Managed Services

VMware Explore: AI and the Channel Opportunity

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Is there a partner opportunity for artificial intelligence specialists? Sure, systems integrator partners may work on data management projects, data science projects, and even the more advanced artificial intelligence projects. But is there also an opportunity for MSPs to eventually offer some kind of AI-related service to end customers?

It’s a question that came up at VMware Explore this week as the company that began with its roots in server virtualization and moved to cloud and multi-cloud and smart cloud is now staking its claim on the hot new market – generative AI. VMware this week made a whole series of announcements around AI. The company is focusing on an important component of concern to end-user customers as they evaluate the benefits and risks of this technology. That component is data privacy.

Generative AI and MSPs

Ever since Chat GPT 3 was introduced at the end of 2022, generative AI has inspired a great deal of experimentation by technologists in many different kinds of companies. Those have included managed service providers.

Indeed, among the sales and marketing focused MSPs, use cases have included creating sales pitches to clients.

For technologists, use cases have included some basic coding, including PowerShell scripting.

MSP platform companies quickly caught on to the potential for artificial intelligence in their own platforms. For instance, one of the top platform companies, ConnectWise, announced plans to add AI-assisted Power-Shell scripting as a core capability in its Connectwise Asio platform across two products in its Unified Monitoring and Management (UMM) solution portfolio --  ConnectWise Automate and ConnectWise RMM.

What AI Announcements Were Made at VMware?

VMware executives said that the company’s next stage of development would focus on AI. This follows on statements made by other big tech companies this year at their own conferences, including Dell and HPE. Here’s what VMware has announced at VMware Explore:

  • VMware announced VMware Private AI Foundation with NVIDIA, extending the existing strategic partnership to get enterprises that already run VMware’s cloud infrastructure ready for the next era of generative AI.
  • VMware also announced VMware Private AI Reference Architecture for Open Source to help customers reach their desired AI outcomes by supporting open-source software technologies.
  • With this new VMware Private AI, VMware is bringing compute capacity and AI models to where enterprise data is created, processed, and consumed, whether that is in a public cloud, enterprise data center, or at the edge. VMware said this architectural approach balances the business gains from AI with the practical privacy and compliance needs of an organization. 
  • VMware is announcing a new VMware AI Ready program, which will connect ISVs with tools and resources needed to validate and certify their products on VMware Private AI Reference Architecture.
  • VMware is also introducing Intelligent Assist, a family of generative AI-based solutions trained on VMware’s proprietary data that dramatically simplifies all aspects of building, managing and securing the multi-cloud enterprise. 

What is VMware’s AI Channel Opportunity?

I asked Ricky Cooper, head of world wide partner and commercial sales at VMware if the company’s channel partner program would expand to accommodate partner specialties in AI and generative AI. He said the answer is a big yes.

Ricky Cooper

He is seeing systems integrators and MSPs add these kinds of services to what they offer – although he warned that it is still early days for this.

In addition, Cooper told me that he’s seen some startup data science/AI-focused specialty partners offering these types of services to their end user customers.

While many of VMware’s AI-focused offerings aren’t slated to really get off the ground until 2024, there’s certainly an opportunity here for partners that are focused on larger customers that are looking to get started with AI but that don’t have the capabilities yet. That’s always a channel opportunity.

Will this create a new breed of partner that’s focused on data science and generative AI applications that can be offered to enterprise customers? Can today’s MSPs get into this game?

I’d love to hear from you if you are contemplating this kind of service offering to your end customers. Please email me at [email protected].

Jessica C. Davis

Jessica C. Davis is editorial director of CyberRisk Alliance’s channel brands, MSSP Alert, MSSP Alert Live, and ChannelE2E. She has spent a career as a journalist and editor covering the intersection of business and technology including chips, software, the cloud, AI, and cybersecurity. She previously served as editor in chief of Channel Insider and later of MSP Mentor where she was one of the original editors running the MSP 501.