The 6th Annual UK VMUG UserCon – A Rimmary

Having been a VMUG leader for the past 5 ½ years, I was very much looking forward to attending the UK National event as an attendee for the first time. In some ways I was a little apprehensive. Ever since Jean Williams asked us (the previous London VMUG committee) back in early 2011 to put on a UK-wide VMUG event, I’ve been part of seeing the UK VMUG event grow and expand in terms of content, attendees and sponsors. When Al, Stu and I announced at last year’s event we were all stepping down as the London and UK VMUG leaders, handing over to the new committee, chaired by Simon Gallagher, felt a little like handing over ‘my baby’. However, I registered once registration was open and Simon asked if I’d do a mezz session on Social Media, so I was in!

It was a great night the evening before at the vCurry – was a pleasure to attend and not have to worry about anything. The team did an awesome job this year, with Chris Dearden’s vQuiz – assisted by James Kilby – topping even Stu’s humour and ridiculous questions at times! Was great to hear one of the general knowledge questions being about my other community involvement, WhatMatrix! The question was along the lines of: With the Great British Bake Off being such a hit, what industry bake off website was launched this year? Great question Chris, thanks! Our team, The Remote Shirkers, was placed second, winning £5 Amazon vouchers. A good summary of the evening can be read here, compliments of Christopher Lewis. There was a great turnout and a fun evening, kudos to the committee for having an open bar this year!

At registration the following morning, there was a great improvement on previous years, with the new VMUG Europe team, led by Esther Westerweele, enabling registration with a scanned QR code – all very smooth. It was an early start, but with the keynote being conducted by Joe Baguley the turnout was great. It was a pleasure to bump into Keith Norbie of SolidFire/NetApp fame at the keynote, his first time a UK UserCon. I think his tweet sums up the power of Twitter and the networking value of VMUG:

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As ever Joe gave a compelling talk, reiterating VMware’s strategy and the evolution of their vision. My key takeaways were:

  1. Aligning IT to the Business is the wrong strategy,
  2. Start with the user and
  3. Traditional Business = Digital Business.

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Amanda Blevins, director of technology, Office of the CTO, gave an extremely informative preso on OCTO and what they all do – it’s a lot!

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After the keynote I spent time in the solutions exchange and it was buzzing. Had a quick chat with Nick Furnell and hopefully provided him some useful input to managing UK Veeam User Group events. Had a good old ‘chinwag’ with my long time industry friend Tom Howarth and stopped by the SolidFire/NetApp booth and got my socks, thanks Keith! I also caught up with Trevor Cooper from Cohesity, who gave me my Cohesity vExpert backpack that he’s been holding onto for me since VMworld Las Vegas, thanks Trevor!

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I attended the StorMagic presentation; where I bumped into Arthur Bojilov, long time London VMUG attendee. StorMagic is a great solution for ROBO and is an interesting UK company, headquartered in Bristol.

 

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Then it was a very early lunch, which was very tasty and served in handy sized bowls to allow for eating ‘on the go’. It was also great to catch up with Stu and Al in the refreshment area – been a year since we were all together, do you think I was a bit excited to see them?!

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After lunch and more networking, I had my Social Media 101 mezzanine community session. Was honoured to have the likes of Barry Coombs and Tom Howarth attend and whilst I had some slides, it was a great roundtable discussion, with all the attendees contributing to the conversation. Thanks to those that attended!

 

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And thank you Megan for your kind words!

There was an unexpected fire alarm right in the middle of my session, and thanks to Craig Dalrymple for this awesome and totally appropriate tweet!!

 

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My last session of the day was Massimo Re Ferre’s Cloud Native Buzzwords Demystified (for Dummies). Clearly it was the words in brackets that applied to me, and it was a great session, I learnt a lot. Massimo presented this earlier in the week as a keynote at the Italian VMUG UserCon and was a cut down version of his presentation from VMworld.

