VMworld Europe is actually my most favorite event of the year. My agenda is always way too busy, but the energy during VMworld is great! I have been attending VMworld for years now, so more and more friendships are starting to develop.
This year, I was invited to join Jenni Flinders (global Chief Channel VMware) on the mainstage during the keynote of the partner day, and participate in a short Q/A session on a few topics. When I got invited, I immediately replied with an enthusiastic YES, only to realize a moment later I would have to speak in front of a few thousand people... That part aside, WHY was I actually so enthusiastic to participate?
First of all, we are proud to be a VMware partner. It’s generally known to the people around me that I have a lot of faith in VMware. Of course, because of their products, culture and vision, but I also admire the VMware leaders. I respect the execution power of VMware and I’m aware of the results we achieve at our customers, due to this. Several times, I’ve had the privilege to meet with Jenni, also including a meetup during the VMware Partner Council. Her passion for bringing the VMware partner eco system to the next level is a mission that will succeed. I consider her a powerful woman, she has my utmost respect and it was an honor and joy to be on stage with her.
Secondly, I am a big fan of the VMware eco partner system. I have always tried to involve other partners in the success we have with VMware and this was a great time to share even more of my experiences. A well-known statement at ITQ is “power is gained by sharing knowledge, not hoarding it”. Therefore, we’re always up for a dialogue with other partners, and want them to be successful. Ultimately, together we ensure a strong VMware ecosystem, which will enlarge the total business of our ecosystem and customer succes!
This blog is partly a wrap up and partly an extension of the Q/A I had on stage. As always: if you want to get into contact with me, mail me at email@example.com.
The first question was:
Could you start by sharing some background about your company and your VMware partnership?
For a moment, I thought about what ITQ is today. ITQ has always been driven to deliver the most innovative IT solutions and infrastructure. Today, we are a fully independent business, one that doesn't sell software or hardware, but instead focuses on knowledge, offering the best advice to our clients. Currently, we have a team of 75 passionate IT’ers. Last year, we executed 240 engagements at 130 customers and 70% of our business is in our home region Belgium and the Netherlands, and the rest mostly in the Nordics, DACH and the rest of Europe. We're helping our customers from strategy to execution on three important themes (which are very closely aligned with the VMware strategic priorities):
"Accelerate the Cloud Journey"
To help our customers advance on their digital transformation journey, we focus on creating a digital foundation for our customers. With the realization of the “any cloud” vision, cloud is no longer a place, but an operating model. This means that modernizing data centers using on-premises, hybrid or native cloud technology is a key focus area for ITQ.
"Empowering the Digital Workspace"
We help customers transition from an IT centric and rigid workspace into a user centric digital workspace that’s designed to maximize employee productivity and employee satisfaction. The Digital Workspace is at the heart of every digital transformation journey. Everything, from day 0 onboarding of new employees, to day 2 and beyond should be focused on delivering the best, most efficient and most secure user experience as possible.
"Modernizing your applications"
We focus on modernizing the application landscape of our customers. We refactor existing applications into cloud-native applications and build greenfield modern apps that run on opiniated container and application platforms, such as VMware Enterprise PKS and Pivotal Application Service, both on-premises and in the cloud.
This covers the entire vision of VMware regarding Any Cloud, Any App, Any Device. For a number of years now, this vision has proven to be a powerful one, and I sincerely believe it will help our customers in their journey into the digital future.
The second question was:
Thank you for your partnership and your continuous commitment to VMware. How have you seen the opportunity with VMware evolve over the years and where have you seen the biggest growth areas?
I interpreted the question like this: where did I see business last year and where do I think it will be next year? To my experience, the needs of customers determine where the business is. The journey customers take with us, is very much in the same area. My answer to the question was again related to the three themes:
"Accelerate the Cloud Journey"
We have seen movement towards both VVD (VMware Validated Designs) and VCF (VMware Cloud Foundation). The latter really is the way to go for customers at the moment. I see a few things happening here. Clients increasingly want to standardize their infrastructure building blocks and they also understand they don't want to build their own stacks. This is primarily driven by the fact that it’s hard to add business value and design and maintain your infra to support this. In addition, this will also serve as the basis for the rest of your cloud journey. For the years to come, we mainly see there are three reasons for moving towards VCF:
1. Evolution of investments in existing SDDC and VVD towards VCF; it is a logical path to take.
2. The LCM moment is very strong. Often, customers decide to invest heavily in prime infrastructure and VMware, so VCF is obvious.
