Acquiring Technology vs Squandering Dollars

 

It continues to amaze me how companies acquire technology and then either do not a lot with it or, in many cases, just kill it. This blog from 31st Oct by Citrix caught my eye https://www.citrix.com/blogs/2017/10/31/the-future-of-octoblu-and-citrix-workspace-iot/ and I started to think about the multitude of tech that has been acquired during my tenure in this industry, the list is truly endless. For this post, I thought I would focus on some of the acquisitions that have occurred on my “watch”.

  1. The one that makes me most sad is Vizioncore vRanger. In its heyday, it was the leading 3rd party VMware back up solution – it was the dominant player in the mid 2000’s prior to Veeam’s dominance. I was proud to be a consultant to Vizioncore and the team from early 2006 to mid 2009. Quest acquired it (and the company) in 2008 and that was the start of a its downward path. New versions that were developed had significant issues and there was much market trashing going on in 2010 IIRC. Quest still sells vRanger, and has ported it to HyperV, but its decline is vSad to me and I don’t hear of it being used by customers or being mentioned anymore in the circles that I move in.
  2. During my tenure at Citrix, many companies and technology were acquired. The acquisition of Insignia took place in early 1998. Some of the tech was integrated into WinFrame, but the key assets were the developers in my opinion, plus the opportunity to rapidly build out our UK presence. We went from a serviced office in Bracknell to Insignia’s offices just outside High Wycombe. So that acquisition was actually fruitful! Others were not so successful! There was video technology from an Israeli company, there was the Sequoia acquisition that was going to make us a leader in portal technology – NFuse was the product outcome and I attended a launch of it at the Nasdaq in New York with a number of European journalists – and, of course, there was the eye-wateringly expensive XenSource acquisition (I’d left by then!) A list is available on Wikipedia of all 49 acquisitions/mergers – I’d wager that the majority of them have disappeared into oblivion!

  1. VMware too has made many acquisitions, some are now bearing fruit (NSX via Nicira) but some have either fallen by the wayside or have been sold back out – Shavlik and Zimbra to name but two. I’m a bit perplexed as to why the CloudVolumes acquisition in August 2014 doesn’t appear on VMware’s own list – have I missed something?
  2. Whilst the acquisition of Sun Microsystems by Oracle in 2010 wasn’t on my “watch” having been a Sun employee back in the good ol’ days, it is one that matters to me. A good friend was pretty senior in Sun at the time of the acquisition and what followed was the epitome of how not to integrate people. I won’t disclose details but it was a nightmare for them and resulted in a nervous breakdown, it was that bad 🙁 But it would appear Oracle has now shutdown SPARC and Solaris according to this article by ZDNet in September. So, despite spending over $7bn, Oracle let the sun set on a great set of products in my humble opinion.

Of course, many mergers and acquisitions are successful but I still wonder about the many unsuccessful ones – how on earth do companies’ executives get away with spending so much money only to discard the technology in time? Answers on a postcard please!

 

Disclaimer: I’ve not personally used any of these products in production either now or in the past (apart from a SPARC workstation back in the day!), this post is just my view of the situation, so please feel free to correct any misconceptions I may have 🙂

 

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Fragility of life

 

Wow, just realized I’ve not posted since August 🙁 Time certainly has flown by these past few months. The reason for my absence is not a good one; I’ve been helping a very close friend through grueling chemo treatment and very sadly she lost her valiant battle on September 21st.

I was given the honor to deliver the eulogy at her service on October 25th. It was the hardest speech I’ve ever had to give; yet it was the first and only time I’ve spoken in public and not felt a little trepidation beforehand – quite bizarrely. These moments in one’s life bring home the fragility of life itself and makes one grateful for every single second. Sometimes the daily grind of work makes you forget about the important things in life – health, happiness, family, friends, etc. – so we must all take time out once in a while. Take a deep breath and just relax, remembering all the good things that life can bring and try to forget the sadness and harsh reality of it at times………..

