VMware is not just any IT company — the winner of the 2009 ARN Software Vendor of the Year has a partner community that runs through the entire channel.
“The partner community is one of the cornerstones of our success,” VMware managing director, Paul Harapin, said. “The demand for the technology is high and we have really relied on our broader partner community. Virtualisation is not always simple — it's a transformational change and the skills of our partners facilitate that.”
VMware’s staff numbered just four or five when Harapin came into the role in 2005. Over the past four-and-a-half years, the company has grown to more than 100 employees. Harapin said the ARN award was definitely a team affair.
“Our partners are advocates for the brand,” he said. “It's not just about selling a product.”
Many of VMware's channel partners, including Ingram Micro and Oriel, are rolling out desktop virtualisation projects internally and using their own operations as reference sites.
One of the keys to the vendor’s success has been its product information and education sessions. More than 500 people have attended the product road shows this year and hundreds have taken part in the Lunch and Learn sessions, which focus on demand generation; talking to customers and explaining what virtualisation means for their business.
“We've had great success in the way we approach education,” he said. “We use a whiteboard approach, which has received very positive feedback. It's an interactive classroom.
“It's about helping our partners drive their business and it's part of our ongoing commitment. Our technology drags a lot of technical services along with it.”
The vendor has also taken the wraps off its Partner Central portal — an online information resource for all VMware partners. The site offers resources to build a successful virtualisation practice, including access to training, product information, sales tools, and marketing campaigns.
Harapin said many of the challenges that the channel had faced over the last six months look set to continue in the short term, such as access to credit and the ability to maintain a strong cash flow. More than ever, it’s not about providing product at margin; it’s about working with customers to make their business better.
“Those who are successful are working at understanding their customers' business problems and working with them to solve those issues,” Harapin said. “Those who are running a solution oriented business, taking the products and services and building an outcome for the business have done very well.”
The ‘drag’, as Harapin puts it, has been a real boon for the resellers and the launch of products such as vSphere4 has also contributed to the success story.
vSphere is VMware’s cloud operating system, meaning resellers can now bring cloud computing to their customers’ data centres.
Harapin estimates the solution drag that comes with customers virtualising runs at about $15 for every dollar of VMware that they buy, covering a range of different technologies, including the network, server infrastructure and services. Storage is another key component.
“If they can drag through $11-15 of services for every dollar of product they sell, there's a lot of opportunity there,” he said