 

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I then had to leave, so missed the closing keynote from Julian Wood, but as I know it was being recorded I look forward to viewing it next week. My twitter stream lit up during it, so it was clearly a great presentation and very well received! It was fab to see that the committee was presenting 4 VMworld trips again this year. I saw one winner tweet about winning, so congrats to him and the other 3 lucky winners!

I know what it takes to deliver this event so extend my hearty congratulations to the UK VMUG committee, Esther and her event team for an awesome job. I now know my ‘baby’ is in safe hands; it was a great community event, well delivered and executed – Thank You!!

Don’t forget all presentations and recordings will be posted here in due course.

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GTM via a Channel – Insights for Startups

In a meeting with a startup this week, we discussed the EMEA channel and it got me thinking about what startups should consider when entering a market via the channel and compelled me to write this post.

I’ve always worked for, and with, companies that go to market 100% via a channel. For startups, in particular, a leveraged sales model via a channel (whether single or two tier) is the most effective and expedient way to enter a new market and scale at speed. I’ve always applied the same thinking to channel marketing; leverage your marketing dollars by co-marketing with your engaged channel partners too. However, there are many caveats to that, especially in today’s vendor saturated market. No longer can you just take a product message to either distributors’ target resellers or resellers’ target customers. Solutions that deliver upon customers’ business challenges will garner greater interest versus just a technology message. And, of course, vendor channel programs – margins, rebates, MDF, etc. – need to appeal to resellers as much as the technology before they’ll consider adding you to their portfolio.

Vendors entering a market seriously need to consider whether to implement a single or two tier distribution strategy. The days of true value-add distribution are long gone, mainly due to acquisition and consolidation of distributors. If your product/s is/are run rate and mainstream, then two-tier can make sense. If, however, you’re focused on the enterprise, with a long sales cycle, there are typically far fewer resellers to target. Why, in this scenario, would you engage with a distributor, when you can sign resellers direct and provide a higher margin return for both them and you? One could argue that distribution protects vendors from bad debt risk and provide an operational service. But you can get factoring organisations to conduct this role for less than you have to provide in margin to distribution. Vendors really do need to investigate this alternative in my opinion. However, distribution certainly continues to play a key role for many vendors. The large distributors, at least not in the UK, do not, in my experience, best serve startups that require focus – and that don’t have $100K upfront for a funded head. However, some of these larger distributors do have some exceptional product managers, who are used to bringing new technology to market and continue to have a startup ‘mindset’. These product managers do a sterling job in many instances of grasping how the technology fits into their overall portfolio ‘stack’ and can take the combined message out to the reseller channel. These individuals tend to have their background and heritage in the former VAD that has, ultimately, been acquired. Unfortunately, these are very few and far between.

Most, if not all, the companies I have worked for and with have created demand and sold directly to the customer, with fulfilment via the channel. Depending upon how much ‘skin in the game’ the channel has put, should depend upon their return – blanket discounts just don’t create the right sort of behaviour any longer. Back-end rebates work well to drive the right behaviour by paying for specific KPIs or deliverables. Marketing should always play a part – preferably larger than smaller – of these back-end rebates. For companies that provide a % of revenue for MDF, the control and management of these funds is of paramount importance to the success of implementing these funds. I have seen distributors take the accrued marketing dollars to the bottom line as they’ve ‘expired’ and accounting will not let them utilise the funds due to their financial practices/controls. In an ideal world, channel marketing will work with the vendor channel manager and the distribution/reseller marketing manager to implement a quarterly plan to utilise the funds. The opposite extreme of this is where large vendors expect a plan to be put in place 6 months in advance, which really can only consist of ‘placeholder’ activity that far in advance. The key is to drive utilisation but maintain a level of flexibility – all whilst operating within financial and corporate governance guidelines!

