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Whiteboarding Microsoft Dynamics 365

Microsoft Dynamics 365 is the company's most substantial move on business applications since entering the market in 2000 with the acquisition of Great Plains.

With Dynamics 365, Microsoft is adding business applications into the main effort of its strategic approach to the future of technology -- offering a single product to meet many customers' needs that fits the existing mantra of "cloud-first, mobile-first," and peppering it with the emerging emphasis on AI-first.

Previously, the business applications -- CRM and the ERP suites AX, SL, GP and NAV -- existed outside Microsoft's main infrastructure businesses. They often seemed like a side hustle for Redmond. When Dynamics 365 launches on Nov. 1, Microsoft seems to want customers and partners to view Dynamics 365 as one of its core offerings.

At a launch event Tuesday, Microsoft offered a soaring pitch for the suite. "Dynamics 365 [is] our new cloud service with purpose-built apps that enable you to address specific business needs (like sales automation, operations or customer service) and start small with the assurance that the solution can grow as your needs do. Powered by advanced analytics and machine learning -- what we call Intelligence -- Dynamics 365 will usher in a new era of business agility for you, our customers," said Takeshi Numoto, corporate vice president for Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise, in a blog post.

Numoto went on to describe Microsoft's ambitions for the suite: "Designed to help improve manufacturing and supply chain execution, make field service operations more efficient, sell more effectively and ultimately deliver exceptional customer experiences, built-in intelligence capabilities are infused throughout Dynamics 365 apps including: sentiment and intent analysis, preemptive service, relationship insights, lead and opportunity scoring, product recommendations and up-sell/cross-sell, and many more."

Those capabilities all have to be constructed and developed from existing pieces of Microsoft's IP, and packaged into new components, some of which will be ready at launch, others of which will arrive later.

I've sketched out a few diagrams on the whiteboard on my office wall to clarify what the suites are, what the components will be, where those components come from and when different pieces will be available.

[Click on image for larger view.] Figure 1: Dynamics 365 components.

When Dynamics 365 becomes generally available on Nov. 1, it will be offered in two editions, Enterprise and Business. Broadly, the design goal was to make Enterprise appropriate for companies with more than 250 employees and Business for companies with fewer than 250 employees. At least at launch, Enterprise is a much, much more full-featured package than Business. If you think about the competitive set -- think Salesforce, SAP and Oracle as the competition for Enterprise and think QuickBooks as the competition for Business -- most of the demo capabilities shown on Tuesday and the built-in intelligence capabilities that Numoto blogged about would appear to skew heavily to the Enterprise side of Dynamics 365.

Recognizing that every customer is different -- some small shops have substantially more sophisticated requirements than some larger shops -- the 250-employee cutoff is not a hard-and-fast rule. Microsoft will sell the Enterprise edition with as few as 20 seats, and customers can buy up to 300 seats of the Business edition.

Speaking of seats, named user subscriptions are the primary way that Microsoft plans to license Dynamics 365, although a device licensing option will be available for things like kiosks or warehouse tablets that shift workers might use. Microsoft envisions two kinds of users of Dynamics 365 -- full users and light users. Full users will either buy a plan, which gives them access to all of the applications inside their Dynamics 365 edition, or a license specific to one application, which also includes rights to PowerApps that might access data from other applications. For light users, companies will buy Team Member subscriptions at a much lower price per seat. Those subscribers would be able to do things like update their timecards, enter expenses or update their human resource records inside Dynamics 365.

By describing the applications, it starts to become clear what kinds of capabilities the suite will deliver on Day 1 versus what it will only be able to deliver after additional components arrive. At launch on Nov. 1, Microsoft will offer five applications in the Enterprise edition and only one application in the Business edition.

The Enterprise edition applications are Dynamics 365 for Operations, Dynamics 365 for Sales, Dynamics 365 for Customer Service, Dynamics 365 for Field Service and Dynamics 365 for Project Service Automation.

Dynamics 365 for Operations is the full-bore ERP component of the Enterprise edition, and Microsoft chose Dynamics AX as the source product to provide the underlying capabilities of this application. Operations will be the most expensive application of the five to subscribe to by quite a bit, a move Microsoft justifies based on the relatively small number of users who require full-fledged ERP capabilities. The choice of AX as opposed to GP, SL or NAV makes sense in light of the complete re-architecting of the product for release earlier this year as an Azure-first ERP system.

