selling with them … and also pulling them into opportunities—so not only just providing leads, but working with them jointly on some of our larger opportunities,” Kilbride said.

Certification expectations will come with the new tiered partner program. CloudHealth has added a second level of certification—a partner platform certification—with requirements related to growth and customer retention.

“We’re going to be measuring it very closely, and we’re going to be reporting back to the partners,” Kilbride said. “And in areas where we’re not seeing growth, we’re going to take action.”

The partner tiers are helpful to customers who want to ensure they’re engaged with a partner who can help them navigate the complexity of public cloud cost management, said Nick Barron, business manager of platform services and cloud at CloudHealth partner Softcat, a United Kingdom-based information technology infrastructure provider,

“The new tiers help add some rigor around this, providing an easy way to see what partner has achieved what level,” Barron said. “Between the partners, this helps to promote a healthy competition, as we will easily be able to measure and benchmark ourselves against each other.”

Approximately 70 percent of CloudHealth’s 4,500 customers came through its channel partners. The company anticipates business growth of 30 percent to 40 percent through its channel program this year.

“The CloudHealth channel product essentially is designed so our channel partner can manage all of their hundreds or thousands of accounts seamlessly through one partner program,” Axbey said. “We’re getting and ingesting all of their billing data from their cloud provider and allowing them to partition it into the usage of each one of their clients and the associated governance, and they can pass down metrics and dashboards to their customers. It’s not just a partner selling our product down to their end users. They’re actually using and consuming our technology to scale their businesses.”

Palo Alto, Calif.-based VMware acquired CloudHealth in a deal that closed in October and was valued at an estimated $500 million, according to a Reuters report.

“You’re going to see an evolution of our route to market now because we are part of VMware,” Axbey said. “They’ve got a very robust channel program, so we can leverage that. With VMware’s offering of VMC [VMware Cloud] on AWS, that’s a whole new opportunity not only for our partner ecosystem, but for their partner ecosystem.”

CloudHealth plans to double down on its 50-member partner advisory board, adding more representation for global partners, as well as cloud service providers and systems integrators and systems outsourcers as it expands its partner base.

“There’s always been a robust communication between us and our partners,” Axbey said. “They really do give us feedback and help shape our product and our road map, but even more now our business strategy as well.”

CloudHealth plans to be more data-driven in allocating market development funds and to more loudly broadcast the successes it’s having through the partner ecosystem.

“In the past, we would do an announcement saying, ‘Oh, we signed this partner,’ but now we’re going to take it to the next level and actually talk about use cases with our partners,” Axbey said. “The partners are doing some really advanced services now, and we want to be more of a conduit for that. You’re going to see more stories or use cases coming out about how we’re really affecting these end users’ business transformation.”

CloudHealth’s user conference in September in Boston also will include a new separate partner track.

“It’s a really exciting time to be CloudHealth by VMware, not only because of what we’re doing in the marketplace and how impactful it is, but the VMware strategy as well,” Axbey said. “We’ve got the best of both worlds.”

The partner program changes will make CloudHealth a “little more official,” said John McGivern, senior director of cloud optimization services at Groupware Technology in Campbell, Calif., and a member of CloudHealth’s partner advisory board.

“I’ve been working with them for two years now, and they have matured just as you would hope every small company would,” he said. “I find the advisory board to be very helpful, because I get to talk to other partners, and we learn a lot from each other.”

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