The Windows-focused virtualization management optimization vendor provides a detailed update, including their relationship with Citrix and other co-opetitors, their channel policies, and where they see their market going.
LAS VEGAS – At its partner-focused Citrix Summit event this week, Citrix made a point of emphasizing that the demands for enhanced focus which led to management and corporate strategy changes last year had been heard and responded to. The company detailed how that response was incorporated in their corporate strategy, their channel strategy and their product strategy. The messaging was well received by partners in attendance. But it was also popular among the company’s strategic vendor partners.
“The new regime at Citrix is extremely good news for us,” said Simon Clephan, VP SI Alliances at AppSense. “They are more focused, and they realize they will live and die by the success of desktop deployments.”
Citrix remains the leader in the desktop virtualization market, despite all VMware’s efforts to move up in its only core area where it is not the market leader. Clephan said that this is reflected in the overwhelming importance of Citrix to their business.
“Citrix is a core vendor for us,” he said. “With Salesforce, we can see the account execs putting in the specific driver for each opportunity, and over both the last 6 months and the last 18 months, 70 per cent were related to Citrix. VMware may be the leader in the number of opportunities and SMB, but when it comes to large scale deployments, to a man, ours are all on Citrix.”
VMware is also a very important partner for AppSense.
“You can’t afford to turn your back on 25 per cent of your customers, even though it’s easier to work with Citrix,” Clephan said. “The channel partners are the mission criticals here, because they make the decision which vendor to use and we want to make sure they add us, even though vendors, especially VMware, might say they don’t need us.”
While AppSense has true competitors like RES Software, their largest competitors are also their largest partners, in a classic co-opetition relationship.
“Our three biggest partners – Microsoft, Citrix and VMware – are also our three biggest competitors, and it’s really the field-level relationships between our teams and theirs that decide which it becomes in each case,” Clephan said. “The wiser account reps from these companies realize that we grow the pie bigger together, and rather than trying to get every penny, they call on us when they get into trouble or recognize they might make promises they can’t fulfill. They get us in early and the teams work side by side to make sure the clients are happy, with fast logons and consistent logons.”
While AppSense has customers in all areas, they still have a weighting towards the midmarket and the enterprise.
“We sell to anyone, but typically to customers with more than 500 seats,” Clephan said. “Our smaller customers are typically premier users – lawyers, doctors, traders – who may have only 50 to 100 users but who want to run the most secure desktops and get things fast, and don’t care they have to stand up a server to do it.”
Ironically, AppSense itself went through a similar struggle as Citrix several years back. With their core business around the desktop, they had invested increasing resources in mobility, to the point where customers became concerned about the desktop product and made a point of asking them to confirm their commitment to it. AppSense responded with a renewed focus on the desktop, and has seen strong recent growth as a result.
“We had a solid quarter, driven by strong channel performance,” Clephan said.
AppSense has also made a considerable effort over the past year to be a much more channel-friendly company – increasing the percentage of business that goes through partners, moving to a channel-preferred direct sales comp model to bring partners into deals, and enhancing the structure of the channel program. While several of the changes went live last July 1 at the beginning of AppSense’s fiscal year, the addition of a new Gold Plus tier to the program just kicked in on January 1.
”We have grown the percentage of the business that goes through the channel from 70 per cent to 80 per cent, and we are hoping to get it to 90 per cent,” Clephan said.
“Our solid channel performance has been driven by Gold and Platinum partners, and our top partners do have to make a big commitment,” he stated. “We wanted less of a big jump between Gold and Silver.” The Platinum tier now has 15 partners, the Gold Plus and Gold both have 12, and there are hundreds of entry-level partners, who Clephan said now have a clearer path to become a more committed partner.
The tiers all have escalating training requirements, and the Platinum and Gold Plus tiers get MDF.
“We are very aggressive with our channel managers at doing partner events so they use their MDF,” Clephan said. “The partners aren’t great at spending their MDF, but when you put a channel manager on it, he’s highly motivated to spend it because he’s rewarded for building the pipeline and making things happen.”
The training has a high priority.
“We have spent a long time putting online training together,” Clephan said. “The best training is when you put a trainer in front of a group of people, and we still do face to face training, especially at conferences. The worst is when you just give them manuals to read. In between, you have webinars and online study materials.”
Clephan said the product roadmap also will offer increased opportunity, especially as security becomes the top driver in IT to get things funded.
“We are moving forward with version 10 of the product, jumping from 8x, but the release date is not yet set,” he said. “In April-May we will also put together a security package. We seem to have stumbled into becoming a security company, as today Application Manager, the first product we ever launched back in 1999, is now mainly used in security. We have trusted whitelisting/blacklisting that we are combining with additional security functionality, all of which is our own technology.”
Clephan indicated that while he thinks there will likely not be a Windows 11 – by that time he thinks it will be Windows-as-a-Service – AppSense’s roadmap will cover whatever Microsoft does.
“We are totally beholden to Windows because we give it a faster and more secure logon,” he said.