Dynamics 365 for Sales and Dynamics 365 for Customer Service are two applications representing core CRM capabilities, and both seem to depend primarily on elements that were already included in Dynamics CRM Online.

The other two applications are Dynamics 365 for Field Service and Dynamics 365 for Project Service Automation. According to Forceworks and RapidStartCRM CEO Steve Mordue, who blogs regularly about Dynamics 365, both applications seem to come from Microsoft's July 2015 acquisition of FieldOne, a field-service application that was already integrated with Dynamics CRM. "This ultimately turned in a twofer, as the core resource scheduler of Field Service was forked by Microsoft to create Project Service, their PSA solution," Mordue wrote last week in a insightful analysis of former Microsoft CRM boss Bob Stutz's acquisition spree.

The Business edition at this point contains only one application, Dynamics 365 for Financials. It is the productization of "Project Madeira," which Microsoft made available in a public preview in April. Madeira was a Software as a Service (SaaS) small and midsize business (SMB) management solution that is based on the Dynamics NAV platform, tightly integrated with Microsoft Office, multitenant and hosted in the Azure public cloud.

[Click on image for larger view.] Figure 2: Missing Dynamics 365 pieces at launch.

Some of the core components required to light up a lot of Dynamics 365 functionality won't be available immediately at launch.

Probably coming on the Enterprise edition side, there's the Dynamics 365 for Customer Insights application. Based on the Cortana Intelligence Suite, Numoto wrote that Customer Insights, which was unveiled on Tuesday, "connects and analyzes data from Microsoft -- and other widely used CRM, ERP, web, social and IoT sources -- and applies intelligence to it to give you a 360-degree customer view with automatic suggestions to improve engagement." Customer Insights is scheduled for availability in December.

In some earlier documentation, Microsoft listed plans to release a Marketing application for the Enterprise edition, but it's not clear yet what technology that product would be based on. One possibility is the Adobe Marketing Cloud. In an announcement from Microsoft Ignite last month about the partnership, the companies stated that "Microsoft will make Adobe Marketing Cloud its preferred marketing service for Dynamics 365 Enterprise edition, giving customers a powerful, comprehensive marketing service for Microsoft's next generation of intelligent business applications." Mordue blogged separately last week that he's been told by Microsoft that the Marketing app has been canceled in favor of using Adobe. RCP hasn't been able to confirm that with Microsoft yet.

On the Business edition side, Microsoft also has placeholders for business applications covering Sales and Marketing. The Business edition will also only be available immediately in the United States and Canada. Versions for other geographies are all coming later.

There was little mention this week either about what role Microsoft's LinkedIn acquisition might play in the Dynamics 365 lineup. Given the obvious advantages of LinkedIn's professional social network platform and data for CRM, it's safe to assume substantial integration in the future.

[Click on image for larger view.] Figure 3: Other key Dynamics 365 technologies.

While the availability of the discrete business applications will be critical to unlock much of Dynamics 365's promise, there are other Microsoft technologies that undergird, connect and integrate the Dynamics 365 applications and solutions. Some, like AI, Internet of Things and chatbots will become more important later. There are a few that Microsoft is using already on a broad basis across the suite.

Microsoft's Azure public cloud has a starring role -- it's the platform on which all of the Dynamics 365 products and functions are being built. Other technologies being touted heavily by Microsoft right now that partners and customers will need to understand to get the most out of Dynamics 365 include:

  • Common Data Model: Microsoft's out-of-box business database for storing and managing business entities.
  • PowerApps: Microsoft's service for building and using custom business apps that connect to data and work across the Web and mobile.
  • Flow: Microsoft's SaaS offering for automating workflows across business users' applications and SaaS services.
  • AppSource: A marketplace for partner applications.
  • Office 365: Microsoft's SaaS-based productivity suite, which is heavily integrated with Dynamics 365.

The technologies Microsoft will roll out as Dynamics 365 on Nov. 1 represent a big step forward in Microsoft's business applications story. But it looks like it will be mid-2017 or later before some important elements become available.

Posted by Scott Bekker on October 14, 2016 at 4:17 PM0 comments

Hertz Stepping Down from New Signature

High-profile Microsoft partner Christopher Hertz is stepping down from New Signature, the two-time Microsoft United States Partner of the Year company that he founded 13 years ago.

Hertz has been president of the fast-growing, Washington, D.C.-based company since April 2015, when New Signature landed a $35 million venture capital investment from Columbia Capital, which brought in a new chairman and a new CEO.

