As businesses are embarking on digital transformation journey, there are exciting opportunities being created for the channel partners. During an interaction with Nivedan Prakash, Sundar Balasubramanian, Senior Director – General Business (Commercial Sales & Partners), VMware India, gives an overview of the company’s India business and its focus on the enablement of the partners.
How has been VMware’s business in the country; how has the partner ecosystem evolved over the years?
We are in the midst of lots of challenging good products. We are pretty good on the server computing side, which has been our claim to fame. In the last two years we also have increasingly developed a solution for storage. People buy servers, disc in servers and classical enterprises never use a disc; they use a SAN or a NAS. We have a solution for vSAN which basically takes what it does in compute in terms of virtualisation. We move it to the storage part of it. We harness those entire discs there and create a kind of a virtual storage pool or virtual SAN. We launched this three years ago, but it really took steam in last year and a half. Good use cases from media publications, DR, new age companies, e-commerce have adopted well.
In the storage space, we launched a product on network called NSX. There is also a product called Nicira which we acquired about four years ago, and integrated that with our hypervisor. It provides virtualisation or software defined networking layer on the network drive. Interesting, part of NSX is in the Gartner’s Magic Quadrant in networking. We are finding that NSX is doing well, not just among large enterprises, but mid-size segment as well.
Storage, servers and network forms what we call the SDDC (Software Defined Data Centre). Interestingly, we have moved past the server part of it. Servers are still the backbone, but storage and network have been interesting for us in terms of customer acquisition. We are also an adjusting company, so we don’t do anything beyond virtualisation. We also have a Mobility Summit, wherein last year we overtook Citrix which is a strong competitor on the virtualisation part of it.
Last year we also saw phenomenal adoption of the end user computing – classically referred to as virtual desktop. We had interesting wins across all industries – IT, ITS, banking, pharma, media, new age, e-commerce. We had at least two-three big brands acquisitions, and last piece of puzzle is AirWatch, a company more active on mobile devices. I think with the latest count we have put more than a million devices in the AirWatch management. India and China are big mobile markets and enterprises believe in BYOD (bring you own device). The addressable market is a lot larger in this part of the world compared to amateur markets from the AirWatch standpoint. I wouldn’t talk about ourselves against competition, but about mobile access management, mobile conduct management, mobile device management. That’s broadly our overall product strategy.
On the product and partners front, our programmes 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 programmes 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 subsidise 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 organisation. 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.
What opportunities do the partners have in the digital work domain?
Security is becoming one key use case. People are slowly realising that they have to secure the information within the company. How do you secure the workspace and at the same time not compromise the user experience – that’s what our product addresses and delivers. While provinding workspace with security, the fixability and freedom to operate is curtailed. However, in our case, it does not.
User experience is as good as or better than the normal desktop, but securing the workspace is clearly an use case that customers are increasingly looking at. IT and ITeS is taking the lead on that because of IP, which is their bread and butter. A lot of other companies are following the same. For example, pharma companies are securing the workspace now because of IP reasons. Obviously the IT enabled services like pharma, banking are also focusing on how do they secure the front-end.
The second most important thing is the user experience and how to deliver that. The third thing from IT standpoint is manageability; now we don’t have too many people in big companies. Remote management and manageability have become big use cases for digital workspace. It brings down the cost of IT management. You can bring up and bring down the workstation in a matter of minutes.
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.