VMware Limits Some Storage Vendors' Presence At VMware PEX

VMware has asked a number of storage vendors who work with the virtualization and cloud technology developer to stay away from its VMware Partner Exchange conference.

CRN has confirmed that Nutanix and Veeam were asked to either stay away from or cut their visibility at VMware Partner Exchange, or VMware PEX, which is scheduled to be hosted in San Francisco from Feb. 10 to 13.

Two other storage vendors also speculated to have been asked to not come to VMware PEX, Pure Storage and Nimble Storage, said they will actually be at the event.

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Not going to the VMware Partner Exchange is Veeam, the Baar, Switzerland-based developer of leading data protection technology for virtualized environments and a longtime VMware partner.

Also not attending is Nutanix, the San Jose, Calif.-based developer of converged infrastructure technology.

VMware did not respond to requests for more information.

It doesn't really make a lot of sense that VMware would try to exclude some storage vendors, especially Veeam, from VMware PEX, said Rich Baldwin, CIO and chief strategy officer at Nth Generation Computing, a San Diego-based solution provider. "Veeam is probably one of the best products that works in VMware environments," Baldwin said. "I think there are so many Veeam customers out there that even if VMware is coming out with a competitive product, it doesn't make sense to keep the company out."

While VMware is still majority-owned by storage king EMC, that company in the past has given VMware free rein to develop partnerships with server and storage vendors across the board, a decision that helped propel VMware to the top of the virtualization market and made it a leading developer of cloud platform technology.

VMware, however, has recently taken a number of steps to add storage capabilities to its software aimed at building a complete software-defined data center infrastructure, including the introduction of the VMware Data Protection Advanced offering, based on EMC's Avamar data protection technology.

VMware last year also introduced VMware Virtual SAN, or VSAN, a software-defined storage solution that ties to the company's VMware vSphere private cloud and virtualization platform.

NEXT: Unusual Move Given VMware's Partnering History

The decision to ask some storage vendors to not attend VMware PEX is odd given that EMC's stated plan all along was to keep VMware independent, Baldwin said.

"We like Veeam, and we like VMware, and they work well together," he said. "You have to sell what customers want."

This situation appears to be an overreaction on VMware’s part, said another solution provider who asked to remain anonymous. "We expect to go to Partner Exchange to hear from different technologies and see how they fit going forward," the solution provider said. "We're the partners. Whoever goes there, even if competitive in nature, wants to support the VMware platform."

This is not the first time VMware has limited or excluded participation in one of its events.

VMware in 2009 confined both Microsoft and Citrix to small 10-x-10-foot booths at that year's VMworld conference, and shut them out of the kind of promotional opportunities offered to exhibitors, which would normally pay extra for larger booths, and especially for sponsorship activities.

Both vendors were gold-level sponsors at VMworld 2008.

Doug Hazelman, vice president of product strategy for Veeam, said his company's original plan was to sponsor VMware PEX at the gold level, but that has changed. Hazelman declined to say who decided Veeam could not attend. "It's not our decision," he said. "Until Thursday of last week, we were planning to send a whole team."

VMware appears to be selective about who can come to its partner conference. The VMware PEX sponsor list includes several companies that compete with Veeam -- and with VMware -- for data protection technology, including Symantec, Zerto and PHD Virtual, which last month was acquired by Unitrends.

Hazelman said that Veeam remains a member of VMware's technical alliance program, and has assurances it will be a gold sponsor of this year's U.S. and European VMworld conferences. The U.S. VMworld conference is scheduled to be held in San Francisco this coming August.

Veeam also will be in San Francisco during VMware PEX. "We'll be in San Francisco to talk to partners and to recruit additional partners," Hazelman said.

Veeam remains committed to the channel, and is on a growth path that has not slowed at all in the past year, he said. "We hit our targets in 2013," he said. "This is in no way a reflection of Veeam's growth."

NEXT: Nutanix On Its VMware PEX Presence, Or Lack Thereof

Howard Ting, vice president of marketing and product management at Nutanix, declined to say exactly why Nutanix is not going to VMware PEX.

"It's probably a little strong to say they kicked us out," Ting said. "VMware is certainly exercising its right to decide who it wants to be close with, who it wants to be at its event. VMware asked us to have a smaller presence."

At the end of the day, Nutanix will not lose out on much by not having a presence at VMware PEX, Ting said. "We'll have a cocktail party in San Francisco, and we'll meet with partners," he said.

Ting said VMware PEX just was not a good alignment with what Nutanix and VMware wanted. Nutanix exhibited at VMware PEX for the first time last year, but found it to not have the highest return on investment Nutanix has experienced, he said.

While Nutanix during its first year of operation focused exclusively on VMware environments, the company last year started supporting KVM environments, and this month went into general availability with technology for Microsoft Hyper-V, Ting said.

"We will work as much as we can together with VMware," he said. "But you can contemplate that VMware will make a big storage announcement at VMware PEX over VSAN."

Nutanix plans to make a big investment in this year's VMworld conference, Ting said. The company also plans to be at Microsoft's TechEd conference this May in Houston.

Ting said that, to VMware's credit, the company has made it clear it supports customer choice and working with companies like Nutanix.

"So I see this as maybe a temporary thing, an opportunity to get their new products off to a fast start," he said. "I hope so. Not being at this event probably won't hurt us much. But if this is the beginning of a long-term trend, it's not good for the customers or the channel partners we mutually work with."

Pure Storage, on the other hand, will be at VMware PEX. A source close to the company said it originally had not planned to go to the event, but was recently asked to go, which may have been the source of reports that it had been asked to not attend.

The source noted that, while companies like Pure Storage may compete with VMware's VSAN, they also partner with VMware's Virtual Volumes (VVOL) technology.

Nimble this year will not have its own booth at VMware PEX, but is sharing booth space with distributor Avnet, with whom Nimble will announce some news at the conference, a source closed to Nimble said.