vCloud, the Morphing Channel Behavior and Neural Circuits

A few days ago I have received an email from an IBM Business Partner I used to work with during my previous life. They are (admittedly) a small partner working primarily with local Italian SMB customers and they are (or I should say were) in the business of reselling hardware, software and integrate them for the customer. I haven't heard from them for a while but that's not the reason for which I was floored when I received their email. This is the (hopefully accurate) translation:

Hi Massimo, how are you? I see from twitter that you never get a rest :-)

I am contacting you because we opened, in September 2010, our small datacenter to provide hosting and cloud services for our customers.

We are using a shared vSphere Enterprise Plus infrastructure under the VSPP licensing model. Basically, what we have always done for each single customer in their datacenters, we are now doing it in our single datacenter, for many customers.

I have read your blog and I am very interested in implementing your vCloud technologies in order to be able to offer more innovative services and perhaps be the first to do that.

I have looked around and there are very few Italian IT operators that are "looking ahead"... whereas customers are asking for less iron and more (pay per use type of) services.

Is there any program I can get enrolled into to know more about this? I can find beta customers to kick this off so, other than the technical experience, we may have an existing case history we can use to go after the market when we are ready.

Let me know. Thanks!

I'll keep this anonymous for the moment as I don't want to break any privacy rule nor I want to be blamed for pushing a partner and not the other. They can jump in and post a comment below to reveal who they are and I'll make sure to approve it. Your privacy, your call folks.

So where do I start? Well, first of all if they think I am abusing twitter, they are clearly not following Cisco's Christofer Hoff (aka @beaker). Having this said my first reaction was that these people are genius and they are 2 to 3 years ahead of their "competition". I know some of you may argue that they are 2 to 3 years ahead of the market in general but as long as they have customers they are doing the right thing. Period.

Seriously, I am very excited about this e-mail (and the follow up face to face discussion I have had with them) because I think we are in the middle - ok ok perhaps at the beginning - of a major change in the industry, a change that encompasses how IT works and how it is delivered.

In fact, while you may expect interest among big names in the service provider space on how to provide innovative services to their customers, I was very surprised to see such a small partner (I think they are less than 10 people in total) with a traditional "reselling" business model entertaining discussions that are very aligned with the strategic change that is occurring in the industry (from products to services). This means it's for real! And it's so real that (admittedly small) resellers are betting on this, morphing their "mission" and evolving themselves into (admittedly small) service providers.

By the way I can assure you that the person that wrote that email didn't drink the cloud kool-aid. He doesn't talk "our" language. He doesn't say "multi-tenant". He says "what we have always done for each single customer in their datacenters, we are now doing it in our single datacenter, for many customers". We (sometimes) have a bias. He doesn't. He just works with "regular" customers and he is using the customer language. He doesn't work with the biggest banks in the world. He doesn't work with the Ruby and Java programmers of the web. He works with shoemakers. And when he talks about IT to them they usually ask "how many additional shoes will this allow me to make?". That's their problem. Not "elasticity" nor "self-service". Yet all of the concepts he is using to "sell" them IT do apply to what we are trying to build here at VMware. It's good to know that what we are doing and promoting doesn't only apply to big banks and to programmers but it also applies to normal people. That's reassuring. :-)

Even more reassuring is that when they white-boarded how they keep these tenants customers separated on their infrastructure they said they were using a NAT/Firewall software running in a Linux VM that they use to protect the VLAN they dedicate to each customer. Mh... vShield Edge anyone? When you realize that what you deliver really maps (hopefully better) what a partner has built on its own time to solve a real customer pain, you know you are doing the right thing.

The last thing that got me excited about this e-mail is how pervasive the "vCloud thing" is potentially becoming. Not only we have 800 lb gorillas lined up in the vCloud Data Center program, but a string of "vCloud Powered" partners that can address the needs of specific local markets that the big names may not reach (or may not be interested to reach). For example, the small Italian customers that this local partner is working with may not be interested in moving their workloads into the Verizon's or Amazon's clouds. I don't want to talk and I am NOT talking for them but perhaps Verizon may not be even interested in reaching this small Italian customer, I speculate. I can't obviously talk for Amazon either. However I know there is a very high possibility that this small customer trusts the partnership with this small reseller and this small customer may be willing to move a part of their infrastructure into this partner's datacenter.

The way I visualize it in my head is like a network of neurons where you have "big hubs" (aka vCloud Data Center partners) as well as small ramifications of small -or relatively small- neurons (aka vCloud Powered partners) that gets to the small parts of the body (aka distributed private IT infrastructures) that the "big hubs" won't be able to reach.

This (more or less) resonates with my previous rant about the concept of the vCloud bus. So if you are an end-user you have the option of choosing your own neuron you want to federate with. Do you want a big neuron? or do you want a small one? Your choice.

This is (as always) of course my opinion and how I, as an individual, see things evolving in this industry. My standard disclaimer on the top-right side of the page applies. More so for this post. This is not, by any stretch, an official VMware statement or positioning of our technology and the role of our channel partners.

It's literally my 2 cents. Any comment send me an e-mail or get in touch on twitter.