Rallying the channel

Andy Hunt, VP EMEA Channels, Alliances & SMB, VMware, talks about why the channel needs to embrace the cloud and build new practices to help customers make the journey from virtualised environments to transformed IT infrastructure that includes public, private and hybrid clouds

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Rallying the channel
By  Manda Banda Published  April 19, 2012

Andy Hunt, VP EMEA Channels, Alliances & SMB, VMware, talks about why the channel needs to embrace the cloud and build new practices to help customers make the journey from virtualised environments to transformed IT infrastructure that includes public, private and hybrid clouds.

Channel: How do you see the journey from virtualisation to cloud computing unfolding for customers and resellers in the region?

ANDY HUNT: The concept of virtualisation is well understood and while it really started before today’s cloud computing model was even talked about, it is part of the same journey as it’s the first step in the transformation of IT. The initial drivers for virtualisation have been consolidation and saving money however, organisations are also focusing on how IT can deliver a better service to the business by making business critical applications more agile and available, and by transforming business processes and the end-user experience thereby delivering IT as a service. Customers want to go on that journey; partners who want to benefit from these tremendous opportunities also need to embrace the cloud.

Channel: How are you enabling your channel partners to do that in the Middle East?

ANDY HUNT: First and foremost the products and services that VMware and its ecosystem of partners are bringing to market are around the core cloud infrastructure of vSphere and solutions that help manage and secure cloud environments. The programmes we are developing are all aimed at enabling our reseller partners, giving them the technologies and resources they need to take customers to that next stage.

Channel: Where should resellers be positioning themselves within the cloud market? Should they be aggregators, enablers or provide their own cloud services or perhaps a mix of all of these?

ANDY HUNT: We have thought about this quite deeply and identified several ways in which the IT channel can take advantage of and harness private and public clouds and thus enable business transformation for customers. They can deploy and manage private clouds for customers or partner with service providers to resell cloud services. They can also assist with migration to a hybrid cloud, which might necessitate both deploying and managing both private and public clouds, and bringing these together to meet customer requirements. Channel partners can also build and resell their own private cloud offerings thereby enabling the transformation of end-user computing by building applications on top of the cloud and migrating customers to those solutions.

Channel: What specific programmes do you have in place to help resellers take their customers to the next stage on the journey to the cloud?

ANDY HUNT: This is one of the most exciting areas of the VMware Partner Program (VPN). We have a very clear solutions competency roadmap that enables partners to develop skills around the virtualisation of business-critical applications, cloud applications platforms and cloud infrastructure and management. We have solution enablement toolkits for partners that are aligned to these competencies for virtualising Microsoft Exchange on VMware and SQL on VMware for example, and for business continuity and desktop virtualisation.

Channel: In the cloud era, how will being a VMware partner help resellers to differentiate themselves?

ANDY HUNT: We are giving our channel partners the opportunity to create a level of specialism in terms of how they look at end-user computing at cloud infrastructure and management and at cloud applications platforms. We’re providing the resources and tools that enable partners to develop the skills they need in these areas. We’re also looking to get channel partners involved in Cloud Foundry, our platform as a service (PaaS) offering and how we can link channel partners to the ISV community that is part of our Technology Alliance Program.

Channel: Who are your ‘ecosystem’ channel partners?

ANDY HUNT: We have established partnerships around the globe with more than 1,300 technology and consulting suppliers. Companies like SAP, NetApp, EMC, Cisco, HP, Dell, IBM and Intel are among the partners with whom we share information and collaborate. We have also developed relationships with more than 2,600 cloud service provider partners globally. Together, these partners make up an ecosystem that can provide all the platforms and services.

Channel: Where do you see the biggest opportunities for your channel partners in the region?

ANDY HUNT: We believe that there is a huge services opportunity surrounding cloud computing. To take full advantage of this, our partners will need to invest in building their skills and competencies. VMware provides the infrastructure layer that allows compatibility across the hybrid cloud and vSphere is the critical component. How we then manage and secure those private and hybrid clouds using our software tools is crucial and this is where a large opportunity lies for the channel, and how they can add value for their customers.

Channel: Is there need for resellers to take a different kind of approach when they talk to customers about re-thinking end-user computing?

ANDY HUNT: VMware’s virtualisation value proposition has been very compelling and strong. Virtual infrastructure saves customers money and gives them great flexibility and agility. The end-user computing proposition requires more consideration and needs to be articulated in a different way. Resellers will need to consult more and sell the benefits in a much broader way. Rather than simple ROI talk, they need to be talking about the organisational and customer service benefits and the management and security benefits.

Channel: Where are you telling your channel partners to be focusing on in order to be ready to ride the opportunities ahead of them?

ANDY HUNT: We need our partners to invest in enabling both their sales teams and their technical specialists to get a real understanding of the technology and processes, and to invest in the skills sets for desktop virtualisation and user access, infrastructure as a service, business continuity and enterprise management.

Channel: Going forward, will it be all about the cloud? Should the channel in your view leave virtualisation behind?

ANDY HUNT: No, there are still a lot of customers that have not started the journey yet, in particular firms in the SMB segment. VMware has a dual strategy here: take existing customers and progressing them towards IT as a service, but not forgetting about those customers that are still in the early stages. In fact we have a real focus on SMBs going forward. Helping small organisations to take the first steps to embrace the benefits of a virtualised environment is critical.

Channel: Where would you like VMware and its partner network to be 12 months from now?

ANDY HUNT: We want to see a more differentiated channel and a far more segmented ecosystem which is enabled and ready to take customers on that transformational journey. We would also like to see our channel collaborating more with the large number of service providers building their cloud on VMware technology. We expect partners to build their own cloud services.

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