VMware Channel Chief Rauch Touts 'Triple-Digit Growth Opportunities' For Partners In NSX, vSAN

VMware channel chief Frank Rauch said the company is putting more channel muscle behind efforts to capitalize on the success of its emerging software-defined technologies.

"If [partners] want to get into triple-digit-type growth opportunities, NSX, vSAN and some of the other technologies we've announced – like PKS and AppDefense – we afford [them] that ability," Rauch told CRN. "We're trying to open up the margin envelope by enabling them to be able to do services. We're hardening that process so it's absolutely clear and we're trying to be able to make it affordable and available."

Rauch, vice president of the Americas Partner Organization, and his team have in recent months established initiatives designed to make it easier for partners to learn about, master and sell VMware's emerging technologies, like NSX software-defined networking solutions and vSAN hyper-converged infrastructure software.

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The margin opportunities on those products can push into the 20-point range, Rauch said. NSX and vSAN also represent VMware's future as the market for the company's traditional virtualization software declines, which makes it imperative that the company effectively arm partners for life in the software-defined trenches.

"We've made a really, really big push to enable our partners in a way that we've done before, but not at the velocity we've done it, and not at the investment that we've done it," Rauch said.

VMware already has a Partner Professional Services Program in place to offer partners training and sales support. However, Rauch said that when it comes to VMware's "nascent technologies" like NSX, the program wasn't enough.

The result is a new program called the Last Mile, which allows partners to shadow high-level VMware practice architects as they deploy NSX for customers, Rauch said. This gives partners a more thorough view of the technology and better enables them to sell virtual network assessment, monitoring services, deployment services and ongoing support.

"[Partners] always had the opportunity to go in with sales, or the systems engineer, into an account," Rauch explained. "That still exists, and more than it ever did. What Last Mile does is takes it to the next level. Now we have a formalized program in place where the partners willing to commit the right level of investment have the ability to shadow the Level 300 and Level 400 guys on actually deploying NSX."

For Rauch, the "right level of investment," means getting certified in VMware's Partner Professional Services Program. "It's traditional VMware partners like you'd expect, like a WWT or Presidio, and new guys are jumping on the scene as well who are more security-oriented, or network-oriented who have not traditionally been VMware houses," Rauch said.

The Last Mile initiative has been in place for a couple of months, Rauch said, and another initiative, which Rauch called a VMware "university," is just getting under way and hasn't launched officially.

The university is a "brick-and-mortar" facility in VMware's home city of Palo Alto, Calif., and it is intended to offer training for both VMware partners and internal personnel. Its inaugural class will work through the course over the next few months, Rauch said.

The university and the Last Mile initiative go hand in hand with a general effort on Rauch's part to make training more affordable for partners, he said.

"We're looking at the total cost envelope and we continue to try to optimize it," Rauch said. "It's in our best interest to have a number of partners committed to this game, and the cost of training -- we're going to try to reduce that in any way possible."

The latest channel initiatives come as VMware saw first-half revenue growth that topped 12 percent year over year. NSX is on a $1 billion annual run rate, according to Rauch, and vSAN how has 10,000 customers as its sales cycle compresses to about 90 days and 40 percent of customers who buy it buy it again within six months.

Scott Miller, data center director at St. Louis-based solution provider powerhouse World Wide Technology, said VMware is making smart and valuable moves in the channel since its former parent company, EMC, was acquired by Dell about a year ago.

The Last Mile program and the VMware university are being introduced on top of a new enterprise licensing agreement strategy introduced in August that allows Dell EMC Titanium and Titanium Black partners to procure VMware on Dell EMC paper while earning incentives from both companies' programs.

Now, Miller said WWT is expecting as much as 50 percent year-over-year growth in its VMware business, thanks in part to what he called "a huge pickup with vSAN."

"The changes they made with spiffing the sales teams to counter the channel tax and making Dell EMC an option as a [distributor] has made it easier and more profitable to team with them in the channel," Miller said.

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