VMware Executives Talk Joint Certifications With AWS, Getting Cozy With Microsoft, And The Next Phase For AirWatch

A New Era Of Partnership

VMware is aggressively working to create opportunities by partnering with Amazon Web Services and Microsoft -- two companies that have had plenty of conflict with VMware over the years. That's the message from VMware executives who sat down with CRN during the Microsoft Inspire partner conference this month -- Frank Rauch, vice president of the Americas Partner Organization at VMware, and Paul Ford, director of global business development, strategic alliances at AirWatch. And those opportunities will extend to VMware channel partners in a big way, the executives said -- particularly when VMware Cloud on AWS launches. CRN spoke with Rauch and Ford about what VMware channel partners can expect in working jointly with AWS and Microsoft technologies, as well as what they can expect to hear at VMworld in August. What follows is an excerpt of our interview.

How would you characterize the relationship between VMware and Microsoft at this point?

Paul Ford: The relationship with Microsoft has improved over the past couple of years. [Previously] it was a bit adversarial -- the Hyper-V wars. But more recently, with some of the end-user computing developments, there's a lot of opportunity for us to work together. With the release of Windows 10 the past couple years, it's as-a-service, it's continuous updates. And the way that Microsoft wants [Windows 10] devices to be managed just lends itself perfectly to the skill set of what AirWatch does. As AirWatch has matured as a platform, it's given us an opportunity to manage Windows 10 devices as well. So we're seeing some good traction with our customer base on managing Windows 10 devices. Another facet is the fact that for our Horizon Cloud product, which is our hosted Desktop-as-a-Service platform, we announced in May that we are releasing that on Azure. So what we're seeing is that our customers, while they like our product, they want to be able to host it on their terms. Our customer demand pushed us toward -- in a good way -- hosting it on Azure.

Frank Rauch: As far as conflict, or the lack thereof, I think the market has voted and the channel has voted already. I think there are very few late adopters right now in virtualization -- everybody's got it. So if you're not in that day-to-day fight, you'd tend to focus on the good news that Paul just described.

How are channel partners responding to VMware and Microsoft working more closely together?

Frank Rauch: We've met with WWT, ePlus, CDW, SHI and a number of other large partners. And they're very, very excited that we're working with Microsoft rather than against Microsoft.

What can you say about the evolution of the relationship with AWS?

Rauch: Obviously, we're very involved in the cloud. When you look at the vCloud Air Network, that was a foray into the cloud. It's a business that continues to grow above-market -- when you look at first-quarter results, it was definitely a highlight. We announced software-defined data center as-a-service with IBM's SoftLayer. In that situation, IBM said, we're going to market the product, we're going to sell the product. So we then struck a deal with AWS, where we're dropping software-defined data center as-a-service on AWS. Partners are extremely excited -- in fact, we have a number of partners in the beta program right now. Obviously, it's going to be a big deal at VMworld. And what it allows partners to do is develop new revenue streams for people that want to run off-prem. It's software-defined networking, software-defined storage and software-defined compute, with a management layer on top. Partners are excited to be able to have an off-prem offering.

Do partners that work on this need to be certified for VMware and also certified for AWS?

Rauch: That's really a work in progress right now. We haven't totally defined the program. But as Terry Wise, who's the channel chief for AWS, stated at their event, we expect it to be a joint cert. So we expect partners to be competent in terms of AWS and the other AWS products. We want them to be able to have the ability to migrate workloads, to be able to do the services. And we also want them to be competent in software-defined networking, software-defined storage, etc.

So the joint certification would be separate from either individual certification?

Rauch: I would say [it's] to be determined. We're going to be revealing more of that at VMworld.

So you don't have a date for that joint certification?