There are still a few VADs out there that continue to help vendors create a market, they’re just harder to find and more selective about whom they add to their portfolio. Remember, for them, investing in you as a start up is a risk – they will invest in your technology with sales and technical support and will spend marketing funds on creating awareness and demand. Then what happens? You get acquired before they’ve had a chance to get a real return on their investment and the acquiring company already has one of the large distributors and so you terminate your VAD, leaving a bad taste in the their mouth.

As with any go to market strategy, you need to identify your key goals and what type of partners will best serve and deliver upon those goals. I am still convinced that a channel GTM strategy will deliver in most cases, it’s just whether your choose single or two tier that will remain a key question for you.

 

 

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PernixPro is Dead, Long Live the Pros…….

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Well, the news that we were expecting was delivered last night by Angelo Luciani, Community Manager at Nutanix, with a brief ‘interlude’ with ex-PernixData CEO, Poojan Kumar – the PernixPro program will expire in December 2016. It was nice that both Angelo and Poojan thanked Frank Denneman and I for our ‘stewardship’ of the PernixPro program. This was really Frank’s baby and I just helped ‘kick start’ the program again earlier this year but I loved being part of the PernixPro community and feel sad at its demise.

As PernixPros, we are invited to apply to join Nutanix’s ‘community expert’ program, Nutanix Technology Champion. However, as was pointed out on Twitter later, the companies are very different – let alone the technology.

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Speaking of technology, everyone, but EVERYONE, on the call wanted to know about the future of FVP and Architect, particularly as some on the call were customers and many are using the products in their home labs. Calls were made in the chat window for existing Pros to have a lifetime license key so they can continue to run FVP and Architect in their home labs. Unfortunately, there was no response to this ask other than “we are not making comments on the product, this call is about the PernixPro program.”

Whilst a few on the call are also NTC’s (apparently), I think Nutanix underestimates the passion that PernixPros have for the solution and need to know, urgently, the fate of FVP and Architect – particularly the customers that are running it in production and also the committed, dedicated partners that are – or have been – selling it.

Come on Nutanix, ‘fess up and put people out of their misery. The Pros are dead, we can only assume FVP and Architect will suffer the same fate……………… but when?

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Industry Awards

I wrote this post back in March 2014 as guidance on writing industry awards. After posting it, Max Cooter – then editor of CloudPro – included a comment from me on their own guide for writing a successful entry for the UK Cloud Awards:

4) Business benefits Jane Rimmer (who wrote the winning entry for Databarracks) has some excellent advice on how to write a winning entry. “For me to write eloquently about the product, project or service, I first have to really understand the benefits it has delivered to the customer”. Anyone writing an awards entry should have these words emblazoned on his or her forearm. The UK Cloud Awards are all about business benefits: yes, we like technological excellence, but it means nothing if it doesn’t deliver results for the customer. Too many entries that we read didn’t understand this simple rule. Similarly, for projects, there were a few that didn’t really set out what the aim of a project was. Most were spot on, but there were some that talked too much about the technology and not about the aims.

As we are entering the season of award entries, I thought I’d re-post this article in the hope that it may assist others. A final pointer, that many miss, is fully read the entry criteria. Failure to do so is highlighted by the recent Tech Target Best of VMworld awards in Las Vegas. Cohesity won the Data Protection category on technical merit but then had to concede the win as their product wasn’t GA, a key stipulation of entry. Read Patrick Rogers’, VP Marketing and Product, gracious blog post here to understand more.

Good luck on any awards you might be considering entering, and remember, you gotta be in it to win it!

I’ve cut and pasted the original article below:

 

Posted on March 5, 2014

All companies like to receive recognition, whether from customers, partners or the industry.  There are so many industry awards in the market today, that one could spend their whole time just writing award submissions.  But is there a receipe for a successful submission?

I’ve been fortunate over the years to have submitted entries for many of my clients that have resulted in either being a finalist or a winner.  For me to write eloquently about the product, project or service, I first have to really understand the benefits it has delivered to the customer.  Secondly, why is it different to the plethora of similar solutions/services in the market?  Thirdly, what has the company achieved in terms of thought-leadership and, perhaps, changed practices due to their innovation or being a pioneer in a particular segment?

