VCE Execs: We're The 'Go-To' Vendor In Converged Infrastructure

VCE executives say the converged infrastructure company is poised for fast, dramatic growth and is winning deals against legacy vendors such as Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Dell.

While legacy vendors are getting in on the action, according to VCE Vice President of Portfolio Marketing Bob Wambach, VCE is becoming the "go-to" vendor in converged infrastructure, which brings compute, storage, networking and virtualization functions together in turnkey systems.

VCE keeps a close eye on Nutanix and SimpliVity as well, two of the main players in the burgeoning hyper-converged market, said Wambach.

VCE does about 80 percent of its business through the channel. Some of its top partners are now doubling their VCE business annually, said Chris Sullivan, channel chief at Richardson, Texas-based VCE.

"If you look at the market opportunity from a hyper-converged perspective, it's still very small, but growing. Where we play is massive compared to that," said Sullivan. "I don't think it will be incredibly difficult to continue to differentiate ourselves from some of those competitors."

Related: VCE Channel Chief: Partners That Take 'Consultative' Approach 'Are Killing It'

George Hope, vice president of global channel sales at SimpliVity, takes almost the opposite stance, saying hyper-converged represents the bigger market opportunity.

"SimpliVity is addressing a much larger market opportunity than converged infrastructure," Hope told CRN via email. "Rather than converging just storage and compute, we virtualize all IT below the hypervisor into a simple 2U building block of x86 shareable resources. The market is clearly taking off; SimpliVity's own bookings grew 250 percent year over year as of June 30."

Todd Pavone, executive vice president of product development and strategy at VCE, has been with the company from its infancy inside EMC, Hopkinton, Mass.. Regardless of who the competitors are, he told CRN, the fight is for customer workloads.

"You have the disrupters in the market -- Nutanix, SimpliVity -- every day there's a new one that pops up, and then you have traditional public cloud offerings. It's a battle for the workload. We want the workload to sit on our technology privately, or on our technology in a service provider, or on our technology in a public cloud," he said.

"We try to separate marketing from reality," Pavone said. "Six years ago there were two companies talking about converged infrastructure, us and HP. Today, it's everybody. How do you differentiate the marketing veneer from the reality? You move fast into quantifiable results."

"HP has had three or four cracks at it, and they've fallen on their face," VCE's Wambach said. "People have heard VCE's pretty good at this, so we literally come into, 'We have to be done with a big migration in six months and we haven't started yet.' We look at it and we say we can do that. Some of our customers, it really was about desperation. We were brought in to be an also-ran. They bring us in to get a quote, then they give it to HP, and HP couldn't do it so they'd call us. You basically save their project, make people look good, and now you're kind of the go-to. That's how we get in."

Paul Miller, HP's vice president of marketing, converged data center infrastructure, said the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company is the converged market leader.

"HP continues to lead the market in innovation and to set the vision for the next generation of convergence," he told CRN via email. "Through our new Composable Infrastructure and partner program, HP unleashes business value through simplifying IT operations for existing applications and accelerating development of new cloud native applications."

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A spokesman for Dell, Round Rock, Texas, told CRN via email that "based on increased sales of PowerEdge VRTX and PowerEdge FX, Dell finds that channel partners are interested in and focused on Dell’s converged offerings."

IBM, Armonk, N.Y., did not respond to a request for comment.

VCE executives say that the large legacy vendors do command a large part of the market, but it's a market that's ripe for disruption. VCE's focus is on the Forbes Global 2000 list of the largest public companies in the world. It's not an easy market to crack, but the company is making headway, Wambach said.

"There are a lot of accounts there that are protected by the big server vendors, and they will do what it takes to keep new entrants out," Wambach said. "We're very disruptive to that market, and over time it just becomes those customers are at a competitive disadvantage because they're clinging to the old ways."

VCE was founded as a joint venture of EMC, Cisco and VMware, in part as a response to efforts by HP, IBM and Dell to become one-stop shops for enterprise IT. Today, EMC owns 90 percent of the company, and Cisco 10 percent. VCE has a multiyear technology agreement with Cisco, VCE's Pavone said.

VCE's approach is different, and partners CRN spoke with said that approach is working for them.

"It's a platform whose time has come," said Stephen Stahl, vice president of sales and engineering at Accunet, a Boston-based partner of both VCE and SimpliVity.

"Any competition in converged infrastructure -- Dell, IBM, HP -- they're trying to demonstrate that stuff works," Wambach said of the legacy vendors. "There. It works, and then you declare victory. We really start there, and then we have hundreds of people trying to figure out all the ways this can break. … All this stuff that happens every single day in data centers is totally off the table, and that's something that's completely unique to VCE and the infrastructure. It takes a big investment to do that and, so far, we have not seen any other company step up to do that."

Brendan Lynch, CEO of Eastern Computer Exchange, a Milford, Conn.-based VCE partner, said VCE's strategy is working.

Lynch told CRN via email that he expects Eastern Computer Exchange's VCE business to grow 35 percent this year compared with 2014, and another 40 percent next year.

"We have seen significant growth with converged infrastructure and specifically VCE," he said. "We see VCE having superior growth over other reference architecture companies. Customers are looking for enterprise-level solutions pre-built and pre-configured and up and running in 30 to 45 days, and that's what you get with VCE."

"We have seen customers struggle to deploy IBM, HP and Dell and many times the systems become 'shelfware,'" Lynch said. "VCE and EMC with their Enterprise Hybrid Cloud solutions in conjunction with Eastern have supplied and implemented and turned over systems faster to our customers. This is what customers are looking for and VCE delivers."