Diamanti quickly adopted an all-channel go-to-market in the face of resellers looking for a turnkey enterprise container management solution, and now has introduced a program to support what will start off as a select value channel.
Containers should not be deployed at scale on virtual machines, and the channel needs to recognize that in order to properly capitalize on the quickly expanding application container market. That’s the message of Diamanti, the first company to bring a bare metal container platform to market. Today, they are introducing their first channel program, looking to attract VARs who want to build focused integration practices around containers.
Diamanti emerged from stealth in 2016, well-timed in a market where containers were beginning to move from cool concept to legitimate business opportunity.
“Containers are transforming everything,” said Jeff Chou, Diamanti’s CEO and co-founder, part of a founding team that came out of the Cisco UCS business, who see containers as a logical next step from that technology. “Cisco UCS is the marriage and management of the integrated virtual machine, server and network, and we see ourselves as the next generation of that.” Their bare-metal container platform is a hyperconverged appliance that includes network, storage and compute, and integrates with Docker and Kubernetes to provide smooth management of containers.
“Containers are a new paradigm of working and developing, and that wave of adoption is moving to datacentres whether IT likes it or not,” Chou said. “That’s the opportunity that some partners are beginning to see – although not all of them. We are here to help the channel recognize this, and be relevant in this new world. Going forward, it’s about moving beyond legacy infrastructure like VMware. It’s a tectonic shift in the marketplace.”
Chou stressed that while containers have emerged running on virtual machines, they need to move beyond that for true enterprise scalability.
“If you want to do containers at scale, you don’t run them on virtual machines,” he said. “It’s not efficient. It’s fine for small shops to have containers on virtual machines. In fact, it’s the best way for them. But to do it at scale – no. We think that many legacy applications in the enterprise will remain on virtual machines, but that new ones, especially Big Data and NoSQL-focused ones, should run in containers on bare metal. We see virtualization as a complementary technology for containers. In that sense, we don’t see VMware as a direct competitor. We think our main competition today comes from microservices applications.”
Chou said that the market is still in its early stages.
“Like any major disruption, it’s a wave, with certain elements being further along in their adoption than others,” he said. “It has had widespread adoption among developers. Among Line-of-Business, containers are also widespread, and have reached a critical point. They will appeal to any Line-of-Business looking to increase productivity, regardless of vertical. Where it lags is in IT adoption, with IT considering how they can productize container applications. We see the TAM in the next year as just the beginning – like in the early stages of virtualization.”
To get a handle on how the channel sees the container opportunity today, Diamanti commissioned a survey conducted by Mike Vizard, a veteran channel journalist with a deep focus on enterprise IT issues. These data illustrate that while the channel sees containers as a significant opportunity, it has significant concerns about its ability to take advantage of it. 43 per cent of those surveyed are already working with Docker today, and 31 per cent is already working with Kubernetes. Those are pretty good numbers for early-stage technology. On the other hand, only 36 per cent believe that containers will become a mainstream opportunity for the channel in the next 12 months.
“One of the reasons the channel feels it’s not that big an opportunity is that they haven’t had a solution that would allow them to participate,” Chou said. “Their customers have been building their own solutions. We are showing them that they can be relevant.”
Another issue is that the channel recognizes their lack of expertise around containers. The survey found that 45 per cent described their technical knowledge of containers as “Beginner” level, while only 4 per cent claimed “Expert” knowledge.
“Those are very typical numbers when you talk about a technology disruption,” Chou said. “Another problem is that IT needs to learn more about containers, and since the channel typically sells to IT, there’s a lag. But we think that the tailwind from Docker and Google, will lead to an osmosis process.”
Diamanti is also announcing their first channel program, to help that osmosis process along. Diamanti, even though it is still in its early days, has already adopted a 100 per cent channel go-to-market – even though they came out of the gate thinking that their initial business would need to be direct.
“When I started, I felt that we needed a field team to sell it ourselves and get some wins under our belt before we could educate the channel,” said Shawn Kinnear, Diamanti’s VP of Worldwide Sales. “Two or three months into this, it became very clear that especially in the enterprise space, many companies were already looking at how they were going to start using containers and they were already working with resellers. We saw that those resellers didn’t have an offering for those customers. Since we had no competition, we started working with them quickly, offering them a turnkey solution for their customer.”
As a result, Diamanti transitioned almost immediately to the channel for their go-to-market.
“Everything we do is 100 per cent channel and everything goes through a partner,” Kinnear said. “That was always the goal. We thought we had to validate it first, but the channel was hungry. They didn’t have an offering, and we provided one.”
While Diamanti sells entirely through partners, at this stage, they are looking to build out a select, focused value channel, not a large volume one.
“We have a handful of partners today,” Kinnear stated. “Some came through early direct engagements and they have been a fulfilment arm. We are proactively looking for leading edge VARs that want to provide value around containers.”
Interestingly, CDW, who seldom comes to mind when thinking of the bleeding edge of the channel, is a partner.
“CDW is actually very excited about this,” Kinnear said. “They have already developed a container practice because they were getting all these calls for Kubernetes and containers. We did not go out looking for them, but they were drawn in through a large deal.”
Diamanti now has nine partners registered in their program and are looking to have between 10-15 partners across North America to start.
“We want to build success with a smaller group first,” Kinnear indicated. “We aren’t just taking everyone. We won’t be affective if we spread thin. We are looking for partners who want build integration practices around containers and add services around a container offering. We aren’t looking for ones who just want to move a turnkey box. We have reached out to some select partners, and some have reached out to us. While our focus is on North America, some partners internationally have reached out to us.”
The program, with its limited numbers today, is single tier. Kinnear said that the goal in 2019 will be to move to a multi-tier structure, with these early adopter partners as top tier partners, and with others coming in with the ability to earn that right.
At this stage, the program is fairly bare bones.
“We do not have an automated deal registration program, or MDF or a partner portal, but there is an evolution and we will get to those things,” Kinnear said. “Right now, we want to find good partners who want to build a practice around containers.” They do provide technical training, sales materials, and marketing content, as well as NFR discounted units, SPIFFs, and deal registration with strong rebates.
‘We don’t think that we need to offer any crazy incentives to get people to come in and build a business,” Chou said. “We want partners who want to be early adopters in services and solutions around containers. The DIY model alternative for them is complex, and while it can lead to heavy professional services engagements, which some will find appealing, that’s a management nightmare. Those that want to provide value at the container level – and not have to worry about how containers get built and provided – that’s what we want.”