This is why awards submissions are better coming from an external resource rather than within the company, in my opinion.  Because internal folk live and breath their company/product/solution and, sometimes, have drunk too much of the “Kool-Aid” to be totally objective.  When submitting an entry for any award, the first thing is to really read the entry criteria.  Put yourself in the judges’ shoes; they want a succinct overview fitting their criteria so they can ascertain in a few sentences, or paragraphs, the value of your entry.  Secondly, don’t just repeat features/benefits from the marketing collateral; really delve deep into the deliverables against the specified criteria.  Some awards don’t specify criteria, they just have categories and “submit 1500 words” – these are the harder ones to gauge.  In my experience, though, a compelling entry combines innovation, demonstrating value to customers, leadership and, where required, customer testimonials, as all these elements have to have supporting proof points.

There is nothing like seeing a client receive an industry award and knowing your entry helped them to achieve the recognition, particularly when they look as chuffed as the CEO of my client Databarracks, winner of the Best Cloud Business Continuity Service Award at the recent UK Cloud Awards, sponsored by CIF and CloudPro.

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Whilst all this might sound marketing 101, the obvious is what we sometimes forget and I hope this post serves as a pointer on what to focus on.

 

 

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Robot Wars, Internet Community and Going Autonomic!

Having always been a Robot Wars fan, I’ve been riveted to my TV on a Sunday evening now that it’s finally back on our screens after a 12 year hiatus. What makes it even more compelling viewing is the fact that one of the robots, Storm2, is sponsored by VMware and one of the team is from VMware, Ed Hoppitt. Unfortunately, they were defeated last Sunday, but the show was great viewing and spotted a few fleeting shots of Joe Baguley! Ed was wearing a Cloud Native Apps t-shirt in one of his interviews, so a good bit of branding! What was also interesting to me was the interview with one of the judges, Dr Lucy Rogers, when she spoke of the camaraderie between the teams and how the Internet has created a great community. Dr Lucy recommended, “Get involved, get online.” She also mentioned the Internet allows discussions to take place anywhere in the world. Which reminded me of the great community that I am part of – we’re all here for each other when needed, even if we work for competing vendors (caveat: as with most generalisations, they’re generally true, but there are some exceptions to this rule, as observed at times on Twitter 🙂 ). You can view episode 4 of Robot Wars here on BBC iPlayer.

Speaking of competing vendors, I found the news this week that VMTurbo has changed its name to Turbonomic fascinating. I worked with them a few years ago (2012-2013) to assist in raising awareness and creating demand in the UK. Although I’ve not personally used their product, I’ve seen it in action and spoken to many customers that rely on it on a daily basis. Plus, I believe their patented economic scheduling engine to be very innovative. I’ve always seen it more as a complement to VMware, but many view it as a competitor to vROps. There are overlaps, of course. However, in my opinion, the main area of competition is not specifically technology, but more budget. If $$ are limited, organisations are not necessarily going to purchase both solutions.

I think a name change has been on the cards for a while but hats off to the marketing team in executing a pretty smooth transition to the new name and the new messaging. My only critique is the new logo, but only from a nit-picky and possibly subjective perspective. When you have a list of sponsors of an event listed – with the same sized real-estate for each logo – the smaller the width of the name, the more prominent a logo looks. Given the length of the new logo, Turbonomic will not be as visible in the first instance. As this example from the Gold sponsorship list from VMworld demonstrates, but guess you could argue the green “on” is pretty prominent!

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Since Eric Wright joined VMTurbo, oops, Turbonomic, I’ve witnessed their commitment to the community develop considerably. They also have an online community forum, Green Circle.

Turbonomic has gone from being intelligent workload management, to a software-defined control platform, to now being an Autonomic Platform. I wish them continued success under the new brand!

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