‘We are very actively and passionately focused on building plans with our partners’

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Sundar Balasubramanian, Senior Director – General Business (Commercial Sales & Partners), VMware India
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VMware is moving much beyond its core virtualization roots and positioning itself to be a
company that is an integral part of every data center component. Sundar Balasubramanian, Senior Director – General Business (Commercial Sales & Partners), VMware India, shares his views on how he sees the channel community playing a role in helping the company meet its business objectives

In terms of the market, technology, environment and innovation, what direction is VMware moving in?
Last year and the next year, the biggest positive and the challenge that we have is the way the company is spreading itself from a uni-product company. We are well known in server virtualization. Our product portfolio is completely grown, not just on brochure but customer deployment as well. We are now active in network virtualization as well as storage virtualization. So the three pillars of data center — server, storage and network — are the key areas of focus for us.

We are adopting the software layer, the virtualization layer; the CIO and the IT team can see from a single pane of how the network looks. We have the end point management, AirWatch and digital workspaces. Through our tools and solutions, we are making sure that be it an iPad, a laptop or a PC — everything will have the same look and feel. We have management capabilities through which a CIO can look at on premise or public clouds, and drag and drop workloads across diverse environments.

What kind of opportunities do you see for the partner ecosystem?
We have very good programs which basically look at the reselling profitability. We are very actively and passionately focused on building plans with our partners. If you look at VCloud product suite – sign or any of our product categories, we ensure that a partner can build a service line around it.

Emerging technologies need different services. There is a gap between available skills sets, and we look at partners to bridge the gap. We work with partners to develop the business plan and we train the partners adequately. We’ve been running partner training programmes aggressively around VCloud, NSX and AirWatch. We have spent substantial amount of money just skilling our partners.

We also do ‘PS advisory’. PS advisory team looks at the infrastructure of the client, benchmarks the infrastructure vis-à-vis their industry peers and global benchmarks. This is then prioritized into short, medium and long term goals, in terms of what the customer needs to do. Now we take a partner along the journey because the short, medium and long term goals, all need to come together.

Besides cloud, which are the key technology areas?
Cloud is a very visible shift happening. Security is also a key priority area and we are innovating to ensure that our customers are always protected. Our AppDefense product is an example, wherein we ensure that our customers are protected through an automated threat detection and response system. AppDefense focuses on good behavior compared to looking at bad behavior. By focusing on what an app or a workload has to do or has permissions to do, the attack vector for malicious apps gets reduced substantially.

How are you aligning partner ecosystem with this changing market dynamics?
On the partners front, our programs are the best in the market. We are also uniquely positioned in terms of rewarding partners. Our focus has been on how do we make and keep them profitable. We have enriched the programs and we do various enablement sessions, especially on upcoming products. This year we have also started to focus on building service line within partner businesses. Despite having small professional services teams, our product capabilities have been increasing. The only way we can scale in the market is by making the partners skilled on our products. The focus has been on how we can create service line within partners not just reselling, but actually selling, supporting, maintaining, implementation, design, architecture.

In terms of building service line, what sort of hand-holding has been done for them to become a complete package for customers?
We do a lot of hands-on training, typically three-five days training on all technologies – for our partner groups, we subsidize the training or even make it free. We also work with them on live opportunities. For instance, there is an opportunity where we have professional services that are engaged to design and deploy. We have a partner who can shadow us and look at how that is done in real life examples.

Alongside, we also support them through our professional services in terms of transferring those skills from PSO to the partner organization. These technologies are advanced and complex; many of the products like vSAN and NSX need clear architectural design capability – if you don’t design it well, it becomes worthless. Even if you get the design right, you probably won’t get the implementation right – that’s something we do on the job.

Hence, we provide enablement on the job and transfer of skills wherever possible, but we need to get tighter about how we are going to package it and put it in the market. Unless we get our partners to go out and do this confidently in the market, we will not be able to scale – we can’t be present everywhere. However, partners will only do that if there is money involved; these are billable services. How do we actually match the demand and supply – that’s the iteration we are going through in terms of figuring out how to do it.

Have you identified certain sets of partners who will be moulded in this direction; or are you looking at a new set of partners?
Software defined networking, virtual storage, mobile device management are new compared to other technologies in the market. EUC possibly is the only technology which has existed because of Citrix creating a market for that use case, but many of the technologies are new, so there is no legacy partner who come with those skills. We aren’t choosing partners; the partners are choosing us. Wherever there is two-way communication and partners are interested, we transfer skills. Given the technology is new and partners are evolving the business, they are also getting bottom-line focused. It’s a two way street and it’s an iterative process driven.

A few years ago, there was lot of insistence on partner’s scalability. Is this the new direction which will be followed as part of the strategy?
Scalability is absolutely the key for any partnership and the markets and customer demands are changing rapidly. The way customers spend money is also changing. Enterprises are also changing; CIOs are under pressure on how they could make businesses more nimble. Companies like Uber and Flipkart have changed the game. For example, Uber, without having a single taxi, is the biggest cab aggregator in the world. With that in mind, we as a technology company, also need to adapt to the changes and needs to serve them better.
Partner also need to scale and adapt better to the changing needs. Scalability is always there; just the focus is going to be more on how to make them profitable and sustain the profitability. We are not changing the course, but we are just getting more focused on the skills and the scalability part.

Moving forward, what are the key thrust areas for the company, from partners perspective?
We are really focused on building service lines. We want our partners to build service line on our technologies. Selling products is easy, but delivering a service on the product is not easy, so we are going to be absolutely focused on that. We will continue with what we are doing well – being profitable, making sure we impart the right skills, enable them, create demand generation for them in the market. The thing that stands out in terms of focus areas will be building service lines and how do we get partners to build a service line around vSAN, digital workspace and mobile devices. These are certain things which are on top of the head right now.

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