CRN Exclusive Q&A: Former VCE VP On Why He Jumped To Red Hat

New Red Hat VP On The Differences Between VCE and Red Hat

CRN Editor News Steven Burke and Senior Editor Joseph F. Kovar spoke with new Red Hat Vice President of North American Partner Sales D. Robert Martin, who just stepped aside as a vice president at the VMware-Cisco-EMC VCE private cloud converged infrastructure alliance.

Martin, a former 12 year Cisco veteran who joined the VCE partnership when it was known as Acadia in October, 2009 as one of only 10 employees, helped drive astronomical growth at VCE, which now has more than $1 billion in sales with 75 percent of the business going through the channel. Here Martin, who was most recently vice president of global indirect channels at VCE, speaks about why he left VCE and the opportunity at Red Hat.

What is your message to the sales team at Red Hat?

Today is my second day. We are at the sales meeting. I will be addressing the team tomorrow.

First of all, I think that Red Hat is extremely well-positioned in the marketplace. One of the things that attracted me was the whole open-source [movement]. It is clearly driving IT transformation. The model is open. It is future proof. There is no vendor lock-in, and it is extremely cost efficient for customers.

I think there is a strong opportunity to drive increased revenues and profits in that space. That is one of the things that attracted me.

What Attracted You To The Red Hat Culture?

Red Hat has an extremely well-known reputation for a great culture. That is another part of it. It is an open, collaborative kind of culture that kind of mirrors the products themselves.

If you look at where the market is moving, Red Hat is currently positioned extremely well in public and private cloud and is going to be extremely successful in the hybrid cloud, providing customers and partners a ramp to the open hybrid cloud.

From a 'why Red Hat?' [perspective] those are some of the main reasons why I made the move to this organization.

What Are The Dynamics In The Market Right Now?

My key thing with the partners is the way customers are buying has been changing. Lines of business are much more important and much more influential in the decision-making process, as-a-service [offerings] are more important than ever. So my message to the team is that we are going to grow the partner base. We are going to reward those partners for their expertise in delivering those business outcomes, and we are going to have a very, very successful time at Red Hat.

Did You Approach Red Hat Or Did They Approach You?

Red Hat approached me. It was about a month or so ago.

You Talked About Vendor Lock In. Is This The End Of The Road For VCE?

I'm not referring to VCE. I want to make it clear: I am not running from VCE. I am coming to what I think is a really good opportunity. With my skill sets and background in the channel community as well as my background at Cisco and where Red Hat is today, I think I provide a unique set of skills that they were looking for that makes it a great marriage for both of us.

I think VCE is going to continue to have a great future for itself. We came off a great year at VCE, and I think they'll continue to be successful.

What was your greatest accomplishment at VCE?

I was one of the original people who started VCE when it was Acadia, if you remember those days. We grew that company from 10 people in a conference room up in Hopkinton, [Mass.] to greater than a $1 billion company, 1,600-plus employees in four years. We defined a marketplace at VCE for converged infrastructure, and we were extremely successful at doing that. Building that company and taking it from less than 25 percent of indirect business in the first quarter to doing well in excess of 75 percent indirect business now is a pretty good accomplishment.

What is the future of the Cisco-Red Hat relationship?

One of the things that attracted me is I started asking around at Cisco: where do you see Red Hat? Where do I fit into that? Everyone at Cisco said it is a great organization with great products. My relationships within Cisco and my relationships in the channel really bled [into] what Cisco is looking to do from a cloud perspective. It is a unique position for me with a lot of contacts, a long-time at Cisco, a lot of channel relationships, the complete blend. That is exactly what Red Hat was looking for.

What Do You Bring To Red Hat?

I can bring expertise to the partners with a focus on driving incremental revenue for the partners and [driving partner] services revenues. If you look at that blend it is good for Cisco. I was highly encouraged by some of the people I talked to at Cisco. And as I said before, when you look at the product set and the culture here at Red Hat, they are on the cusp of really breaking out again.

What is the cultural difference between Red Hat and VCE?

I think it is different markets. At Red Hat, they are really known for a collaborative kind of open culture. The whole open-source model lends itself to that. So I think that is something that is very attractive. It is a young company when you look at the sales reps. One of the things I bring is some maturity in terms of a leadership perspective. I think that is a benefit to Red Hat.

VCE again has a good culture, strong sales leadership, [VCE CEO] Praveen [Akkiraju] (pictured) from a leadership perspective is a strong leader. So I think just subtle differences between the two. I think just probably a little bit more open here at Red Hat with the nature of the product set and the markets that they are in.

Are You Going To Be Recruiting VCE Partners To Join The Red Hat Team?

There is a pretty strong overlap in that when you look at the VCE partners, there is a strong overlap with the Cisco partners. VCE is a customer of Red Hat's so I will continue to my relationship with VCE. I think it is a benefit to not only Red Hat but Cisco and VCE in my moving over to this new role.

There are already existing partners. There won't be a campaign to go recruit VCE partners into the Red Hat fold. Most of them are there already.

What Is The Overlap Between Red Hat - VCE?

It is day two. I don't have the exact numbers. As I have been meeting with the team a lot of the relationships that they have, I have had at VCE and Cisco in the past.

Is There Going To Be A Breaking Point With A Clear Choice Between Cisco Red Hat and VCE?

I think so, but you know again VCE is based on choice. They are not locked in. They are going to provide -- and I am not the product strategist at VCE and never was -- VCE, I believe, will provide choice to customers as they go forward. It is probably a little premature for me to tell you that I am going to go recruit a whole bunch of VCE partners.

What Appeals To You About the Red Hat Strategy Vs. the VCE Strategy?

It is not a Red Hat-VCE kind of competition here. I think my background in working with the solution providers, working with ISVs, working with OEMs, global [systems Integrators] lends itself very well to what Red Hat is trying to do to kind of break out into the next level.

So I look at it as I am taking expertise that I developed at VCE and implemented at VCE and implemented at Cisco and driving it here with Red Hat. I don't think you should characterize it as Red Hat versus VCE.

Who Are The Top Red Hat Competitors?

You know who the competitors are. I think Microsoft is there, VMware is probably there.

Do You Think Your Knowledge Of The VMware Relationship Is Going To Be Critical As You Go Forward Here With Red Hat?

I think my knowledge of VMware, Cisco and EMC will be helpful to Red Hat. I think you look at who the competitors are: most customers are going to make a choice whether it is Microsoft or Red Hat. Then the second choice is do you look at proprietary vs. open. I firmly believe -- and what I have heard and seen from customers and partners -- that open typically wins.

Would You Characterize VCE As Proprietary?

No, I would not characterize it as proprietary. You look at VCE they are providing best-of-breed products. So I don't view it as proprietary.

What attracted me [to Red Hat] was the openness. That is not to say that VCE is closed. The storyline is not a VCE vs. Red Hat.

What Is The Storyline?

The story line is there is an organization which I think is on the cusp of really breaking out, has a strong channels organization, a great product set and was looking for a leader to help take them to the next level from a channels perspective.

What Is Red Hat Lacking In Terms Of Channel?

I view my role here as being an evangelist for indirect routes to market. I think there is some education [that needs to happen] from a field perspective and how we engage partners. So I will be focusing on that. I will be focusing on driving solution opportunities for our partners. When you look at those two things, I think it is field engagement and the ability to provide profitable solutions to lines of business that are going to be critical for us.

How Important A Partner Is Cisco To Red Hat?

It has expanded. It is my second day. There were two presentations to the [Red Hat] North American sales teams by Cisco representatives today.