CRN Interview: Virtual Instruments CEO On New Application-Centric Strategy, Spectre And Meltdown Impact, And Partner Program Revamp In 2018

Bringing 'Tremendous Value' To The Channel

Fresh off the release of its first application-centric infrastructure performance management platform (IPM), Virtual Instruments CEO Philippe Vincent says 2018 is the "coming out party" of a new go-to-market strategy and revamped partner program that will bring "tremendous" value to the channel.

"We're the first infrastructure monitoring platform that now has that application centricity build into it," said Vincent in an interview with CRN. "It's probably the richest and most impressive release ever in the company."

The San Jose, Calif.-based vendor plans to increase sales in 2018 by 25 percent year over year through its new application-centric VirtualWisdom platform. Vincent also talked with CRN about the potential impact from the Spectre and Meltdown security issue and revamping its partner program in the new year.

Will the Spectre and Meltdown security issue affect Virtual Instruments?

Every company is looking at how it's impacting them. Anything from physical assets to the way it will affect the customers. It's largely a security problem, which is not our domain.

Where it might intercept with us is if we were able to find degradation of performance and those might be related to those security flaws being exposed. Clearly, we'd have visibility into that and we'd alert our customers of that. We haven't seen that yet, but we would have the visibility into that.

You grew sales by 25 percent in 2017. Do you expect that same growth in 2018 and from where?

Yes, the same type of growth for 2018. We get our growth from different areas. We have a classic land-and-expand business model because customers usually bring us in for instrumenting and monitoring as part of their data center, usually focusing on one of their most mission-critical workloads where they have performance concerns. Our customers are typically very large, so they've got hundreds of workloads and dozens that are mission-critical that they need to cover. We've experienced nice growth in our existing customers. Last year, we more than doubled our new accounts acquisitions. We're looking at doubling this year also. Another thing about our channel is we have strong alignments to a number of OEMs in the data center.

Will you expand those OEM partnerships in the data center? Like with Cisco, for example?

So these partnerships with companies like Dell EMC and Cisco means we work a lot with their partners in the market and pretty much everything that our customers buy is going to be something that we're working on with partners. We announced a partnership with Cisco last year where we are going to be the first monitoring platform to make sure their new telemetry is available for its core switch on the Fibre Channel side initially, eventually on the Nexus side as well, but that will mean more opportunities for us to work with these partners.

What's your vision for 2018?

The vision and the focus for 2018 is we just delivered our first application-centric IPM platform. We now have the ability to identify what applications run on top of the infrastructure. We have the ability to see which ones are valuable and which ones are recognized as tier one or tier zero depending on how customers defined them. Then we can understand and completely monitor how the applications are stressing the infrastructure and how the infrastructure is responding.

In a way, we looked at what is running on top of the infrastructure and we've developed the context of what we're serving. That's very important because our customers job is to deliver to the business and they do that by delving the application and the user experience. We're the first infrastructure monitoring platform that now has that application centricity build into it. We just released it. This year is the coming out party of this strategy and this capability.

How can partners drive net new sales this year?

We have repositioned our product, and essentially, it's a platform that is a complement of an application performance monitoring solution. APM solutions focus on performance, but application performance doesn’t just depend on how the application is performing, it depends on how the infrastructure is supporting the application. With our product, we can now do a much more thorough job ensuring that the infrastructure is delivering the services that the application needs. We decided to position our company as the highest-value monitoring capability in the market. For our partners, we are a highly differentiated, high-value monitoring platform. We are not a commodity. It's an analytics-rich, high-value platform that really aims at ensuring application performance for the customer.

What's the go-to-market strategy?

We allow customers to automatically set the monitoring policies on their infrastructure based upon what the applications need, and that's automatically defined by our product. We're allowing them to rebalance their workloads across the infrastructure so that the apps and infrastructure are in the best configuration, which saves the customers money and makes the environment more healthy. We also have the deepest visibility and troubleshooting capabilities when trouble arrives. We are positioning ourselves as a complement to the application delivery.

For the partners, if partners want to go up the food chain and become more valuable for their customers because they offer more analytics, more proactive capabilities, better monitoring – that's the type of partner opportunity we're looking for.

Can partners expect changes to the partner program in 2018?

We had a channel program in place, but it was not being utilized and it was not necessarily relevant to the way we do business. We went through a process and we've basically rewritten the program in a lot of ways to really benefit our partners. Rest assured, partners will be very happy with what we have to introduce.

So are you scrapping the current program?

No. It's not a complete rewrite, but there are portions of it being rewritten that will focus in on activities that we deem productive for us and our partners that is driving net new business and net new opportunities that are the lifeblood of the partner's business.

Does that mean new or more training and certifications for partners?

Those are kind of table stakes in any program. Those will be part of what we do, but none of that stuff is going to change in any meaningful way. There will be portions of the overall program that will be changed. It's an important change for us and an important change for the channel that they'll find a tremendous amount of value in.

What's the timeline for the launch of this revamped program?

Early this year. More details to come in the near future.

What differentiates Virtual Instruments from your competitors?

We monitor compute, the storage, the storage interconnect -- so that north-south path for our customers. Our customers in their data center have various technologies that are already monitoring some of these components today. So if they bought technology from Apache or Dell or NetApp, they have technologies on the compute side. We are special because we are across the entire north-south access. Our platform monitors all of those. There's very few companies that do all of that.

So what's the difference between you and a ScienceLogic, for example?

ScienceLogic is offering these kind of broad-based monitoring platforms. In terms of our differentiation, it's several areas. There is the breadth of monitoring that we offer but there's also the quality of the data we see. We're able to look at the data center with a very accurate and real-time view of the data. We use wired data, for example, and we can see every packet, every frame that flows north-south in the data center. That means we can see per-second transactions. We can see very low latencies that are happening and we can monitor that. The real-time information is very important. It is very differentiated on the analytics side.

What's unique about your analytics capabilities?

We have analytics seeking and looking at what can go wrong in those environments, what can become imbalanced. We have analytics that look at workload imbalance at the compute level, for example, and we can recommend to our customers, 'Your workloads are starting to stress the infrastructure in a way that's unhealthy. How about you rebalance and you move these workloads to different loads?' We do the same thing for storage. We can rebalance the customers' workloads. We help them have a more healthy environment. The platform is very rich in analytics and domain knowledge to help customers identify and resolve problems to ensure the health of their environments.

Why are you bullish about 2018?

One of the big goals for 2017 was to deliver this app-centric platform, which we did delver ahead of schedule at the end of 2017. It's probably the richest and most impressive release ever in the company.

2018 is a year where we're focusing on growth and net new customers. Focusing on scaling the business. Last year, we more than doubled our sales force. So we're entering 2018 significantly larger to build scalable growth over the next few years.