New Turbonomic Channel Chief On Partner Training And Solving The Pain Points Microsoft, VMware And IBM Can't

'Is This True?'

Jennifer Heard spent more than 20 years at Microsoft, and at first she wasn't sure if a small, seven-year-old start-up would be a good fit for her. Then she reached out to Bill Veghte, the former Microsoft power player who had taken a role in 2015 as executive chairman of Boston-based Turbonomic.

What she heard amazed her. "I've been working with CIOs for two decades, and I've been one myself," she told CRN. "I had to read the customer testimonials and say, 'Is this true? Can you really do this autonomically? You can manage my performance and applications without human intervention?'"

This week, Heard was named senior vice president, global strategic partners at Turbonomic, which has developed a software platform that allows hybrid cloud data centers to self-manage and maintain the performance of any application.

The Turbonomic platform's ability to assess a customer's data center and optimize its use and performance, along with its ability to manage applications on its own, means it can offer customers significant savings very quickly, and puts it a step beyond monitoring and management tools offered by VMware and Microsoft. The key to growing Turbonomic is the channel, Heard said.

"The channel is the force multiplier of the sales force, and if you get the right channel, your brand and awareness can get out there 100 times faster than you would ever be able to do by yourself," Heard said. "You bring a new product to market and the first place you go is to the channel so they can get in front of their customers so they can accelerate the story and demonstrate the capabilities."

How big is the Turbonomic partner opportunity?

The reason I'm here is because I see this as unlimited potential. For digital transformation, you have to get companies optimized in their data centers so they can burst to the cloud and be ready for the explosion of things like Internet of Things. They have to free up capital to go do those projects. I saw that this is breakthrough technology that is just in the beginning. I want to be part of that. The next evolution on that edge is going to break open one of the biggest pain points our customers have today. Microsoft doesn't have it. VMware doesn't have it. IBM doesn't have it. They have a lot of modern tools for their own stuff, but that's not the reality of the enterprise. The enterprise has everything, and they've always tried to find a way to get a single pane of glass to monitor. Now, what about the ability to monitor, and resolve, and optimize?

How was Bill Veghte (pictured) able to bring you to Turbonomic?

Six months ago I decided it was time to take a break after 30 years of being in IT and almost 22 at Microsoft. I have a 12-year-old daughter, and I wanted to spend time with her. I wanted to embrace that and regroup. I started talking to people who had left Microsoft and what life is like after Microsoft. When Bill Veghte posted his announcement that he was coming out of his six-month sabbatical and joining this company called Turbonomic, it hit my LinkedIn, and I haven't talked to him in years. I reached out to him and said, "Bill, I'm on a similar sabbatical. You and I worked together and it was a great experience. What motivated you to join Turbonomics?" And I said, "By the way, I'll probably want to go back to work in March." He immediately called me. He said there was so much going on and so much excitement around this platform. I was thinking do I do a big company again? There were several that I was considering. Or do I go to a small company that has enormous potential to do game-changing things? It all happened fast once I made the call.

What attracted you to Turbonomic?

I've been working with CIOs for two decades, and I've been one myself, and I had to read the customer testimonials and say, "Is this true? Can you really do this autonomically? You can manage my performance and applications without human intervention?" For a CIO, it seems unrealistic. Getting the brand, and the news that it's possible out there is probably the hardest thing. That's why the channel is so important. It makes the channel provider the trusted advisor. Everybody wants to go the cloud, and we have to understand why. What are you trying to move to the cloud and for what reason? If it's just to get more capacity in your data center, maybe you don't need to. Maybe you just need to improve what you have. Amazon and Azure have really exposed the opportunity to create elasticity to your data center. Pay as you go, only use it as you need it.

This is a new way of thinking for solution providers. How do you bring the Turbonomic message home to them?

You've got solution providers with a couple of different practices. You've got to hit the ones that are trying to be the trusted advisor versus just trying to push boxes and licenses. If they're trying to be the trusted advisor, then what a great way to come in with a way to predict what their future could look like and testing it. The hardest thing I had at Microsoft was training the channel how to be the cloud architect for the customer to give them confidence that moving those on-premises workloads to the cloud was the right thing to do for their business. Cloud economics was the hot buzzword for all of them, but there really wasn't a good tool for them to do that outside of their own knowledge or monitoring tools that looked at what the environment looked like at a static state.

S o customers were more or less in the dark?

They were guessing. They were guessing at what size and type of template you should be putting in the environment and what capacity you need for this application to perform. It was a guessing game. When I see what Turbonomic is doing, give them more credibility, and turn it on in a very little amount of time and demonstrate it; to have a value proposition like that, 30 percent ROI on a product that can change the game for their strategic projects, is a game-changer.

And partners can realize strong margins on taking the guesswork out of the equation?

