VCE Unifies Channel Program, Continues Hiring Spree

Cloud storage infrastructure vendor VCE has introduced its first channel program and is continuing to beef up its channel ranks by hiring people from its parent companies.

VCE, which in 2009 was co-founded by EMC, Cisco, and VMware, has finally ditched its practice of depending on the channel programs of its parent companies and come up with one of its own, said Pete Koliopoulos, vice president of channel marketing.

VCE is the developer of Vblock Infrastructure Packages, a series of pre-configured, pre-tested storage solutions based on EMC’s Symmetrix or Clariion storage arrays, Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS) and networking switches, and VMware's vSphere server and cloud virtualization platform.

The move to introduce its own formal channel program comes as VCE continues to grow its channel presence, Koliopoulos said. "In November of 2009, we had 12 partners," he said. "Now we have over 100 major customers and many others, plus over 120 partners worldwide."

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The most important change for VCE's solution provider partners has been to offer them a unified channel program instead of depending on the programs of its parent companies, Koliopoulos said.

Even though VCE's Vblock systems are sold to customers as a packaged solution containing components from EMC, Cisco, and VMware, partners had been forced to place orders with each of those companies, Koliopoulos said. They were also forced to register customer deals with each of the three partners, and received discounts and rebates from them as well, he said.

Going forward, all orders from solution providers, including those received via distributors, will go through VCE, which is providing the solutions with VCE part numbers and warranties, Koliopoulos said.

The deal registration process will also be unified. "Now partners will register the deal with us," he said. "We've made it a lot easier. But the discounts will be similar to what they received from the three companies in the past."

Koliopoulos declined to discuss the deal registration discounts partners will receive via VCE, citing the need to finalize the details.

VCE is also offering partners a new unit volume discount incentive based on sales over a six-month period, Koliopoulos said. That discount is on top of any discounts they will continue to receive from the three parent companies, he said. "So if today a partner gets a back-end rebate from Cisco for a UCS sale as part of a Vblock, they will also get a rebate from VCE," he said. "Our rebates are stackable with parent company rebates."

Also new from VCE is its first MDF (market develop fund) program aimed at helping fund partners' demand generation activities, Koliopoulos said. "This is also incremental to whatever MDFs they get from the parent companies," he said.

The changes to the program mean a major relief from the challenges VCE solution providers face every day, said Jamie Shepard, executive vice president of technology solutions at ICI, a Marlborough, Mass.-based solution provider and early VCE partner.

"VCE now has a support model second to none," Shepard said.

Having a single portal for purchasing Vblock instead of dealing with all three parent companies is a huge change, and can shave between three weeks and five weeks from a project, Shepard said.

Next: Big Changes At VCE With New Programs, Personnel

"Until now, we had to register our deal with EMC, VMware, Cisco, and VCE," he said. "But to get special pricing, we had to apply for relief from EMC, VMware, and Cisco. Sometimes we might see aggressive pricing from a competitor, and that meant a major amount of work for us. Now we can go to our distributor, Avnet, with our architect, and get a unified price. And for special pricing, we only have to deal with one entity."

Ironically, the ability to configure the Vblock through a single portal instead of working with the three partners was less of an issue than getting pricing and program benefits, Shepard said.

"Configuration should be the most challenging side," he said. "The pricing should have been the easiest to take care of. But it was just the opposite. Configuration was very easy because we were dealing with very smart ICI and VCE people. But pricing was much more difficult. Each company had a different model."

The new single deal registration, on the other hand, is awesome, Shepard said. "A couple of weeks ago, I'd have had to call EMC, Cisco, and VMware to register the deal separately," he said. "A VMware rep might see the registered deal and ask if we were closing it. If we said we were working with VCE, the rep might say he's not sure the customer really needs a Vblock and perhaps look for some other way to handle it."

In addition to revamping its channel program, VCE is continuing to hire personnel from its parent companies.

CRN has learned that in the last couple of weeks VCE has hired Frank Seiferth as its new senior director of channel sales and services. Seiferth was until recently EMC's director of global channels and services.

CRN has also learned that VCE just hired Russell Rosa as its new area vice resident for the Americas channel. Rosa was until recently a director at Cisco.

Seiferth's move to VCE will be a big boost to that company's partners looking for how to improve their engineering skills, Shepard said.

"Frank at EMC single-handedly built the channel enabling program for training engineers," he said. "He worked with me on determining how much EMC material should be presented in a week, and how much EMC should charge partners. He really understands the channel."

Seiferth and Rosa join several former colleagues who have recently made the move to VCE.

VCE's most high-profile addition to its executive team this year was Frank Hauck, a former EMC executive vice president and a member of the EMC executive office of the Chairman who last month was appointed president of VCE.

Koliopoulos, who joined VCE a year ago, was previously the long-term vice president of global channel marketing at EMC.