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Partners expect VDI customer wins with Dell, Citrix

Dell's acquisition of Quest Software with vWorkspace, and Citrix's and Cisco's joint channel program liven up the desktop virtualization market.

Channel partners have gained new opportunities in the virtual desktop infrastructure market, thanks to Dell Inc.'s recent acquisition of Quest Software Inc. and a desktop virtualization channel program between Citrix Systems Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc.

Now that Dell owns Quest Software, the vendor has almost all the pieces in place to offer customers a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment. The move puts Dell into the desktop virtualization market, but the vWorkspace product has lagged behind products from VMware Inc. and Citrix Systems, according to TechTarget Inc.'s Virtualization Decisions 2011 purchasing intentions survey.

Before it was purchased by Dell, Quest bought 10 companies and recently announced a unified approach to its partner programs, a change welcomed by some partners who were frustrated by the multiple point people they had to reach out to, depending on which product they were selling.

Quest has done a good job with its partners, but there's room for improvement, some partners say. "The profitability on the front end is good, but I think Dell can do much better and add a lot more excitement to the channel that I don't think Quest was able to do on their own," said Naveed Khan, director of vendor management at En Pointe Technologies Inc., a hardware and software fulfillment and support services provider in Gardena, Calif.

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One partner hope that Dell improves and unifies the channel program with Dell products, but the challenge is a big one. "What happens in the channel is going to be driven by Dell's own sales process," said Bernard Westwood, CFO at Syscom Technologies Inc., an Atlanta, Ga., provider of IT and Storage products and services. "Because they have such a large internal sales team, there have been challenges in the channel. But every manufacturer with a direct sales force and a channel has similar issues."

If Dell's other recent acquisitions are any indication of future performance in the channel, Khan isn't worried. "What we've seen with the Compellent, SonicWall and Wyse acquisitions is that Dell integrates the software and offers more incentives to the channel," he said. "We sell all of it under the Dell platform now. When we go to the customer site, we're talking about a full solution from endpoint to data center."

A single-vendor solution might be attractive, but Westwood is curious to see how the vendor agreements Dell has with partners like VMware and Symantec Corp. play out following the acquisition of Quest and AppAssure.

"We really see [desktop virtualization] as a two-horse race between VMware and Citrix," Westwood said. "We dealt with vWorkspace a few years ago -- as Quest revamped their internal structure -- seemed like they lost a little momentum with it," he said. Because of this, partners hope to see a lot of lead generation activities by Dell for the Quest vWorkspace product, he added.

Citrix and Cisco offer joint VDI channel program

Quest now has Dell's power behind it, Citrix's recent partnership with Cisco should help it gain some ground in the virtual desktop market.

The joint channel program combines Cisco's Virtualization Experience Infrastructure, Cisco Validated Design (VXI CVD) and Citrix's XenDesktop. Dubbed the Partner Accelerator Initiative, the program aligns the channel sales and delivery models across the two companies through a single framework.

The VXI CVD program offers a best-practice model for desktop virtualization that removes a lot of the pre-implementation time and cost involved for channel partners and customers, said Richard Bernard, national practice lead for advanced systems at the Technology subsidiary of ePlus Inc., based in Herndon. Va. It has helped partners work with clients to help them adopt VDI, he said.

Before using VXI CVD, "We would get caught up in extended proof-of-concept [POC] activities, which are typically not billable events," Bernard said. "Sometimes these exercises go on for six to nine months, and we would end up with a non-billable engineer regularly on-site. We often had to do these POCs on our dime or go back to our OEM partners and to ask to do it on their dime."

The advantage to the VXI CVD product, Bernard said, is that it is a validated design that can be implemented with repeatable results and has full Cisco support behind it. The support component is important, because with other implementations of desktop virtualization, you could end up with a multivendor solution that's difficult to support when something goes wrong, he said. He has been impressed with the level of collaboration between Citrix and Cisco on the partner accelerator initiative. That program's timing couldn't be better for partners, as research firm Gartner Inc. expects 70 million desktops will be virtualized by 2014.

"[VDI] aggregates the cloud and brings it together and shoots it out to users to walk around with a variety of new multimedia mobile endpoints and access everything they need with zippy performance," Bernard said. "We have an opportunity to change the way that corporations work."

Cisco's VXI CVD is also available with VMware View.

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