I want to bring partners along. They all need this. I am convinced their business will change. When I was at Microsoft, we were working really hard to have partners that were cloud knowledgeable – I managed 2,500 partners on my team – and those partners were typically infrastructure partners, data center, mostly. Some were resellers, and some were IP providers. Some were hosters, some were managed service providers, but mostly systems integrators and they were all trying to create new practices with the cloud as part of that. They knew that for 96 percent of CIOs cloud transformation is in their list of top projects they're undertaking. They know they have to think about public, private and hybrid cloud. Those channel providers I've seen, and the channel partners that are signed up here, the story they're telling about the success it's bringing to their business, and their credibility is a differentiator.

What's your message as you come in from Microsoft to a nimble, innovative start-up?

My simple mission is I want to unleash the potential of the channel to accelerate Turbonomic's brand and awareness in the marketplace. The channel is the force multiplier of the sales force, and if you get the right channel, your brand and awareness can get out there 100 times faster than you would ever be able to do by yourself. I saw that time and time again at Microsoft. You bring a new product to market, and the first place you go is to the channel so they can get in front of their customers so they can accelerate the story and demonstrate the capabilities. You can't keep throwing bodies at it. It's not cost effective. The highest cost of selling is your own direct sellers. You have to view the channel as your partner. The partners are a force multiplier. I'm a big believer in that. You have to have the right partners, too, because they probably already have relationships that Turbonomic doesn't have today.

When you look at Turbonomic's partner base, where do you see the most potential to expand in the channel?

There are three things: Strategic alliances, those that are going to wrap things around the product and do some creative things and bring that to market. There's those that are going to be the trusted advisors to their customers, and I think we've got some really good ones there. As the knowledge of the platform is exposed and becomes more viral, we should be excited about expanding that footprint and going broad with that footprint. Then you have those that are authorized to resell, that can do the transaction, and I think we have some really good ones doing that already. I see that systems integration channel, that's broad and deep, and we haven't really tapped into that.

What's your message to those partners now that you're coming to Turbonomic? What does that mean to partners?

Every day they wait to consider this platform to incorporate into their services, into their portfolio, they're losing money, big time. They're losing money for their customers. They're losing money for themselves. Every day they wait, it's millions of dollars they could've put in their pocket and their customers' pockets. I really believe that that savings can turn into strategic projects that those partners can capitalize on.

Where are partners who are already there seeing the biggest ROI?

That's the difference. When [customers] get in there, and they trust the platform, and they're listening to the partner saying let's try this, they're able to demonstrate ROI immediately by saving the customer money from overprovisioning. They're getting ready to buy more VMs. Well, they didn't need them. [The partner can say], "Save $2 million right now. Don't buy another server because you've already got capacity you're not even using." Think about oil rigs that were trying up, and Exxon and other companies were letting them go. Well, fracking became a big business because there's more to get out of that oil rig. That's what I think about Turbonomic today and servers and how that can help customers. Being in that mindset, not to mention the carbon footprint we're saving, the efficiencies we're gaining in powering those data centers. We have to understand where the biggest pain point is today.

What is the biggest pain point for customers right now?

Having spoken to many, many CIOs around the world, their biggest pain point right now is the capacity of their data center. They're running out of capacity in their data center, they think. They're trying to figure out how to expand that with elasticity to the cloud. Those economics are really hard for them to get their head around.

What kind of numbers have you seen around overprovisioning, overbilling and customers paying to much for public cloud, or even VMs? How much are customers overpaying?

There are two ways you're doing an injustice to your customers if you're not in there with Turbonomic. One is we're not helping them provision their servers, their VMs, with the capacity they need to effectively run their applications. The customers are wasting a lot of money. Two, there's a lot of shadow IT going on with cloud. When I was at Microsoft, I would walk into a CIO, and they would say, "We're not using Azure." We could run a report against their org, and say, "Actually, you are," because they're swiping credit cards and you've got hundreds of instances around your organization that you have no control of anymore. It does a disservice to your customer if they're spending money on things they don't have to spend money on. Turbonomic can go in with a real-time snapshot of that environment and say let's get this under control now. Let's balance out your loads so we can assure service and applications are running at peak performance at all times.

And take the guesswork out of it?

Taking the guesswork out of it. You can't do it with humans anymore. There's too much coming at them. There's just no way. Monitoring tools are great, but they're after-the-fact. So, by the time you go to fix it, it's changed again. We need real-time servicing of those applications and the supply and demand is only served with Turbonomic. Nobody else can do this.

What are the potential cost savings for customers when partners are going in there and analyzing these environments? What's the ROI on the platform for customers and partners?

This is the best thing ever. I've never had such a solid ROI story to go into a customer with. On average, 30 percent ROI with 30 days. If you're thinking of placing and order, don't place it and you immediately save millions of dollars. This is factual and proven. It's exciting for the channel. They need to jump on this bandwagon if they're going to differentiate their business.

What do you have in mind for channel partners as far as incentives are concerned?

I like to keep it simple. They told me for years, "You're too complicated, Microsoft. I can't understand your program. You change it on me all the time," and what was hard because we had so many things to offer. Here, the channel is clear on how they make money. It's a margin play. We give them, if they're a Platinum partner, they get a pretty sweet deal on their margin that they can take to market.

