Scenes From VMware's Partner Summit

Over the course of four days starting Monday, April 13, VMware brought together some of its top partners and nearly all its top executives to discuss the future of the data center.

The two main topics of conversation were VMware's cloud-computing technology and vSphere, which is VMware's next version of its virtualization technology aimed mainly at helping customers get their IT infrastructures ready for cloud computing.

Details of the upcoming vSphere product family are hush-hush until early next week, but some information from the vendor did emerge during the partner summit.

Turn the page to learn more about vSphere, the cloud, and how VMware expects partners to both help drive and benefit from the new technologies.

Rick Jackson, chief marketing officer of VMware, set the tone for the conference by talking about VMware's four primary focuses going forward.

The first is getting customers 100 percent virtualized as a prelude to helping them take advantage of cloud computing, including introducing them to the company's new vSphere family of products.

The vSphere line, details of which will be unveiled in the near future, is VMware's follow-up to its Virtual Infrastructure 3 (VI3) product line, and will include several new technologies for helping customers build internal compute clouds, access external compute clouds and bring the two together in what VMware terms a 'private cloud.'

"With our new vSphere and its emphasis on automation and integration, there's no reason customers can't get 100 percent virtualized," Jackson said.

VMware's second focus is working with partners to help customers build cloud infrastructures.

The third is virtual desktops, which are a necessary component of getting customers into a 100 percent virtualized environment, Jackson said.

The fourth is working with partners, including solution providers and technology partners, to manage virtual platforms.

VMware's COO Tod Nielsen said that 90 percent of VMware's revenue comes from its 22,000-plus partners worldwide, and that the company has more than 6,700 employees serving 130,000-plus customers.

Nielsen offered a peek at VMware's upcoming vSphere family of products, which he said aggregate and coordinate the underlying resources of a business to provide scale and make it possible to build internal and external clouds.

VSphere is a foundation for treating virtualized workloads like an internal cloud, while extending them to an external cloud, Nielsen said.

He called vSphere a 'cloud OS' in that it also integrates policies and compliance as workloads travel through the compute resources pool, he said.

Nielsen also told solution providers to prepare for the upcoming wave of virtual desktop deployment.

There are about 500 million desktop PCs currently deployed in enterprises worldwide, he said. "And I have yet to meet an IT staff that likes them," he said.

However, Nielsen said, the key to virtual desktop infrastructure, or VDI, is to provision users with the right security, applications, and so on, and not just provision desktops. "Then whatever device the user wants to use, they can use," he said.

Throughout the rest of 2009, VMware plans to roll out a number of facets related to VDI, including centralized management, technology to take advantage of higher-bandwidth WANs, and new ways to improve the performance of high-definition video and 3-D graphics over a LAN, Nielsen said.

"I believe that by 2012, our virtual desktop business [will be] as big as our virtual server business," he said.

Nielsen said that 100 percent of Fortune 100 businesses and 96 percent of Fortune 1000 businesses are VMware customers, and he unveiled a promotion aimed at helping push partners to sign on the other 4 percent of Fortune 1000 businesses.

Nielsen also put up a slide listing the 40 Fortune 1000 companies that are not yet VMware customers.

"For any of you who can get one of these 40 companies signed, you get a free pass to VMworld 2009," he said.

VMworld 2009 is scheduled to be held in San Francisco in August.

Nielsen told partners that server virtualization is a huge opportunity for solution providers, and not just in terms of sales and installation of VMware technology.

Instead, Nielsen said, for every $1 that a customer spends on server virtualization, an additional $11.26 is generated in additional product opportunity for solution providers.

That includes $2.81 in storage products, $1.26 in networking products, $1.24 in business applications, $0.96 in other software, and $0.92 in security products, topped off by an additional $4.06 in professional services.

That kind of drag is a huge opportunity for solution providers, and makes Carl Eschenbach, executive vice president of worldwide field operations at VMware, the principal drag master for the channel.

"I told Carl, put on the stilettos and red boa," Nielsen said. "You are the ultimate drag queen."