Rauch: We really don't. We wanted to get joint partners in the beta program, wanted to be able to understand their feedback. We're working with our Partner Advisory Council right now to be able to get their input on what the program should look like. Again, VMworld in Vegas is going to be an inflection point. Certainly another inflection point will be when we go to Barcelona [for VMworld Europe in September]. So you'll see the strategy reveal and develop as we go …

We're going to be watching the beta carefully. We want to make sure it's a great experience for the channel -- to be able to bill, to be able to provision, to be able to do all of the stuff that a channel partner has to do.

Are there certain partner requirements beyond the certification that partners should know about?

Rauch: I think regardless of whether they get certified or don't get certified, if they want to play in this new world, I would absolutely look to what AWS is requiring right now. And I would try to get competent in the various disciplines, again, that we're working on -- networking, storage, etc.

Who is it a good fit for?

Rauch: It's really ubiquitous. We're seeing people come at it from all directions. So you have your data center partners -- people that've been selling a lot of EMC, or a lot of Dell. Or a lot of HPE, for that matter. And VMware virtualization. So they want to go from the on-prem to the off-prem. Then you're looking at service providers -- some of the largest service providers, that want to complement the offerings that they already have with VMware. Then you have the AWS partners, where we have some commonality, but not a lot of commonality -- that are saying this is a new revenue stream for us, we want to get involved. So you really have those three things coming together.

Could you say more about how AirWatch fits into Workspace One, the new endpoint management platform?

Ford: When you think about Workspace One, it's kind of a re-packaging of a lot of core products that VMware has built over the years. It's our effort to put it into one suite. The functionality is not going to go away -- nothing's going to change on the product side. What we're pushing customers toward is [that] this is our vision of the digital workspace. It's any app, on any device, whenever you need it. AirWatch is a core tenet of that, but there's also Horizon Cloud. And we have an identity piece to enable some of these things across your Android, iOS, Windows device.

Rauch: Partners are really embracing it. EMM was interesting; unified endpoint management is much more interesting. Obviously, security is a concern. The ability to connect what we're doing at the device level to micro-segmentation, to NSX, is really appealing to the partners. They have an opportunity to cross-sell, they have an opportunity to upsell. They have an opportunity to be able to deliver services to make it a much richer environment, to be able to increase deal size, and to create more value to what they're selling.

What should partners know about where AirWatch is at right now?

Ford: The Gartner [Magic Quadrant] report just came out, and we're in the upper-right-hand corner again -- I think it's the sixth year in a row. I think that we want to get to the market -- and to the partner ecosystem as well -- that it's more than just iOS and Android management. We're expanding to the unified endpoint management moniker. Windows 10 is a big part of that growth for us. And it's an opportunity for partners to embrace the product, maybe change those practices from those legacy imaging, to these new out-of-box experiences and ongoing management. It's device-as-a-service. And AirWatch, and Workspace Onn, can be that pivotal back end for them to provide that to their customers.

Going into VMworld, what is the message about VMware overall for partners?

Rauch: We're fortunate, as you've seen in our first-quarter earnings, that we have good market momentum, we have good growth. We believe we have above-average market growth. And we're really focused on four things. No. 1 would be modernizing the data center -- taking on-prem environments. That's working with technologies like VxRail and VxRack, to be able to offer joint solutions, hyper-converged, virtualized storage and virtualized networking for the 500,000 customers that have already bough vSphere. Second is what Paul is talking about -- empowering the digital workspace. That's Workspace One, it's creating a better end-user experience. It's working with people like Microsoft, with Samsung, Google, Apple, etc., to be able to create that experience together.

The third part of it is really security and transforming security. So, working with Palo Alto Networks, Check Point, Trend Micro, McAfee, Fortinet, etc., to be able to virtualize the network environment, virtualize the security environment. We'll have some really exciting news when we get to VMworld on that front. And finally it's integrating public clouds -- the work we just discussed with IBM, with AWS, with Azure, etc. But it's also this concept of cross-cloud management. So, understanding that the world is going to be a multi-cloud world, and how do you take all the management and expertise, automation, operations, etc., and now take that toward multiple clouds.