VMware SMB appeal still lags Microsoft, VARs say

VMware has an uphill battle against Microsoft when it comes to appealing to SMBs, VARs at the VMware Partner Exchange conference say.

LAS VEGAS -- Although VMware Inc. has realigned its sales force and added new incentives to channel partners that sell to SMBs, VARs say the company still battles against Microsoft to win over small shops.

VMware has reorganized its sales force to focus on three types of accounts.  They are: SMBs, defined as organizations with 1 to 999 employees; commercial, for between 1,000 and 4,999 employees; and enterprise, for organizations with more than 5,000 employees.

There’s also a new VMware SMB specialization program for channel partners, disclosed at VMware Partner Exchange here this week. This specialization will complement existing programs for federal and academic markets, as well as healthcare, but there won’t be access to specific SKUs to go along with it, said Doug Smith, vice president of global partner strategy and operations. Instead, it will be a “soft” specialization in which partners receive online training and some marketing dollars to encourage SMB sales.

To increase its appeal to SMB customers, VMware has a big job ahead, said Colin Thom, strategic infrastructure solution architect at Austin, Texas-based Aztec Systems.

"Customers automatically go to Microsoft, because they know [the hypervisor is] free," he said. VARs must then converse with customers to tease out the product features they require.  

Partners share VMware SMB wish lists
Partners said they’d also like to see VMware market more directly to SMB customers, to help boost the customers’ overall education about VMware’s products. VARs also said they would like to see more field support from VMware when it comes to marketing to organizations with up to 1,000 employees.

Other VARs said they would like to see reductions in pricing for VMware SMB customers.

“In smaller SMB customers, the percentage of a vCenter license is huge,” said Tim Antonowicz, systems architect for Salem, N.H.-based Mosaic Technology. “Four hosts means 9 CPUs and vCenter Standard.”

“Give away vCenter for free -- eliminate the vCenter cost, and you save an SMB about a fifth of the total license cost. Change the licensing to just vRAM instead of processors as well,” he said.

It’s unlikely the extra field support will be forthcoming. Carl Eschenbach, VMware’s co-president of customer operations, said the company would rely on partner-led sales to appeal to SMBs. 

Although VMware has not traditionally focused on SMBs, the company has in the past 18 months introduced the Essentials and Essentials Plus licensing packages for SMBs, Eschenbach said.

The company will continue to simplify its packaging and pricing and offer specific products for the SMB market, such as the vSphere Storage Appliance , going forward, he added.

Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for SearchServerVirtualization.com and SearchDataCenter.com. Write to her at bpariseau@techtarget.com.

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