EMC CEO To Competitors: Stop Bullying Partners

EMC CEO Joe Tucci has had it with competitors that bully and threaten to cut off those partners that do not stick with a single-vendor end-to-end technology stack.

"This bullying of VARs and channel partners is just yesterday's newspaper," Tucci said in an exclusive interview with CRN. "And they are not going to stand for it. And they don't have to stand for it with vendors saying 'if you take on that vendor you are going to be cut-off.' It is just not the way the world is built. It is just ultimately a losing strategy."

Partners say that bullying is at a fever pitch with the biggest vendors attempting to get them to commit to a single, integrated end-to-end technology stack. They say the shifting competitive landscape including Oracle buying Sun; Cisco moving into the server market with its Unified Computing System; Hewlett Packard buying 3Com and IBM continuing its software buying binge have all contributed to a "my way or the highway" pressure in the sales trenches.

The demand for vendor exclusivity has been building over the last several years. A CRN special report last year titled Vendor Exclusivity: Don't Lock Yourself In reported on how solution providers are dealing with the high pressure tactics from vendors.

Tucci, by the way, is not the only top industry executive speaking out against partner bullying. Dell Chairman and CEO Michael Dell last year scoffed at rivals demanding vendor exclusivity.

Tucci, for his part, said the "next wave of IT, whether it is big, medium or small, is choice. I just can't say that word and then say take that choice away."

NEXT: Tucci's Promise To Partners

Tucci says his promise to partners is: "I am not going to cut off their choice. I am going to win a bigger share of their business. How do you do that? You make sure you help them make margin that pays their rents and people, and gives them a profit. You have got to make sure the products are ones customers want. That is where ease of use and installation comes in. You have got to be easy to deal with: Do you pay them on time? Is doing configurations with you a nightmare or easy? There are a whole set of things. It's all about being easy and fair to do business with."

Partners say Tucci has remained true to his word on offering "choice" particularly with regard to EMC's acquisition of market leading virtualization powerhouse VMware. Tucci kept VMware as a separate subsidiary and has insisted that the company remain independent so it can provide the best virtualization technology for all vendors.

Jeremy Burton, the executive vice president and chief marketing officer of EMC, said "empowering" VMware to work with competitors is something most CEOs would view as "weird."

"Very few technology CEOs could have pulled that off," said Burton. "[Tucci] has a practical mind, and he doesn’t have a big ego."

Jamie Shepard, executive vice president of Technology Solutions for International Computerware Inc.(ICI), EMC's global services partner of the year based in Marlborough, Mass., says he has seen the bullying of partners firsthand with the push on by vendors to get partners to commit exclusively to a single vendor technology stack. What's more, he says, that is causing some vendors to lose their focus and make a "mess" of their technology portfolio.

A number of vendors, Shepard said, are telling partners that they have to "make a choice" with a threat that it's either us or them. That is not the case with EMC, he said. "EMC knows that customers are going to decide on the best solution," he said. That drive to offer best-of-breed solutions has led to key EMC acquisitions of software innovators like VMware, Avamar and most recently Isilon Systems and Greenplum, said Shepard.

Shepard said EMC's commitment to offering partners and customers choice is not idle talk. "EMC not only talks the talk," he says. "They walk the walk."