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Time for Microsoft Partners To Take Another Look at VMware?

If anyone should know how Microsoft partners could make themselves fit into VMware's channel, it's Ross Brown.

For a while the No. 2 channel executive during the Allison Watson and Jon Roskill eras of the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN), Brown has spent the last year as VMware's channel chief.

On Monday, Brown and VMware rolled out some enhancements to the VMware Advantage+ channel program that could make VMware more appealing for more Microsoft partners to work with.

Asked what he thought more Microsoft partners should know about the opportunities in partnering with VMware, as well, Brown encouraged them to "embrace both instead of either or. Most customers are in heterogeneous environments."

Brown pointed out that in some areas, VMware and Microsoft already have strong communities of joint partners. "We have a great relationship through VMware AirWatch with the Windows 10 team," he said. AirWatch was an exhibitor at the recent Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), an event from which VMware used to be excluded. "We're a great driver of the RDS [Remote Desktop Services] CALs for VMware Horizon."

Author's Note: An earlier version of this story included a quotation about the relative volume of Microsoft RDS CALs that VMware and Citrix are driving. The statement triggered a flurry of e-mails from Citrix, Microsoft and VMware executives that aren't really relevant to the main point of this post, but merit a deeper dive at a later date. Stay tuned.

At the vendor-to-vendor level, the companies' mutual interests aren't always recognized, however. Although he sees Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Microsoft's public cloud teams as very forward-looking in terms of cooperating with other vendors like VMware, there can still be resistance at an institutional level within Microsoft to working with, or having partners work with, VMware. "They often try to put people in friend or foe categories," Brown said.

That said, Brown contends there are more opportunities now for Microsoft partners to extend and expand their solutions with VMware than there used to be.

"We're multidimensional. Generally there are more areas of cooperation as opposed to competition between us. Azure is scaling out, and VMware NSX customers want to extend [their deployments] into those clouds," he said.

"We have a great relationship through VMware AirWatch with the Windows 10 team."

Ross Brown, Senior Vice President, Worldwide Partner Organization, VMware

Brown joined VMware with an assignment to help VMware navigate the sales execution transition from a company that sold primarily vSphere to one that also sells AirWatch, Horizon, Workspace ONE, vRealize, NSX, VSAN, vCloud Air and vCloud NFV.

"It illustrates the transition we're going through from a product that's largely bought, and where customers know what they want and they can get it through transactional channels, to a product that has to be sold," he said.

VMware needs the channel more than ever now to help customers understand how they can benefit from the broader portfolio, according to Brown. NSX, for example, "is conceptually mind-bending for people," he said. "You not only have to understand vSphere but the OSI model from Layer 2 all the way through the application session. You can create networks where every node on the network is its own segment to protect against privilege escalation. The current model is perimeter defense with firewalls everywhere. NSX operates like a hotel where every room has its own key."

The main change introduced on Monday is increased up-front product margins for Advantage+ partners to a maximum of 30 percent, compared to a previous limit of 10 percent. Additionally, VMware is streamlining the validation of deal registration, cutting out any human involvement in most cases to reduce delays and improve predictability for partners.

"We're moving to a model where instead of the approval being held by sales, it's very simple -- if we don't know about the deal, it will get approved. At the beginning of the sales cycle, you will know if you're getting the margin," Brown said.

Delays in approvals and the limitation on the top-tier margin made it difficult for partners to justify committing to selling VMware's full portfolio. "Now partners can go and hunt with confidence without worrying about whether they're going to get paid or not," Brown said.

Even for Microsoft partners on the fence about getting involved with VMware yet, the company is worth watching. Brown described the Aug. 1 announcements as a first rev of changes to VMware's partner program that will start coming every six months.

Posted by Scott Bekker on August 01, 2016 at 2:33 PM


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