One-on-one with EMC channel chief Peter Koliopoulos

Orlando – Cloud computing has been the recent buzz-phrase du jour in the technology, and at its recent EMC World user conference in Orlando, storage vendor EMC (NYSE: EMC) added a new spin by introducing its concept of a “private cloud” that combines the flexibility of traditional cloud computing with the management and security of an on-premise solution.

EMC sees a hybrid data-centre model going forward, with traditional and virtualized infrastructures working together seamlessly. It also launched EMC Atmos onLine, a storage managed services play, and it put VMware (NYSE: VMW) and Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO) front and centre to highlight their alliance around the next-generation virtual data centre.

What does EMC envision as channel’s role in this data centre of the near future and, more importantly, how can partners make money in this new vision. EMC’s vice-president of global channel marketing, Peter Koliopoulos, sat down with Computer Dealer News during EMC world to discuss these issues, and more.

Computer Dealer News: Your first major news at EMC World was the launch of EMC Atmos onLine, and AT&T also launched an Atmos-based storage-as-a-service play. Is this going to just be a play for the major telcos as managed service providers, or will Atmos onLine scale down into the MSP channel?

Peter Koliopoulos: Coming out of the gate I think it’s going to be a mix of people. We haven’t brought that offer to the channel yet, but I think over time we’re going to. It’s just a matter of how we’re going to set it up, what sizing we’re going to do on it and how we’re going to play it out.

Our typical resell channel has interest in managed services and some of them are already doing it for their customers. We’re still putting together how we want to bring that offer to them and how we want to position it with them.

I spoke to some analysts today and there’s still a lot of debate about how partners can make money at this and how it gets positioned. We’re still doing some thinking about how we bring it forward.

Our channel guys are all B2B, and they scale from SMB all the way to enterprise customers. They’ve got varied needs. That’s why we’re taking our time deciding what we’re going to arm them with, if anything, from our portfolio as far as an MSP offering.I don’t have a timeline. We had our partner advisory board yesterday and this was an item of discussion. They gave us some ideas and we’ve got some research to do.

CDN: We’ve been hearing a lot of talk about this idea of the private cloud. That would seem to require integration between on-premise and cloud solutions, which could provide channel opportunity. Do your partners have the skills to leverage this?

Koliopoulos: Our partner base is pretty diverse and highly skilled. They’ve been doing VMware implementations and are VAC certified for the last two to three years. Most of them are also networking partners, whether it’s Cisco or Brocade.

So they’ve got expertise. They’ve built both in virtualization as well as networking and storage. You take those three elements and you see these guys are already putting their customers on that path, because all those things are necessary as you start to build the cloud out.

They’re clearly positioned. The vast majority of our partners are already VMware partners, and again a majority of the ones that are, are also Cisco and Brocade customers. I think we’ve got a good partner-base to actually take that forward.

CDN: Do you see this becoming less of a hardware play and more of a services play, therefore opening-up more margin and revenue opportunity for partners?

Koliopoulos: I think it gets kind of interesting. I think one of the things that’s going to become critical in that model is SLAs (service level agreements). You’ve got internal and external, and once you go external you’re going to have to meet a certain service level.

And there is a big services play. Our partners today participate very heavily in delivering services along with our equipment for complete solutions. They have deep services practices they’re going to be able to adapt to deliver the services necessary to support private and home-cloud computing initiatives.

I don’t know if they have them all yet, because I’m not even sure I know what all of them are that they’ll have to have. But when we bring the subject up with them they’re knee-deep in it, so we feel pretty good about that. Over the next three to five years I think those are going to be the critical skills to make you a winner.

CDN: You’ve chosen to highlight your data centre alliance with VMware and Cisco, and I understand there is a great deal of overlap between the three channel programs. How are you incenting and facilitating cooperation at the partner level?

Koliopoulos: A fair bit of overlap. We have reward programs for our partners that also sell VMware, and over the next months we’ll probably do that with Cisco and some of the other network vendors as well. We’ve done it on a product basis, and I think you’ll see things get a little broader as we go forward.

Some of it’s pretty basic. Sell mutual products, sell solutions with EMC and VMware products in it and you make more money, through rebates, through spiffs, and a number of things. Same if you add other vendor’s products we want to see as part of the solution, you’re going to get more for that. We’re also able to offer cross-training across those vendors so they become fully enabled with the value proposition and the messaging and the positioning and the product sets.

Customer satisfaction stays pretty high if those partners know all the components that are going to go into it and know deeply how to integrate it.

CDN: In today’s market where are your partners finding opportunity, and where are they finding margin and revenue?

Koliopoulos: One of the things we’ve seen is data de-duplication. From a hardware and software point of view it’s red-hot. There’s lots of opportunity. It fits great with things such as operational efficiency and cost-savings. It fits in the core of what a lot of customers are looking for: high ROI, and it’s an OpEx spend with immediate return.

We continue to see a lot of movement around virtualization. Almost all of our products have been implemented to be able to work in a virtualized environment. Our hardware and software products are all developed with the idea you have to be able to work in a physical and a virtual environment. That gives our partners a lot of leverage with what’s going on in the market.

I think partners have found that the portfolio we offer is very relevant to what the customers are buying today around operational efficiency, around green IT.

It’s very hard to make money just putting a box in. When you look at our partners who are delivering mid-range solutions, they’re talking about hardware, software, services. That’s a winning value proposition. If we’ve got the program built right, and I think we do, profitability is key for the partners.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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