3. When moving from HCI to HCI; that sounds a bit vague, right? We experience customers who already have HCI, but not VCF. However, they want to take the next step with HCI, but not with the vendor they have. Over the past three months, we have already migrated two customers and one more is coming from, for example, Nutanix to VCF. As a big VMware fan, I would naturally prefer to say, this is because Nutanix does not work, but that is nonsense of course. The reason is, they want to move forward on the multi-cloud vision of VMware and an HCI solution from VMware, delivering a consistent infrastructure and consistent operations across clouds, makes much more sense as a digital foundation. All the major cloud providers included in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Public Cloud IaaS are partnering with VMware to enable VMware workloads on their cloud solution. There is not a single other vendor out there that delivers that freedom of choice when it comes to public cloud. I also think VCF is simply put, a much better product, although I can't substantiate that at all 😊
"Empowering the Digital Workspace"
We have seen many customers who move from SDDC to VCF and also move to VCF EUC at the same time, because they want to have an integrated stack. You get great benefits from the fact you only need one team for the entire stack and you have all the cloud journey benefits. We executed a lot of work in this area and we are expect even more for the coming year. In addition, we notice customers with an existing Citrix VDI solution decide to adopt Workspace ONE. Sometimes, still with some Citrix infrastructure, but less and less. Reasons for this movement is on the one hand C-level management demands fewer vendors and on the other hand: if you already have the entire stack, you want to make sure, you get maximum advantage of all functionality.
An example of this is security from your DC to the app (NSX) or VDI by day and compute by night principles. With this principle, the customer is able to get the most out of their datacenter infrastructure by utilizing the resources for virtual desktops by day, and repurposing those resources for other computational purposes during the night. In case of one of our customers, we designed an infrastructure that is able to run cancer research workloads outside of their peak hours. The customer (The Dutch Cancer Institute) was featured in Pat Gelsinger’s first day keynote. The link to the related article can be found here: https://www.vmware.com/radius/impact/netherlands-cancer-institute/.
I am extremely proud of our team for the success at this customer who is all-in on the VMware stack from SDDC to the Digital Workplace. Johan van Amersfoort has been the driving force behind this initiative (he was responsible for designing the architecture and principle ‘Work by day, Compute by Night’) and together with a number of colleagues, he has made this project a success. Due to the popularity of this innovative topic, Johan has been traveling all around to present this case to both technical and medical professionals. One of these sessions was recorded and can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUofakM4orE
"Modernizing your applications"
Growth on Modernizing your Apps is mostly due to PKS Enterprise. By now, we’ve done more engagements than we anticipated and we’re glad we went on this boat in an early stage. With the acquisition of Heptio and the planned acquisition of Pivotal, the announcements about Tanzu and project Pacific, I am also convinced that K8S is the way forward. We’ve had success in the past period and we expect quite some opportunities for the near future. But it doesn’t stop there. Once designed and put in place, we’re helping our customers who are embracing K8s with operationalizing it, putting governance in place, and embedding it in their organization. We see a growing demand for guidance in this area. And in the end, a platform without any apps to run on it, is worthless. We’ve already engaged with Pivotal on application modernization and greenfield development, and perhaps this is the area where we see the largest potential for future business.
The third question was:
It's great to see that you have had such success over the years. How is your company realizing the benefits or our solution (expand) offerings?
I think this is a great question. I could easily write a blog, just on this topic. Maybe I'll do that too, but just three things for now:
1. We're working with the Marketing and Sales material offered to us by VMware. We're embracing the content and add it to our practices. Also, the VMware solution builder offers great help. If you think the amount of content is overwhelming, I suggest you put your partner manager to work 😉
2. Furthermore, standardized kits are extremely useful and make us successful, like the installation of VCF, or VMware Validated Designs. A big advantage is, you can sell outcome based including a fixed price. This is very difficult to set up yourself.
3. The biggest benefit we have are our implementations: customers talk to each other, especially in the same branch (i.e. Healthcare) and when you are completing an implementation successfully, you know there are at least three more customers awaiting migrations or upgrades.
The final question was:
Your company has achieved an impressive number of Master Services Competencies, which is a great testimony to your commitment in supporting training and expertise, as well as focusing on depth. How has this investment benefited both your organization and your customers?
First of all, I am still very proud of the team for being the first partner globally to have all four MSCs at the time they were launched. Second, I see three levels of benefits:
1. From a customer's perspective, the current VMware partner eco system is quite large and it is not always easy for customers to find the right partner with the right competencies. I think it's offering them confidence, if they know their supplier has executed at least three successful deployments with a certain product or solution.
2. From a business perspective, I think the opportunity with credit transfers. if VMware sells credits at a customer where you’re already active, a possibility exists to transfer these credits to your company. A SOW is needed and needs to be discussed with both VMware and the customer, and once signed, payments are made from VMware to the partner.
3. From an engineers, architect and consultant perspective, there are a number of advantages in regards to training, such as Livefire and CAL. Especially CAL is extremely useful for offering consultants to grow in their PreSales, Architect and presentation skills, making it a welcome addition when people want to become VCDX. In addition, I think it's an advantage you need reference cases for your MSCs. Again, this is great from a customer's point of view, but for consultants it's proof of their capabilities.
While writing this blog I notice that the depth is not really present. Perhaps I will spend some time on this in the coming weeks, but if you want to know more just mail me.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t emphasize this enough during the interview, but now is the right time to say that the success of ITQ is due to our people: “We’re a tech company, defined by our people” 😊 It is an honor for me to be able to work with this top team on a daily basis.
I wrote this article with co-writers Bertwin Oudenampsen, Jeffrey Kusters, Johan van Amersfoort and Ruurd Keizer.