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VMware overhauls distribution in Australia

VMware overhauls distribution in Australia

Software giant swaps out Tech Data for Dicker Data in sizeable market shift, more than 16 months since first placing the channel on notice

Uma Thana Balasingam (VMware)

Uma Thana Balasingam (VMware)

Credit: VMware

VMware has appointed Dicker Data as a new distributor in Australia, keeping Ingram Micro and terminating Tech Data in one of the most impactful channel overhauls in recent years.

This is in addition to Rhipe and Westcon remaining within the VMware Cloud Provider Program (VCPP) — which wasn’t included in the review — and Dell Technologies continuing to distribute VMware solutions, first revealed locally in early 2018.

Representing a significant shift in ecosystem approach, the move sees the software giant boldly break ranks from a global distribution agreement to instead align with local expertise, more than 16 months since first placing the market on notice. ARN can reveal that more than 67 distribution entities took part in the regional process, including 22 distributors new to VMware.

While seemingly commonplace on the surface - such is the frequency of distribution reviews in recent months - this is a supply chain change of tier-1 significance, with the move expected to create a ripple effect across Australia as a result.

On paper, the decision is akin to Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s widely anticipated distribution change in early 2016, which resulted in Avnet - now Tech Data - and Synnex missing out in the local market.

For VMware — plugged into many complementary vendors, solutions and services — the decision is undoubtedly more impactful in terms of reach and influence, placing sizeable responsibility and opportunity on the shoulders of newly appointed Dicker Data and incumbent Ingram Micro.

Despite the pandemic, the channel has been abuzz with anticipation as to the outcome of the review process in Australia, with almost all major distributors putting forward a case for such a lucrative portfolio.

“We had to balance the benefits of a global presence with specific market requirements,” said Uma Thana Balasingam, vice president of Partner and Commercial Organisation across Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ) at VMware. “We are very reliant on our distribution partners and we wanted to ensure as part of this exercise that we are best positioned to take advantage of the partner opportunity. We thank Tech Data in Australia for their partnership."

When speaking exclusively to ARN, Balasingam said the vendor considered a “number of factors” during the process, spanning distributor, partner and customer requirements in the process.

“Alignment with our five franchise platforms was key, which covers digital workspace, modernisation, security, multi-cloud and virtual cloud networks," she said. "We also evaluated operational excellence from the ability to drive recruitment of partners and financial capabilities that a value-added distributor can provide, as well as additional offerings in terms of skill sets and ecosystem reach.

“It’s never a case that VMware in isolation is placed in front of a partner or customer, hence the ability to build practices around our advanced solutions. We also assessed cloud consumption model strength which was obviously a different weightage depending on the market.”

ARN can also confirm that the transition will take place over a phased approach, with Dicker Data on-boarded this month and Tech Data off-boarded by 1 May, to align with the end of VMware’s first quarter on 30 April.

“We paused the review because we didn’t want to disrupt our business during the pandemic but we went back with an updated evaluation process,” Balasingam added. “Not too extensive given the pandemic offered some learnings and new considerations but we went through that process during our third quarter which was August onwards to ensure our decisions remain relevant going forward.

“During this approach, we went back to some distributors to ask additional questions and secure additional clarifications on the investments they had put forward in their original proposal as to whether that was going to continue given the current situation.”

Long time in the making

The changes come more than 16 months after VMware first placed distributors across the world on notice as part of a go-to-market overhaul, creating a bidding war in the channel.

Revealed exclusively by ARN, the technology giant first issued a request for proposal (RFP) to potentially open the door to supply chain change in October 2019, spanning local, regional and global levels.

At the time of the process, the RFP was reported to favour cloud-focused distributors, preferably ones with deep alliances to Amazon Web Services (AWS), alongside advanced software and security capabilities.

Aside from AWS, strategic alliances with Microsoft, Google Cloud and IBM also offer VMware new routes to market through a cloud-centric ecosystem of providers, alliances which are already being leveraged in APJ.

The initial pre-pandemic plan was to communicate results to distributors during VMware’s first half of FY21, which ended on 31 July 2020. Unsurprisingly, this was significantly delayed due to the outbreak of Covid-19, resulting in a formal decision to pause the process in early May.

As exclusively revealed by ARN, the temporary postponement was designed to “minimise disruption and best support” customers and partners. The move was greeted with mixed emotions in the ecosystem, as incumbents breathed a sigh of relief and challengers went back to the drawing board.

During this time, the vendor also appointed Pradeepto Dey as director of distribution across APJ, following five years spearheading partner efforts in India.

Alongside defining an effective distribution strategy in the region, Dey also holds responsibility for building a consolidated operating model spanning traditional distributors, cloud aggregators and SD-WAN specialists, alongside distributors of the acquired Carbon Black business.

Charting a new path

Almost 12 months ago, VMware entered a new phase of partnering through the launch of a program grounded in technical expertise, dictated by customer priorities and challenging of traditional channel practices.

Billed by many as the most fundamental ecosystem overhaul in the vendor’s 21-year existence, Partner Connect - first revealed to the market in April 2019 - is a go-to-market strategy which suggests a shift in mindset for a technology giant built on the foundations of virtualisation.

Central to such changes were an increased focus on technical and services specialisation, backed up by integrations with recently acquired businesses Carbon Black, VeloCloud and Pivotal.

Furthermore, Partner Connect was a message to the vendor’s traditional base of partners that change was on the horizon, alongside an opening of the door to a newer breed of provider nestled in the world of cloud - the global distribution review is now expected to complement such a go-to-market overhaul.

Most recently, and as the channel continues to grapple with the economic impact and uncertainty of Covid-19 — hampered further by fluctuating investment priorities — forward-thinking VMware partners have also been up-skilling in preparation for heightened customer demand across Asia Pacific.

Representing a silver lining amid months of industry pain, the ecosystem is now armed with competencies and certifications, ready and waiting as businesses battle back from the brink to restart transformation plans.

To address such a shift in market dynamics, 75 per cent of VMware partners across the region are “planning or considering” increasing staff training in relation to technology skills during the next six months, with 41 per cent already pursuing additional certifications.

According to recent VMware findings — profiling 410 partners across 22 countries in Asia Pacific, delivered via Tech Research Asia — more than two-thirds of technology providers are increasing focus on the vendor’s hybrid, multi-cloud and end-user computing solutions, supported by increased training investment.

While tempting to hunker down and wait for the pandemic to pass, partners have instead pursued the opposite approach – assuming central roles in transitioning customers away from continuity mode.


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