In a statement, New Signature said Hertz was stepping down as president "to focus more time on family, personal interests and future opportunities." According to the company, Hertz had been working with CEO Jeff Tench on the transition and this week moves from his active management role to an advisory role. His official last day as a New Signature employee is set for the end of the month.

"I have the utmost confidence and belief that New Signature will continue to be incredibly successful," Hertz said in a statement. "It is with tremendous pride that I hand over the reins to a very capable team, led by Jeff Tench, CEO and Neil Hobbs, Chairman. As a shareholder, I look forward to watching the company grow and shine. As an alumnus, I will continue to be a fanatic and evangelist for New Signature."

Microsoft has featured Hertz regularly at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) and at its internal sales meeting, Microsoft Global Exchange (MGX). He has had WPC speaking slots from 2012 to 2015, including onstage roles in the heavily attended North American keynotes in 2014 and 2015, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Posted by Scott Bekker on October 07, 2016 at 8:42 AM0 comments

Disaster Recovery Firms Offer Free Services Ahead of Hurricane Matthew

As Hurricane Matthew churned toward the Florida coast Thursday afternoon and residents of the southeastern United States evacuated, disaster and recovery vendors spun up emergency programs to help unprotected businesses with last-minute efforts to save their data.

Matthew was expected to make an extremely close approach along the Florida coast Thursday night as a Category 4 or even possibly a Category 5 hurricane. Although it was not expected to make landfall, Matthew's storm surge and winds could still wind up being more devastating than a more typical hurricane strike.

As the National Weather Service put it Thursday morning in its hurricane statement, "Widespread extensive to devastating wind impacts will be felt. ... Effects such as these ranging from the coast to well inland have not been experienced in central Florida in decades."

Exacerbating the problems is an overall weather pattern that is currently expected to bring the storm in a looping pattern back off the Florida coast after lashing Georgia and South Carolina, with the potential for even longer power outages due to the potentially extended battering.

Axcient Inc. and StorageCraft Technology Corp. were among vendors who announced free emergency help for companies that needed to back up data.

"In the face of Hurricane Matthew, we are offering complimentary, no-commitment disaster recovery and data protection services to businesses who could be impacted," said Axcient CEO Justin Moore in a statement. The offer to back up data to Axcient's cloud-based recovery service, Fusion, "is valid for up to 30 days or until the impacted business is stabilized, whichever is longer," he said.

StorageCraft set up an emergency URL, storagecraft.com/storms, where businesses and non-profits in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina could begin the process of backing up data for free with StorageCraft ShadowProtect SPX software.

"The best way to ensure business continuity after the storm is to prepare before the storm," said Curt James, vice president of marketing and business development at StorageCraft, in a statement. "ShadowProtect SPX gives IT professionals a chance to back up, and reliably recover, their critical systems and data quickly. This will allow them to focus even more time on safeguarding their businesses and families as the storm approaches."

StorageCraft's offer gives users 15 days to back up systems and data, and those who back up data by Oct. 14 will be able to recover the data for free.

Posted by Scott Bekker on October 07, 2016 at 8:31 AM0 comments

StorageCraft Adds Tiers, Training to Partner Program

The overhauled partner program that StorageCraft Technology Corp. executives promised earlier this year when the company got its $187 million private equity investment went live on Wednesday.

"Really as you look at it -- the way the company is changing, the expansion of the product line -- we kind of knew it was time to really revamp the entire partner program," said Marvin Blough, vice president of worldwide sales and one of several veteran technology executives brought in after Chairman and CEO Matt Medeiros joined the Draper, Utah-based company in January.

StorageCraft created a partner advisory board in May, and feedback from those partners helped lead to several significant changes, Blough said in a telephone interview.

The most visible change is taking the StorageCraft Partner Network from a single-tier program to one with four tiers -- platinum, gold, silver and authorized. Membership levels are determined based on a new certification component and to a lesser extent on revenues, Blough said.

A newly launched partner portal includes e-learning modules for both sales training and technical training. Those resources are free, although partners can pay for face-to-face training. The sales training takes about four hours. Technical training for a new Engineering Certification takes about 20 hours and is the cornerstone of the new tiers. A silver partner needs one certified engineer, while gold takes two certified engineers. To reach platinum, one of those two engineers required for gold needs to hit a higher "master" level.

In order to acknowledge the experience of longtime partners, technicians can test out of some of the training.

