Dan's Take

Container Company Partners With VMware

The benefits -- and potential drawbacks -- of partnerships.

Container management company DH2i has joined the VMware Technology Alliance Partner (TAP) Program. This announcement made me think back to the early days of such programs, back in the ancient days of "Open Systems" and "Unix" in the 1980s, and why such programs were developed.

DH2i described TAP this way:

"Members of the TAP program collaborate with VMware to deliver innovative solutions for virtualization and cloud computing. The diversity and depth of the TAP ecosystem provides customers with the flexibility to choose a partner with the right expertise to satisfy their unique needs."

VMware says this about the program:

"This membership means customers can take full advantage of a streamlined virtualization and cloud infrastructure experience. VMware provides an online marketplace, VMware Solution Exchange (VSX), where customers can learn more about DH2i's collaboration with VMware and our continued goal of developing breakthrough technologies that can transform businesses."

Dan's Take: One Platform To Rule Them All
Partnership programs emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s as a way for suppliers of systems and system software to build, and control, an ecosystem. I remember the ballyhoo made by Novell about its partnership program and the same type of announcements made by DEC, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Sun and others over the years. The goals were always the same: building an extensive portfolio of products and services that would make the primary vendor's platform appear interesting to a large group of potential customers, convince them to purchase something; and ultimately, like the One Ring from J.R.R. Tolkien's novels, bind them to the vendor for the foreseeable future.

Partner Program Goals
Traditionally, vendors would develop a program that included special training, special support, co-engineering and even joint marketing programs to entice suppliers of compatible hardware, software and services to "be their committed friend." Once these suppliers had signed the agreements, jumped through the proper legal hoops and joined the program, a huge joint announcement would be made.

There were several program goals:

  • Tell the world that the primary vendor had expanded its ecosystem and extended its portfolio of solutions.
  • Tell the world that the secondary vendor was now in the elite group of "best friends forever" of the primary vendor. The secondary vendor would be allowed to put special icons on their business cards, stationary; that expanded later to Web sites and email messages.
  • Assure customers of the secondary vendor that the product or service they purchased had been blessed by the primary vendor and could be expected to function well with the current version of that vendor's products.
  • Assure the secondary vendor that it would get early news of product enhancements and changes; and early enough that their product or service could be updated in time to work well when the new product versions or new products appeared. Maybe, just maybe, they would also be invited to the announcement, be on stage or be allowed to set up a booth demonstrating their product or service at the announcement itself.
  • Assure the secondary vendor that it would get special treatment by the primary vendor's engineering, sales and marketing departments, which would allow it to address problems and concerns more quickly.
  • Assure the secondary vendor that a pot of money would be available for joint sales and marketing campaigns.

Once customers bought into this relationship, they were likely to be happier with the capabilities, compatibility, performance, scaleability or other attribute of the combined solution. Once they were part of the ecosystem, it also would be easier to sell other products and services to the partner; andit would be correspondingly harder for other suppliers to swoop in and replace the products provided by the primary (and secondary) vendors. The other secondary vendors would then be faced with the challenge of replacing the entire solution, not just the products of one of the original suppliers.

Partner Benefits
These programs aren't as insidious as they first sound. They actually do help customers find, acquire and use compatible and supportable products. Both the primary and all of the secondary vendors typically work hard to make their products work well together, and have established processes in place to address bugs, performance problems and other anomalies. Often, they also offer perks like backpacks, coffee mugs, hats and shirts that customers and potential customers can take home after the announcement. More than a few of these things grace the bookshelf in my office.

A Loud Silence
These announcements are made with angels singing, harps playing, and trumpets blaring. If things don't work out between the vendors, though, the arrangements are quietly discontinued with no notice whatsoever.

I'd suggest carefully considering the joint products and services being offered. If they make sense together and will address your business requirements, buy into their joint vision. If not, just sit back and enjoy the show. There will be another episode in the near future.

About the Author

Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. He has been a business unit manager at a hardware company and head of corporate marketing and strategy at a software company.

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