Along with a collection of new VBlocks designed for new opportunities, VCE has announced significant changes to its partner program that it says will allow it to better serve the emerging demand for its integrated infrastructure offerings in the midmarket.
For VCE, born of a combination of VMware, Cisco, and EMC and combining the three company’s signature offerings into a converged infrastructure stack, it’s the most significant update to its channel program since it launched three years ago. At that time, the company was mainly focused on the enterprise, and therefore a small and focused channel, said D. Martin, VCE’s channel chief. Because of that, program requirements included the right certifications from each of the three investor companies. That move largely blocked the way for smaller partners to get involved, even those that had invested heavily in their own practice with just one or two of the VCE partners.
But as the company and its channel has evolved, Martin said it’s not about the components of the solution as much as it one was. Sure, they’re all still there. Sure, they’re all still critical. But the company’s approach of pre-integrating those pieces has been readily accepted at this point, and there’s enough experience deploying VBlocks at this point for the company to have learned that it’s about more than being able to recognize and represent all the portions of the whole.
“Margins are much greater on solutions and services around a reference architecture than they are on delivering the reference architecture,” Martin said.
Because of that, the company has created specializations around the most popular VBlock-based application areas, and those specializations will be the paramount factor in working with partners from now on.
With the new measures, the company is also introducing a three-tiered program. A new Authorized level is the baseline, and is focused primarily on selling the company’s VBlock 100 and 200 products into the midmarket. The Authorized tier includes standard channel marketing support, and pass-through of rebates from Cisco and EMC. Partners at the Silver level have to have four trained account managers, two trained solutions architects, and specialization on at least one VBlock solution or service. Those partners get enhanced rebates, MDF support, and enablement around their own services and solutions. Gold is the new top level, requiring six account managers, four solutions architects, and two specializations. Partners at this top level get the best rebates, in addition to the Silver benefits, and VCE will, in the right situations, fund VCE-focused headcount along with the partner.
Areas of specialization in the new program, which debuts at the end of the month, include end user computing, applications, data protection, messaging and collaboration, and services.
Today, the company’s worldwide partner base stands at about 300 partners, and Martin estimates that initially, the company will count about 20 Gold partners, 50 Silver, and the balance in Authorized. He said that he expects the number of Authorized partners to double in the short term as a result of the new program and demand for VBlocks in the midmarket, while also anticipating a number of current Authorize partners to make their way to the upper tiers of the program.
“The Authorized tier is intended for partners who are just starting to make their investments in the data center space. We think we can accelerate their time to market,” Martin said. “We feel we have a strong product offering in [the midmarket], now we’re looking to drive more partner adoption there.”
The funding of headcount becomes more crucial as more customers are looking at VBlocks as a sort of on-premise “as-a-service” type of offering – opting to have the infrastructure in their data center, but often choosing to have partner resources on-site managing the solution. It can be an expensive proposition for partners, but one that is both ultimately quite profitable, and brings with it some unique benefits. “VBlocks tend to be stick, and having a partner on-site managing it makes it even stickier,” Martin said.
As the new program launches, VCE is also adding new hardware to its lineup. It’s refreshed the 300 series, its highest-volume product to date, to include support for VNX, and has also introduced a pair of purpose-built VBlock configurations for high-demand environments – one optimized around disk input/output for massive database configurations, and one tailored around high-density VDI projects.