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VMware's Balkansky Talks About Customers

Accompanied by his PR aide, VMWare VP Bogomil Balkansky quietly enters the interview room and slips easily into his seat at the end of the table. With his close-cropped hair, dark blue suit and natty tie, VMware's Vice President of Product Marketing sits briefly in silence as he pulls out the Aug.-Sept. issue of VR and begins reading aloud from my VMware cover story profile.

"Strong, stoic, self-contained, the company is like China, ignoring the critics, picking its spots and always advancing," he reads from the beginning of my piece. And then, "That is one of the best descriptions of VMware that I have ever seen."

A good omen for our conversation to come.

After a minimum of small talk, we launch into the interview, during which Balkansky speaks at length about VMware's relationships with its customers, and how the company seeks to satisfy all 250,000 of them. In response to a question about how VMware caters to its most sophisticated customers as well as those who have not yet taken serious strides toward the cloud, he responds, "There is also a third group, the people who are taking Virtualization 101. We had 600 people at that session this morning."

Which provides him with a convenient segue into a discussion of how the broad horizontal scope of vSphere 5 allows it to amply serve a spectrum of customers, from virtualization newbies to private cloud practitioners. Which leads into another discussion of how to design and deliver products to market for such a diverse group. As Balkansky puts it, communicating with the company's most advanced customers in this regard is easy, because they are the ones driving the communication. "They have loud voices and they communicate with us," he says. "It is easy for us to listen to them."

SMB customers present a different challenge, because they do not have the leverage of their free-spending counterparts, and it's harder to keep in touch with them. In addition, these smaller companies move quickly, because they are not burdened by barriers such as excessive legacy applications, unwieldy change control requirements and outdated architectures. "They move from zero to 100% virtualization in a matter of a few months," Balkansky notes, adding that they also pay top dollar for their VMware products.

What they don't pay for is VMware Go, a free, Web-based service that makes it easy for new users to virtualize apps by automating the installation and configuration of ESXi, which is now the standard for vSphere 5 environments.

Another way VMware stays in touch with large and small customers alike is via its customer councils, which are designed to solicit opinions on upcoming products form high-end and low-end customers alike.

Balkansky admits that one area where VMware has not done its best is in helping its 25,000 partners go to market with their VMware solutions. As he puts it, "We're making changes to the big aircraft as we are flying." More specifically, the company is offering partners what amounts to pre-packaged plans that help them move to the market more quickly.

vCloud Director is a product with a lot of promise for VMware's cloud-bound customers because it enables them to build secure, private clouds. It is also a good example of the sophisticated technology that high-end users need to master if they are to complete their journeys to the cloud as envisoned by VMware. "They need to achieve a degree of virtualization maturity that enables them to implement advanced technologies," Balkansky notes. "We do challenge our customers--we challenge their ability to digest innovation, but if you want a challenge, this is the right kind to have."

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 09/01/2011 at 12:48 PM


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