Eschenbach seemed to have forgotten to wear his red feather boa and stilettos at the VMware partner summit on the following day.

Nielsen's presentation was right on target in terms of how to help solution providers increase the performance of customers' IT infrastructures while cutting costs, said Pete Peterson, senior vice president and general manager of the Advanced Infrastructure Solutions (AIS) division of Tech Data.

"Their technology was built for that," Peterson said. "Despite the economy, if you have an environment built for virtualization, you can take advantage of it."

The idea of $1 in server virtualization sales dragging another $11.26 in other product and services sales is a compelling message, Peterson said.

"Most of a solution provider's business is built on drag," he said. "So the message is extremely positive, and seems well-received by the partner community as a whole."

Rich Baldwin, CEO of Nth Generation Computing, a San Diego-based solution provider and VMware partner, said that VMware is still the virtualization leader and has the right strategy for helping customers move into the cloud.

VMware's estimate of drag on top of server virtualization sales is off, Baldwin said.

"I just checked our figures this morning," he said. "We're seeing a $19-to-$1 drag. It's a pretty significant part of our practice."

However, there is still a lot of work to be done before the cloud is ready, either for customers or for their solution providers, Baldwin said.

"Large enterprise customers will have an internal cloud," Baldwin said. "But for the external cloud, it's like a few years ago when everyone talked about storage as a service. No way were any big guys going to let their data go outside the company. So the emphasis will be on the internal cloud."

That will change over time, Baldwin said, because the cost of building a data center is high, particularly in terms of key personnel, such as security or storage specialists, who can command six-figure salaries.

"VMware is early in talking about the cloud," he said. "But they're planting their stake in the ground. Somebody's gotta get it started. It's pioneering time right now. The fact that VMware is betting big on this, well, they're doing the right thing."

Eschenbach told partners that VMware has reorganized both its channel team and its channel programs and is looking to help them prepare for the vSphere product family launch.

Eschenbach called vSphere a $22 billion sales opportunity for the channel, based on VMware's estimated $11.26 sales of related technologies, such as storage and networking, for every $1 in sales of VMware licenses.

That figure does not include solution provider services opportunities, Eschenbach said. Nearly all services related to any VMware product, including the upcoming vSphere line, are done by the channel.

Partners should not think that vSphere and cloud computing are limited to enterprise or service provider customers, Eschenbach said. "We're bringing on the first always-on IT infrastructure."

Eschenbach also introduced the new VMware Partner Network program, which he said consolidates the best parts of several other VMware programs.

Within the new program, partners are classified and receive support and benefits according to type of partner, such as system integrator, system builder, OEM, distributor, and so on.

VMware has also combined its sales partner program and services partner program into a single network under which each partner is classified as Premier, Enterprise, Professional or Registered.

VMware wants all partners to eventually be at the Premier level, which is done by meeting specific requirements and is not an invitation-only program, Eschenbach said.

"We want to drive customers to be 100 percent virtualized," he said. "And it's our Premier partners who will get us there."

One of the requirements is to meet three of four new competencies, including infrastructure virtualization, virtualization management, desktop management and business continuity.

One requirement that was dropped by VMware as part of its new program is the $5,400 fee partners had to pay to gain access to the company's services capabilities, Eschenbach said. "No more," he said, generating a round of applause.

Eschenbach also discussed VMware's new Partner Central, a partner portal built on top of technology from Expected to be launched late this quarter, Partner Central includes such features as a partner locater and a variety of marketing material partners can use.

During the third quarter of this year, VMware will also launch a new partner portal specific to license renewals, which Eschenbach said has been a major challenge for partners.

"I'm sure you're tired of telling us about problems, and we're tired of hearing about it," he said.

One change VMware made early this year was to build out three new channel organizations based on geography, including organizations for the Americas, EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa), and APAC (Asia/Pacific), Eschenbach said.

Eschenbach then introduced Rich Geraffo, the company's new general manager for the Americas, who made his first appearance before partners. Geraffo told solution providers that partners are essential to helping the company reach new geographies, new vertical markets and new markets such as virtual desktops.