"If you go through and take the test, and you don't pass it, it will tell you which parts you are weak in, and which parts you're strong in. There may be 20-hours of classes, but realistically if you went through and took the tests, you could say, 'I don't need to take those eight hours of classes, but I do need to take these six to eight hours of classes,'" Blough said.

Among the benefits of moving up in the tiers are joint marketing development funds, deal registration and additional points of margin. Broad benefits that apply to all tiers include beta software, not-for-resale software, marketing materials, and access to purchase and renew licenses through the self-service portal.

Last month, StorageCraft refined its focus by acquiring Gillware Online Backup, which will help StorageCraft partners develop consultative relationships around backup in which they can help customers prioritize how data gets backed up.

The company is developing training modules for later delivery around the Gillware technology, as well as around a StorageCraft Cloud to Cloud data protection solution for Microsoft Office 365, Google Apps, Salesforce.com and Box that is currently scheduled for availability in December.

Posted by Scott Bekker on October 05, 2016 at 12:37 PM0 comments

Microsoft Seeks To Frame Global Technology Policy Debate

Satya Nadella and Brad Smith kicked off a Microsoft campaign to shape the global debate on technology policy with a joint keynote in Dublin, Ireland, Monday morning and the release of a policy book containing 78 specific recommendations.

At a base level, Microsoft's interest in the global policy debate around the future of the cloud has to do with protecting its multibillion-dollar investment in a public cloud infrastructure and trying to maximize the opportunity for those datacenters to store and serve data and computing power to customers in as many countries as possible.

Nadella made a higher-minded case for the company's involvement in his speech. "With any new technology like the cloud, one of the profound things that happens is change, and rapid change and disruptive change. And so it is incumbent on companies like Microsoft and the broader tech community and governments to have that dialogue where we look at this new technology and ask ourselves the question: 'Is this technology truly going to benefit everyone on the planet? Is this technology that is helping to solve some of the pressing issues, whether they be in education or in health care?'" said Nadella, Microsoft's CEO since 2014, whose main slogan during his tenure has been "cloud-first, mobile-first."

On stage, Nadella held up Microsoft's contribution to that discussion in the form of a book called "A Cloud for Global Good," which Microsoft posted online Monday morning. "That is a concrete step that we are taking to propose a set of ideas, a set of policy considerations, for broader discussion so that we can come up with ways that these disruptive technologies can help global growth in a way that is more trusted, more responsible and more inclusive," he said.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella holding a copy of "A Cloud for Global Good" during Monday's presentation.

The first chapter of Microsoft's book sets up the positive and negative futures the cloud could enable:

The potential is so vast that some are already calling it the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The benefits could be enormous. It's now possible to imagine a not-too-distant future in which poverty has all but been eliminated, diseases that have plagued mankind for millennia have been eradicated, a solution for climate change has been found, and new forms of communication and collaboration have unleashed creativity and innovation on an epic scale.

But it's also possible to look at the same technological revolution and wonder if we may be headed toward a darker future in which robots and automation drive millions of people out of the workforce, income inequality becomes an unbridgeable chasm, public safety is constantly under siege, and privacy is undermined by intrusive surveillance and the uncontrolled collection of personal information.

Microsoft's recommendations fall into 15 categories: personal privacy, government access to data, cross-border data flows, secure and reliable cloud services, international cybersecurity norms, modern cybercrime prevention, balancing human rights and public safety, technology fraud and online exploitation, environmental sustainability, artificial intelligence, affordable and ubiquitous access, digital literacy, developing next-generation skills, including people with disabilities, and supporting businesses of every size.

Smith, Microsoft's president and chief legal officer, has taken the lead for Microsoft in advocating for cross-border flows of data, for individual rights to data access and for limitations on state surveillance powers.

"It's about ensuring that the kinds of traditional protections that we've all had, not just for years but for centuries, for information that was stored on paper, actually persists for information that is stored in the cloud," Smith said during his keynote.

Also on Monday, Microsoft announced that it had spent $3 billion in Europe alone on its public cloud datacenter buildout and that it would be opening datacenters in France in 2017.

Posted by Scott Bekker on October 03, 2016 at 12:23 PM0 comments

Microsoft Azure Footprint Approaching 3 Dozen Regions

Microsoft this week at its Ignite show in Atlanta unveiled several new regions for the Azure public cloud, opening its first two regions in privacy-conscious Germany and pinpointing plans for four more regions around the world.