To say I’ve been a little down is quite an understatement, so to read this blog post last night from the “Snark as a Service” man himself, Mr Trevor Pott has buoyed me so much!

For him to have taken the time out of his busy day to write this post – despite it being filed under pointless posts and idle ponderings! – not only made me feel very chuffed but also underscores the necessity to say good things at times. I think we’re all too quick to be ‘keyboard warriors’ these days on social media and a little kindness can go a long, long way.

So, on the scariest day of the year, I wish you all good health and happiness – and may all your tricks be treats!!

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Politics, HCI and Social Media FUD

[update]

My Twitter and Facebook timelines have been swamped lately with conflicting posts. Conflicting because of differing – and confusing – opinions. Twitter has been full of the HPE/Nutanix #Dare2Compare ‘campaign’ and Facebook has been full of Labour/Conservative bollocks. Excuse the language but that’s really how I see it. I’m comparing the two because, to me, they represent the same thing – one side trying to get ‘one up or over’ the other by means of one-sided ‘facts’. The old saying “Lies, damned lies and statistics” has never been truer right now.

The one thing that I do know for sure is they all lie. Either deliberately or by twisting the truth. For the first time in my voting history I’ve no idea how to vote in tomorrow’s General Election – both main parties are led by liars and both their manifestos contain content that is so not relevant and a priority currently. On one side you have a pacifist and on the other you have a windsock debate ducker – neither of whom are showing great leadership skills in my opinion. Politically, I don’t think we’d be in this situation if the Referendum campaign had not been so full of lies – on both sides. And the people that led the charge – and won – then buggered off and left others to pick up their mess. So who knows what tomorrow will bring, but I’ve never felt more concerned for my country, and the world at large, than I do right now. I will vote tomorrow, too many people suffered to enable me to have this freedom, so I won’t shirk that responsibility, but where oh where to place that cross…………

Honestly, right now I’m sick of it, social media that is. I’m finding all the posts totally unprofessional and unnecessary. In the case of HPE/Nutanix, I’ve not been a fan of some Nutants’ posts and Twitter rants in the past, but I honestly didn’t expect HPE to stoop to the levels they have with their Dare2Compare campaign. Don’t they see all they’re doing is giving Nutanix airtime? I once fired a client because they wanted to go head-to-head against the market leader in a ‘trade-in’ campaign. I’ve never seen these work and just wouldn’t be party to it! Suffice it to say, they tried, failed and the sales leader that led that particular initiative got fired!

I’ve not always seen eye-to-eye with Josh Odgers on Twitter but can’t ignore his passion and enthusiasm to highlight the inaccuracies of the HPE claims, as this post demonstrates.

I would like to think that all involved in both these scenarios are doing and saying what they are because they truly believe they’re doing the right thing for their audience. But that isn’t the main reason in my view; Nutanix and HPE are doing what they’re doing because – yes I’m sure they believe what they’re individually saying -but because of shareholder value. May and Corbyn are doing what they’re doing to get their party into power which may not be the best thing for the people of this country.

On a lighter note, I’m registered for the London VMUG on 22nd June and hope to see many vPeeps there! Register here.

 

 

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WhatMatrix is a Finalist!

DCS Awards Logo 2017 FINALIST CMYK HRZ

 

[UPDATE May 18th] WhatMatrix secured runner up in the ICT Innovation award – an amazing achievement, well done team!!

A quick update to my February 8th post. As mentioned in my Feb 8th post, I entered WhatMatrix into the DCS Awards in the Data Centre Innovation category. I’m very proud to let you know that WhatMatrix is a finalist in the Data Centre ICT Innovation category!

Winners of all awards are selected purely on votes alone, so WhatMatrix and I would sincerely appreciate your vote for them. You can vote here, and will only take a moment to complete the online form. You can’t, however, vote using a gmail, hotmail, etc. email account, only votes from a current business email will be allowed.

Thank you in advance for taking the time to vote!

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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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