"You have my personal commitment to value our relationship," he said.

John DeRocker, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Nexus Information Systems, a Minnetonka, Minn.-based solution provider and VMware partner, said that it was good to hear Eschenbach talk about cloud-computing opportunities, even though it is still early.

"I got more clarity on his vision of the cloud and where VMware is taking it," DeRocker said. "But I still think it's a little bit away."

Keith Norbie, director of Nexus' storage division, praised VMware's decision to revamp its partner portal.

VMware's partner portal currently has several issues, such as finding specific information being as difficult as finding a needle in a haystack, Norbie said.

"What's really needed is something like at Amazon and other sites where they track you and customize your experience according to what you looked for in the past," he said. "For some reason, none of the partner portals do that."

To emphasize the new competency certifications from VMware, Eschenbach brought Nth Generation's Baldwin on stage to talk about his experience with the vendor.

Nth was the first VMware partner to complete the virtual desktop competency, a move that has already led to opportunities with customers having thousands of PCs that could be virtualized, and even one with more than 10,000 seats, Baldwin said.

"VMware is a core focus for us," he said. "When we mention VMware in our events, it really draws [attendees]."

In fact, Baldwin said that more than 25 of his company's 60 employees are VMware-certified.

"When interviewing new people, we ask them if they are a VCP [VMware Certified Professional]," he said. "If not, we tell them to come back when they get certified."

Also appearing on stage with Eschenbach were a couple of VMware's technology partners who told the solution provider attendees that they support VMware's move into the cloud and its vSphere plans.

Chad Sakac (center), EMC's vice president of the VMware technology alliance, introduced his company's new V-Max storage array, the latest in EMC's Symmetrix storage array family.

The V-Max, which EMC unveiled in a separate event this week, is based on the Intel Xeon processor, and was designed to scale, Sakac said.

It starts small, with 16 hot-swap ports, 16 Xeon cores, 128 gigabytes of memory and 48 to 320 hard drives per module. Customers can combine up to 256 modules with thousands of ports and Xeon cores and hundreds of petabytes of storage, making it ideal for building private compute clouds, he said.

Sakac, who is known to demonstrate storage on VMware virtual servers using a group of 20 servers in his home basement, hinted that there will be tighter integration of VMware virtual server technology on the V-Max going forward.

"Symmetrix now runs on x86," he said. "Think about that. Somewhere deep in the bowels of EMC in Hopkinton is a virtual machine."

Ed Bugnion (right), vice president and CTO of server access and virtualization at Cisco, said cloud computing needs virtualization, connectivity and scalability, all of which are provided in his company's recently introduced Unified Computing System.

Bugnion said to think of the UCS as a network-attached computer, with its combination of blade server, storage and networking technologies.

UCS is the first platform designed from the ground up for virtualization, and it will increase the density of virtualization going forward, Bugnion said.

"In a few years, virtual machines per watt will be the new data center metric," he said.

Pete Koliopoulos, vice president of global channel marketing at EMC, sat in the front row, probably making sure his colleague Chad Sakac toed the company line about VMax and the channel.

Several vendors used VMware's partner summit to introduce new products that fit the virtual server environment.

FalconStor introduced a new bundled SKU (stocking unit) aimed at making it easier for solution providers to sell and profit from the company's storage virtualization technology.

The SKU is based on the company's FalconStor Network Storage Server (NSS) gateway, which virtualizes and provisions storage across multiple disk arrays and connection protocols from multiple vendors into a scalable SAN solution.

It includes the NSS with 5 TB of capacity, as well as FalconStor's Application Snapshot Director and maintenance as a single SKU with a price of $42,500, said Wendy Petty, vice president of North American sales.

While that price is not discounted from the original list price, solution providers who sell the bundle gain an additional 50 percent discount on top of their regular discount, Petty said.

"By making it a bundle, we make it easier for partners to sell it as a solution," she said. "This increases partners' margins, and increases their services opportunities."

VMware closed its second full day of the conference with a live Latin music band and an invitation to join a conga line or two.