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VMware Partner Leadership Summit 2016: Preview

Frank Rauch

Frank Rauch

VMware is set to rally key partners at a conference in Arizona starting Sunday, March 6. Among the key themes to expect: Plenty of messaging around the company’s “One Cloud, Any Application, Any Device” strategy. “We’ll be on message, and we’ll reinforce growing opportunities for partners,” said Frank Rauch, VP, Americas Partner Organization.

Rauch spoke with ChannelE2E on March 4, two days before VMware Partner Leadership Summit 2016 kicks off in Arizona. Ross Brown, senior VP, worldwide partners and alliances, will headline the event. Executive leaders and key channel leaders will be on hand. As will Maurizio Carli, the newly appointed executive VP of worldwide sales; Brown’s channel organization reports into Carli.

“Maurizio has been extremely visible. It’s easy to trust and like him,” says Rauch. “He’s got a very direct communication style. His whole mentality is ‘say-do.'” In other words, if VMware says it’s going to do something for partners, then the company will be certain to make good on that statement.

Although Rauch didn’ disclose the event’s headcount, industry chatter suggests a few hundred of VMware’s most influential partners will attend the gathering. Attendees will typically be partner CEOs or members of the c-suite. This is a change of strategy for VMware, which previously hosted the much larger, broader VMware Partner Exchange conference each year.

Partner Growth Areas

Ahead of the event, many VMware-related headlines have involved Dell’s pending buyout of EMC (VMware’s parent), along with some executive departures at the virtualization company. But if you take a closer look at VMware’s product portfolio, many of the company’s recent technology bets are paying dividends for partners.

“The discussions we’ve had with partners involve a very pragmatic outlook,” says Rauch. “Our partners are taking advantage of a big, underlying total addressable market with us. And they are discovering new revenue and new margin opportunities with us.”

Indeed, Rauch points to VMware’s “One Cloud, Any Application, Any Device” strategy, which enables customers to “develop, deploy and consume all applications, quickly and securely.”

“From a channel perspective, I think our partners are excited to build on the momentum we’ve had coming out of Q4 [2015],” says Rauch. That momentum, announced in the Q4 earnings call in January, includes:

  • VMware’s End-User Computing business grew over 30% year-over-year, bringing the total annual bookings run rate to over $1.2 billion, the company said.
  • NSX, the network virtualization and security platform for the software-defined data centers, grew over 100% year-over-year, bringing the total annual bookings run rate to well over $600 million, the company said.
  • In Q4 2015, VMware’s Virtual SAN business grew nearly 200% year-over-year, with a total annual bookings run rate well over $100 million, VMware asserted.

Rauch also points to VMware’s growing relationships with IBM, Apple and Samsung in such areas as cloud computing and enterprise mobility management. “We’re working with Apple around industry and vertical market opportunities. It’s a similar story with Samsung.” He sees technologies like End User Computing, VDI and AirWatch coming together into combined workspace solutions.

Leaders On Hand

Rauch says VMware’s senior leadership team will be highly visible throughout the conference. Some recent media chatter has involved executive resignations like COO Carl Eschenbach and Senior VP Martin Casado, but Rauch put the executive changes in context.

“Partners loved Carl and will continue to love Carl,” says Rauch. “Martin was extremely visible and well respected and remains well respected.” But VMware still has a strong executive team in place, says Rauch, and the product portfolio remains strong. “It’s not like we’re taking a product off the market” when an executive change occurs, he notes.

Rauch also sees growing activity across VMware’s partner ecosystem of VARs, systems integrators, distributors and vendors. He pointed to growing relationships with security companies like Intel, Fortinet, Palo Alto and Trend Micro. He also mentioned VMware’s work with Arrow and other distributors to “help us identify the next generation of partners.”

Longer-Term: Dell, EMC, VMware and Cloud

Dell’s pending $67 billion buyout of EMC is expected to become official between May and October 2016, company leaders have stated. When the deal comes together, Rauch expect partners to profit.

“If you look at the Dell and EMC executive statements and the VMware strategy, we have a consistent message about the benefits of the deal,” says Rauch. Partners that are strong with two or three of the company portfolios will do extremely well post-merger, he adds.

Still, VMware needs to address several key themes for partners. Chief among them: Making sure the company’s cloud strategy remains clear to partners. VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger clarified the cloud strategy for Wall Street analysts in January — pointing out a three-part strategy that involves:

  • First, VMware plans to extend its leadership in private clouds — where the company’s Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) is taking hold across networking, storage and management, he asserted.
  • Second, VMware will help customers to extend private cloud workloads into the public cloud. Here, Gelsinger said vCloud Air will have a “narrower focus providing specialized cloud software and services unique to VMware and distinct from other public cloud providers.”
  • Third, VMware will help customers and partners to manage workloads across numerous public and private clouds. That’s where a new NSX offering — slated to debut later this year — will enter the picture.

Bottom Line

No doubt, VMware’s stock has been under pressure ever since Dell announced the EMC buyout. Some Wall Street watchers worry about slowing growth at the virtualization company. But VMware will shift the focus — and the conversation — to growing market segments during the partner conference.

From NSX to End User Computing, Virtual SAN and AirWatch solutions, VMware has growth opportunities for partners. Partners can expect to hear that — and more — during Partner Leadership Summit 2016 in Arizona.

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