VMware preps partners for software-defined enterprise

VMware channel chief Dave O'Callaghan

VMware channel chief Dave O’Callaghan

SAN FRANCISCO – Vmware’s Partner Exchange conference this year has a theme of “master the new reality,” and the company’s kickoff keynotes held here Tuesday left little doubt that new reality could be boiled down into two words: Software defined.

The industry is no stranger to software-defined networking, and software-defined storage has come into vogue in the last year or two. VMware has spent the last two years talking about its perception of the ongoing evolution of enterprise infrastructure as a whole as the software-defined data centre, and spent much of its time Tuesday educating partners about what it calls the software-defined enterprise. The concept was so central to the presentation that VMware channel chief Dave O’Callaghan coined the coming era “the software-defined decade.”

Aside from providing a lot of ammunition for a potential Partner Exchange 2014 drinking game, VMware’s message to partners was clear. O’Callaghan and VMware president and COO Carl Eschenbach made it clear that the company’s partners have done amazing work in the compute virtualization realm, highlighting record revenues of $5.2 billion last year, 85 per cent of which were realized through the channel. But the company clearly needs its channel to evolve, to join it as it pushes beyond compute virtualization into network and storage virtualization, as well as desktop virtualization, the company’s next frontiers.

Eschenbach made the case that these changes are necessary because of the current environment, where many enterprises have squeezed all the value they can out of compute virtualization. The company puts the value of such efforts at $10 billion annually over unvirtualized environments. But to keep growing the business, and keep compressing the amount customers spend on infrastructure, solution providers need to virtualize across the data centre, and that’s where VMware’s upcoming NSX (networking virtualization) and VSAN (storage virtualization) products come in.

“We’re gong to deliver the software-defined enterprise, and for the first time ever, we’re going to be able to deliver IT at the speed of business,” Eschenbach told partners. “We disrupted the market in a very positive way and created a positive economy around virtualization. But we need to continue to evolve, and move horizontally across the unvirtualized parts of the enterprise.”

VMware’s partners, he said, are in a unique position to do that, as the channel has sold some 70 per cent of all servers in data centres, 85 per cent of data centre networks, and 65 per cent of data centre storage.

“You have implemented your customers’ data centres today, and we, collectively, are going to take advantage of that infrastructure and extend it as we build the software-defined data centre,” Eschenbach told attendees.

The company pegs its total addressable market for the software-defined data centre at $50 billion this year, but says that with partner services on top, that figure doubles.

O’Callaghan urged partners to “build a practice around the software-defined enterprise,” but it’s clear this is a moving target for partners. VMware has yet to fully define its products for storage and networking virtualization, although they are clearly on the way, and it still needs to figure out partner enablement around them. To support that need, the company announced a new Elite classification of partner, a selective group of “a handful” of top partners, both by geographic region and technological focus, who will be privy to VMware’s technology roadmap ahead of the public and other partners. Colleen Kapase, senior director of global partner readiness, said this group will be used to help shape its partner enablement plans around the upcoming NSX and VSAN products.

“We owe it to our partners to figure it out before we bright to the thousand of partners out there and cross the chasm,” she said in a post-keynote press conference.

The company also announced changes to its deal registration program to make it more lucrative, bumping up discounts for Enterprise (10 per cent) and Premier (12 per cent) partners, and giving Professional partners a small deal registration lift (two per cent) for the first time. It’s part of an effort to first get partners to bring their customers to VMware, and then get more partners selling across its three main business categories – software-defined data centre, hybrid cloud, and end user computing.

O’Callaghan also said it would look to work more closely with distributors, going from seeing disties as a supply chain to “an integrated supply chain” to help with its cross-selling efforts and getting its partners onboarded and enabled across its new areas of focus.

CTO Ben Fathi told partners that the concept of the software-defined data centre was real, and customers were buying in, showing a list of major companies including Subaru, Symantec, Dow Jones, and Lufthansa whom it says are actively building or have built a VMware-based software-defined data centre.

“2014 is the year the software-defined data centre becomes a reality,” Fathi told attendees.