Microsoft Azure is the second-largest global public cloud by customer revenues, according to independent analyst estimates, and Microsoft now claims an Azure presence in twice as many regions as the public cloud market-leading Amazon Web Services (AWS).

"Over the last several years we've been hard at work expanding it to run literally all over the world," said Scott Guthrie, executive vice president for the Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise Group, in an Ignite keynote Monday. "We now have 34 unique Azure regions around the world."

Guthrie described Azure regions as clusters of multiple datacenters that are geographically close to customers to allow them to access data and computing power faster.

[Click on image for larger view.] Guthrie's keynote included this slide showing Microsoft's Azure regions worldwide.

The list includes 30 generally available regions, including a pair that just opened in Germany, where Microsoft previously didn't have a presence.

"The Microsoft Cloud is also the only [global] cloud vendor licensed to operate legally in China, and the only to offer full data sovereignty in Germany, using our data trustee model," Guthrie said.

To meet German data sovereignty requirements, data in the new regions in Frankfurt and Magdeburg will be under the control of T-Systems, a Deutsche Telekom company acting as the German data trustee. Those new datacenters bring Microsoft's European Azure region list to six, joining Ireland, the Netherlands, Cardiff and London.

Guthrie's total of 34 also includes four regions that are in the development stage but are not yet online. Those are a U.S. Department of Defense East and a U.S. Department of Defense West, as well as two regions in South Korea.

Amazon categorizes its public cloud AWS infrastructure differently and, like Microsoft, positions its datacenter coverage in a light favorable to the physical investments the company has made. While it currently lists 13 regions worldwide with four more in the works, Amazon can make a case that the 35 entities within those regions that it calls availability zones are similar in some ways to what Microsoft calls regions. Although Azure currently has a regional presence in 12 countries, AWS is close behind in 10. Both Microsoft and Amazon detail the global scope of their datacenter infrastructure here for Azure and here for AWS.

Posted by Scott Bekker on September 27, 2016 at 3:13 PM0 comments

Dell Unveils 2 New Mobile Thin Clients

Dell on Thursday unveiled a refreshed line of mobile thin clients based on the Latitude family of laptops.

The Dell Latitude E7270 and the Dell Latitude 3460 will both be available on Oct. 4. While these new clamshell-based devices are mobile thin clients, the bulk of thin client demand is expected to continue to be for desktop devices, said Dan O'Farrell, senior director of product marketing for Dell Cloud Client-Computing.

"[We have] a lot of flavors of thin clients or what we call zero clients. Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for organizations to furnish the right devices," O'Farrell said. Industries in which mobile thin clients tend to be especially appropriate include finance, health care, government, manufacturing and the energy and exploration sector, he said.

The Dell Latitude E7270 is a "corridor warrior" mobile thin client powerful enough for local use of CAD/CAM applications.

The E7270 is the higher-end of the two devices, with enough horsepower to handle local rendering for CAD/CAM applications, while still portable enough with a 12.5-inch screen and a weight of 2.77 pounds. O'Farrell described the device as appropriate for a "corridor warrior," someone who roams to different work areas inside an office complex rather than necessarily leaving the premises with the device.

The Dell Latitude 3460 is one of two new mobile thin clients from Dell that will be available Oct. 4.

The Latitude 3460 is designed for knowledge workers with use cases where it's important for regulatory or legal reasons that the data accessed on the device be locked down, he said.

Both devices will ship with Windows Embedded Standard 7 64-bit. Although Microsoft offers a Windows 10-generation operating system for thin clients, O'Farrell said the Windows 7 version is "the sweet spot for companies right now."

The mobile thin clients are deployable and manageable with Dell's Wyse Device Manager or with Microsoft System Configuration Manager. Dell is also offering Dell Data Protection | Threat Defense as an option for advanced threat protection of the mobile thin clients.

Posted by Scott Bekker on September 22, 2016 at 9:30 AM0 comments

StorageCraft Adds Intelligence to Backup with Gillware Buy

StorageCraft Technology Corp. is bolstering its business continuity platform with technology from a company in the Upper Midwest that prioritizes which data gets backed up.

"This is all about being smarter -- don't just store everything over and over again," said StorageCraft CTO Scott Barnes of the company's acquisition this week of Gillware Online Backup. With the deal, StorageCraft gets Gillware's file backup solution, its data analytics tool for determining what data to back up, a rules engine for prioritizing backups and about 15 employees.

