VMware doubles down on increasing relationships with strategic vendor partners

Ricky Cooper, who has now formally assumed the permanent role of VMware global channel chief, talked with ChannelBuzz at the VMware Explore event about the initiatives they have planned even before the newly announced changes to the partner program kick in early next year.

Ricky Cooper, Head of Worldwide Partner Channel and Commercial Sales at VMware

SAN FRANCISCO – While VMware just announced a major redo of their partner program, which will go live next February, they are also placing great emphasis on further building out their relationships with strategic vendor partners, and their channel partners. They presently have a strong relationship with Dell and would like to bring other vendor relationships close to that level.

Ricky Cooper, who has been at VMware for six years, runs this initiative as Head of Worldwide Partner Channel and Commercial Sales at VMware. He was named to replace Sandy Hogan after she decided to leave the company this summer. The appointment was originally an interim one, but since has been made permanent.

“That changed around three weeks ago,” Cooper told ChannelBuzz. “We had some success.”

Many partners at the show were concerned about the implications once the sale to Broadcom closes, something that Hogan, like other VMware executives, is legally unable to discuss before the close. Broadcom’s channel history, in particular the tiny channel it created for the CA integration, and their integration of the old Symantec channel so far, raise some concerns among partners at a company like VMware for whom the channel is so central a part of their business. Yet Cooper also emphasized that the vast natural changes taking place in the channel are also attracting a significant part of their channel partners’ attention.

“Partners are focused on where we are headed now,” he said. “Our customer base has signed up to multi-cloud, and they recognize that it is a 5-10 year journey. Partners are also changing their business models, and today they are much more likely to want to work teaming with other partners to drive adoption or consumption. Disties are also in a state of flux with their perpetual business in decline. Our message for partners now is look at what we are doing. It is business as usual, but with an extra impetus.”

Two weeks ago, VMware announced major changes to their Partner Connect program February, to address these issues. The changes will kick in next February, to allow partners plenty of time to adjust. The changes will also provide more opportunities to drive VMware’s SaaS and subscription sales and allow for more services-led growth opportunities, and will incent partners for their capabilities as well as for performance.

“PC 2.0 can connect every aspect of partners’ journey,” Cooper said. “We are doing a lot of work around linking our APIs with partners and distribution partners. We are building our own marketplace and we see that as a key going forward, as well as working with distribution on what their marketplaces look like.”

To a degree however, while this new incarnation of Partner Connect has been in development for some time, Cooper said that parts of it are still being developed, particularly around extending strategic relationships with large OEMs.

“The program was originally come up with by Jenni Flinders 4-5 years ago, and we are now re-encapsulating it with Partner Connect 2.0,” Cooper indicated. “Im really working this out on the fly. We have a fantastic relationship with Dell, and we have a framework agreement with them in place. The issue is how do we raise the tide with these other strategic partners. That’s in our interest and that’s where we are making our effort now.”

Cooper highlighted HPE in particular.

“We are active in HPE GreenLake, but the question is how do we improve that,” he said. “GreenLake meets a major customer need. They want a single service from on-prem and that’s what GreenLake offers. With GreenLake, we are partnered today when a customer demands it. We need to make sure we are much more than a small fragment of what they are doing.”

Cooper has been an afficionado of this model for some time.

“During the time that I spent between working at Microsoft, and coming here, I worked in a data centre,” he noted. “IBM software was doing a smaller concept of this back in 2016, and I knew this was a really great model for ease of doing business.”

Cooper also highlighted VMware’s new partner portal.

“This is what partners asked us for,” he said. “Before, we had stats and data. Now both the partner and us can look at it all at the same time, and see the active pipeline. The portal also allows us to provide additional insight. For instance, we can point out that they have an application practice, but aren’t using Tanzu.”