Where can channel partners start a conversation about Turbonomic with a customer?

When we're coaching channels to architect and get cloud-ready, the number one thing they need to help customers do is clean up their house. You don't want to put garbage that's in your data center into the cloud because then it's lost money again. That's another huge value to bring. Clean up your house first before you burst to the cloud. You'll be better off long-term.

How many partners have cleaned up the house for their customers?

I think that's what they're making money on right now, helping to figure out how to do that. The data center is complex. There's many moving parts and today they can monitor it, but they don't know how to keep it running at peak performance and utilization of all the resources.

How big a gap does that represent for customers and partners?

Because this is so new, the message isn't out loud enough yet that this is available to you. The mindset of VMware is we've got tools and we can monitor, so we can help you be responsive, but the reality is people and monitoring tools aren't going to assure application performance unless it's automated. That messaging is important to start educating our partners and customers that it's possible. It's never been possible before. It's a problem we've all created ourselves, not that that's bad. The tools are getting better and better to monitor, but at the end of the day, what are your data center managers paid on? Uptime. Performance.

When customers are looking at Turbonomic, who else are they considering? How do you differentiate?

They're considering all the point solutions. For monitoring, they're told about the capabilities to monitor and tells you what you should go do. The problem with that is that's the way we've trained them to do it. Suppliers come along trying to solve problems after the fact. We need you to try to get in front of it, so we give you monitoring tools so you can know when it's starting to fail, but it doesn't live across the whole inventory. Customers need to learn that Turbonomic can solve that, and that's different from what they've always done. There are a lot of administrators out there who are going to fear for their job. The competitors are the status quo, the point solutions, and there are going to be solutions that attempt to do real-time automation or optimization, but they're only going to work on one or two components, they're not going to work on the whole thing. That's the big differentiator.

Do you see Turbonomic as a big play in the IoT market?

With IoT, the device can be on the edge, where the data is collected, or it can be inside. But it's real-time, so an application is written to make sure they can get the data, serve the device. To me, Turbonomic is a huge value-add. When you put that in place, you've tuned your environment. Your company is getting the right resources to serve it. Containers, Internet of Things, big data, it's not going to slow down. Customers have to have those insights, and if those insights aren't available to them, that potentially damages their ability to be successful.

What do you need from partners that you are perhaps not getting today?

There is a burning platform right now and we have the solution for it. They need to understand this because the customers need to hear it. [Partners] need it for their business to be successful, and customers need it to be successful. We can't scale with the 400 people we have at Turbonomic to the level we need to get this platform out there. The only way we can get there is with the channel that understand the data center already, but doesn't understand the potential they could be bringing to their customers. When we bridge those two things together, we can make a big, big difference. They're going to accelerate their position with the customer, and they'll be able to sell more creative, strategic projects.

It seems like some partners have realized that this is a good opportunity to sell everything. Not just the platform, but servers, upgrades, services.

Remember when TCP/IP wasn't included in any operating systems for networking and Windows NT included it? It was like the breakthrough in networking. Today, all these monitoring tools, VMware, Microsoft, nobody is providing you an APR solution to tune automatically, that ability to step away from it. The best thing is when you don't know it's there anymore because things are running perfectly. Do you remember how hard it was to configure TCP protocol just for networking. I envision that five years from now people are going to think about Turbonomic for their data center optimization, application performance, all those things, it's just going to be there. It's just part of their environment.

How big a shift in power is this when it comes to VARs' ability to start the cloud conversation, or the digital transformation conversation, and get customers off the old-school, legacy IT?

The channel is having a conversation with the CIO or the business today, and it always includes cloud. In their mind, they want to get to the cloud to save money. The problem is it's not saving them money when they're just moving things to the cloud. You have to show them that their data center can be optimized, and you need to figure out which workloads make the most sense to move to the cloud. The really strong channel providers know about cloud economics. They look at the architecture, the look at the workloads and they decide which cloud is going to make the most sense. Typically, it was take the easy workloads first, but that's not necessarily saving them money right now. It's just moving problems from one location to another. Storage is one, dev/test is another of the first workloads to go. The channel is looked at as a trusted advisor to move them to the cloud. Until Turbonomics, there wasn't really a way to move them with confidence. Now they can have the confidence to move the more important loads to the cloud with confidence when it makes sense. We can show them the capacity they need on-premise and in the cloud before they overbuy.

What are some of the challenges in this evolution of the channel?

Un-training. They've trained for years on VMware, virtualization, data center. How long have these data centers been around? They know one thing. It's hard to un-train people. I can't tell you how much time I would spend. It was a constant conversation around you need to invest in resources that can understand data, business analytics, cloud and mobility. Those are the areas, if I were coaching a partner today to be profitable. If you're just doing maintenance and management, you're going to die on the vine. You've got to build new practices, and those practices have to align to the digital transformation theme, and security is in there. Security will always be there. That training, or untraining, is hard. It's hard to put it on the books. It's hard for them to think about how to keep maintenance and management going while I bring on this new thing?