The company's founder and president, Wes Gill, will continue operations in Madison, Wis., as Gillware Data Recovery, which specializes in recovering data from mechanically failed storage devices and counts Western Digital and Dell among its major clients. While terms of the deal were not disclosed, StorageCraft CEO Matt Medeiros said in a statement that funding came entirely from recent growth in operating cash flow rather than debt.

Barnes said the Gillware file backup technology may be worked into hybrid backup and recovery solutions along with StorageCraft's flagship image-based solutions, but that the deal was mostly about the analytics and the rules engine.

"Analytics is something that we didn't have. For us, image was everything," Barnes said. "Our new tagline is, 'Not all data is equal and therefore you shouldn't treat it as equal.'"

Current trends like BYOD make prioritizing backup more important than it used to be, said David McConkie, senior director of product management at StorageCraft. "You don't want to give the QuickBooks database file the same level of backup as the picture of the neighbor's dog," he said.

Gillware's tools and rules engine will help StorageCraft focus on three things -- speed of recovery, mitigating liability to a business and better understanding of the total cost of ownership, McConkie said.

Gillware, which has a partner network of its own, had been a StorageCraft provider and reseller. StorageCraft partners have access to Gillware's products through the Gillware portal immediately, and the products will be part of StorageCraft's partner portal in November.

Posted by Scott Bekker on September 21, 2016 at 12:53 PM0 comments

Tech Data To Acquire Avnet Technology Solutions

With its $2.6 billion acquisition of the Technology Solutions portion of Avnet Inc., Tech Data Corp. would bolster its datacenter business and gain a toehold in the Asia-Pacific region.

The blockbuster distribution deal, announced Monday and involving a mix of $2.4 billion in cash and 2.785 million shares of Tech Data common stock, is expected to close in the first half of 2017.

From a revenue standpoint, the deal would make Tech Data about a third larger. Pro forma revenues for the 12 months leading up to July 31 would have been $35 billion for the combined company rather than Tech Data's $26 billion.

Avnet Technology Solutions (ATS) is a much smaller operation with about 40 vendors and 20,000 customers compared to Tech Data's 600 vendors and 105,000 customers. But ATS' focus on converged and hyperconverged infrastructure and other next-generation datacenter technology is a big part of what Tech Data found attractive.

According to the companies, in the year leading up to July 31, "revenue attributable to complex, higher-margin datacenter offerings" would have accounted for 45 percent of total revenue for the combined companies, compared with 29 percent for Tech Data alone. Operating income would have more than doubled over the same period, on a pro forma, non-GAAP basis while accounting for some expected cost savings, the companies said.

The move also gives Tech Data some presence in the Asia-Pacific region where it doesn't currently compete. The company would go from having operations in 21 countries today to 35 countries upon close. Tech Data's current revenue mix is 61 percent in Europe and 39 percent in North America. With ATS included, the mix would be 53 percent in Europe, 44 percent in North America and 3 percent in Asia/Pacific.

Posted by Scott Bekker on September 19, 2016 at 9:27 AM0 comments

Dell-EMC Channel Integration To Come in 2017

The long process of integrating the Dell and EMC partner programs will begin in earnest next year.

Dell on Wednesday announced completion of its acquisition of EMC Corp., creating a $74 billion, 140,000-employee giant called Dell Technologies that the company says is the world's largest privately controlled tech company. Businesses within Dell Technologies include Dell, Dell EMC (another new brand as of Wednesday), Pivotal, RSA, SecureWorks, Virtustream and VMware.

The way the new company will be structured means the biggest immediate impact will be on Dell and EMC partners.

Some of Dell's existing business will move into a Client Solutions Group with products retaining the Dell brand. Servers, storage and some other Dell products will merge with EMC into the new Dell EMC brand under an Infrastructure Solutions Group, headed by President David Goulden, a longtime EMC executive who has been CEO of EMC Information Infrastructure since 2014. Goulden's group will also include Virtustream and RSA, according to a slide shown during a press and analyst call Wednesday.

The services business from Dell and EMC is now also its own business unit, under President Howard Elias, a former EMC executive who led the transition from the EMC side.

Several of Dell Technologies' other companies will stand alone as business units, including VMware, Pivotal and SecureWorks.

