Now that we see major players jumping on board and partnering up with companies like VMware, SimpliVity, and Nutanix to deliver easy, consumable architecture, the impact to the Partner Ecosystem around these architectures will fundamentally change.
While we all know that the real value of a Partnership with our customers revolves around trusted relationships from the top down, at the end of the day, we Partners are delivering Solutions. Solutions typically contain a hardware BoM and Services to design/implement/configure/and possibly support (Managed Services) said solutions. Hyper-Convergence solutions will bring changes to this standard Partner model.
When you look at the VMware EVO, Nutanix Prism interfaces, and the way these solutions are being sold/designed/implemented, you can see that along the way the amount of time to do all those tasks is greatly diminished.
First and foremost, it will be a while before we start seeing broad adoption for the Hyper-Converged solutions out there today. They will and are being implemented in “use case” specific areas, though the argument around that is rapidly changing with releases of All Flash Hyper-Converged Solutions such as the Nutanix NX-9000 solution. Nutanix now has a broad set of solutions that can be delivered arguably meeting 90%+ of the majority of use cases out there (the other 10% is specialized). Others will follow with All Flash configurations (we saw examples of this with Micron SSD VSAN technology demonstrations), and soon to follow, I wouldn’t be surprised if SimpliVity also embraces an All Flash offering soon.
So how can Partners still retain their Value with their customers?
Partners can now deliver at a rapid rate, prebuilt, validated solutions for many use cases such as VDI, Tier 1 Applications, etc.., and the amount of services required to design/implement/configure, based on this architecture generally decreases. Let’s not forget a Partner is like any other business in the sense that in order to flourish, it needs to make money. With these new architectures, implement/configure services will decrease and will need to be made up in other ways.
I draw my comparison here much in the same why the IT Engineer needs to change to become more business/application focused in the SDDC world. In my view, Partners need to do the same. We need to really focus on what the term “Partner” really means. I ask my customers what they think it means, and while it’s somewhat of a different answer in the way it’s expressed to me, there is one thing generally that’s not mentioned, and that’s the relationship part. To validate this concept, we should be asking our customers this question, Do you feel that we provide value to your business, and if that relationship were severed, would that impact your business?
This question is extremely important. Working for a Partner, I generally want our customers to feel that we are a part of their organization and that there is an understanding between us that we understand what you do and the impact you have on your customers, in essence, your customer is also our customer. This relationship has to be built at the top period. Business, Financial, and Technology leaders (CEO/CFO/CTO-CIO) should be a top priority for Partners. These are the people that effect change within their organizations and will give us insight on the understanding of ‘what and why’ and hopefully we can provide the “how.”
As I stated earlier, we are starting to see a shift of requirements of the Infrastructure Engineer towards more of a business/application focus. While, of course, those applications still reside on Infrastructure, Hyper-Converged solutions takes away a lot of the hand holding and reactive management to simplified deployment, consumption, and management. Over time, much like the Infrastructure Engineer, Partners will have to evolve into something more and that ground work should be laid now. There is still much opportunity around Cloud Migration/Application Centric MGMT/Managed Services but the real value, I believe, is in building those relationships and taking the time to really focus on our customer’s business. This is what I mean by laying the ground work. While it’s nice to sell a “widget” to our customer, we shouldn’t be striving towards, “I use XXX Partner to buy Cisco” or I use XXX Partner to buy software licensing.” At the end of the day, we don’t really want to be known as a CDW. We want our Customers to say, “XXX Partner works with us to help achieve our business goals and we can rely on them because they know our business and our customers.”
Change has to occur at the Partner level or much like the Infrastructure Engineer, we also start to lose relevance.