As of now, things will stay the same for Dell and EMC partners. "There will be no changes to our partner programs. Upsell and cross-sell opportunities will be identified after the close. Two separate deal registration programs will remain in place (with a deal desk to ensure only one partner holds registration)," a company spokesperson said in an e-mail exchange.

Although Dell and EMC are being split across business units, the vision for 2017 involves combining the partner programs. "We also plan to provide one unified partner program with a centralized channel structure, one approach to deal registration, and robust incentives on incremental and net new accounts. Our intent is to create the best possible program for our alliance and channel partners so they can be successful in servicing their customers," the spokesperson said. "This future business partner program will bring together the best elements of the Dell PartnerDirect Program and EMC's Business Partner Program. "

For other Dell Technologies companies, including the two now in the Infrastructure Solutions Group, it wasn't clear if changes would be coming to their partner programs related to the merger.

Comments during the call by Dell Technologies Chairman and CEO Michael Dell seemed to indicate that partners of those businesses shouldn't expect major near-term changes.

"The rest of our family, Pivotal, RSA, SecureWorks, Virtustream and VMware will continue to keep their independence and retain their freedom to develop their own ecosystems. That's part of our commitment to providing openness and customer choice, foundational principles at Dell Technologies, and, I believe, of any successful technology company," Dell said.

A spokesperson for VMware echoed those points and indicated that Dell Technologies-driven changes to the VMware channel program weren't on the horizon.

"A key to VMware's success is the open ecosystem that it has carefully cultivated over the last decade and a half. Dell Technologies recognizes that VMware thrives on its vibrant ecosystem of partner networks including OEM partners, systems integrators, solution providers, resellers and customers. Dell Technologies intends to support VMware's continuing success as an independent company. Dell Technologies will support VMware's open ecosystem and not place any limitations on its ability to partner," the spokesperson said via e-mail.

Posted by Scott Bekker on September 07, 2016 at 11:06 AM0 comments

VMware Making Workstation, Fusion Upgrade Free

When VMware ships its new generation of desktop virtualization software next week, the upgrade will be free for many existing customers.

VMware plans a half-step incremental release of VMware Fusion and Fusion Pro, which run on Mac computers, and Workstation Player and Workstation Pro, which run on Windows and Linux. The main enhancement of the version 8.5 release of the Fusion line and the 12.5 releases for Workstation is the addition of support for Windows 10 Anniversary Edition and Windows Server 2016 within virtual machines.

"We hear from our users year on year that having to pay for something as small as a minor operating system release gets a little long in the tooth year after year," said Michael Roy, VMware's product line marketing manager for Fusion, Workstation and Horizon Flex, in a telephone interview from the VMworld conference in Las Vegas this week.

The free upgrade compares to current 8.0/12.0 upgrade costs of $50 for Fusion, $80 for Fusion Pro and Workstation Player, and $150 for Workstation Pro.

VMware is also extending the upgrade offer back further than the two releases that upgrade pricing normally permits, Roy said. The free upgrade will be available for users with Fusion 4 or later and Workstation 7 or later.

Part of the reason for saving customers an upgrade fee in this release cycle is that VMware is working on a future dot-zero release with significantly more changes, Roy said.

Nonetheless, Fusion users will see more than just new Windows version support in 8.5. This version of Fusion now supports tabbed virtual machine windows and Siri integration.

Posted by Scott Bekker on August 31, 2016 at 11:31 AM0 comments

D&H Ramps Up Credit to SMB Resellers

SMB-focused distributor D&H Distributing is expanding the amount of credit it offers to resellers by nearly 50 percent, the Harrisburg, Pa.-based company said Monday.

The expansion applies to D&H's Business Assurance program, which combines funding from D&H's vendor partners. The credit expansion applies to nearly 850 reseller customers, who have good credit standing with D&H and show growth potential. The credit lines can go up from $2,500 to $100,000, with typical increases of about $25,000 per reseller, the company said.

In total, the increase in available credit is close to $23 million.

The credits come in addition to a separate Incentive Rewards program, in which resellers earn points for purchases that they can exchange for Visa gift cards, travel certificates, golfing equipment and other items. Purchases made through the credit programs can count toward the incentive points.

D&H executives hope the program will boost overall business in the SMB channel, which they view as an underserved market. In a statement, Tony Warfield, senior director of credit services at D&H, said, "Many programs in the marketplace don't necessarily focus on resellers in the SMB space, and instead direct credit toward larger accounts."

Posted by Scott Bekker on August 29, 2016 at 1:02 PM0 comments