I met with the VCE folks last week and the conversation has been rattling around in my head. VCE is the funded partnership between EMC, Cisco, VMware, and Intel. This company is vastly different than the enterprise class companies we’ve come to know over the last few decades. Traditional firms center around products that come from contained product groups, while these firms have been talking about convergence far longer than VCE has been around. So how in the world was VCE so successful so quickly in an area that has taken the traditional firms decades to move on?
It comes down to authority and focus. The structure of the traditional firms places power in the power groups and review structures like Forced Ranking and the typical competition for staff and budgets put product managers at odds with each other, but VCE has one purpose and that is to create and deliver converged solutions.
This week, VCE launched its Vblock System 340, but I think the important part isn’t the release but VCE’s focused structure.
VCE vs. Typical Partnerships
In a typical partnership two companies get together for a photo opportunity and then try to execute a collaborative effort even though the firms really aren’t set up to fully collaborate. Each firm has its own unique policies and practices with regard to intellectual property, titles and authority, and each is motivated to focus on moving its own products not the partners. Executives are assigned to manage the partnership but generally this duty is number seven on a list of five priorities they can regularly handle. This is why most partnerships don’t seem to make much real progress. The structure just doesn’t drive that progress.
VCE is a funded partnership and each of the firms in it funds what is a complete company. This firm is focused on achieving the goals of the partnership and the employees in it are like customers of the partners with special benefits. Those benefits include access to each partner’s CEO to resolve problems and the ability to drive sales at a material level to all partners, with the possible exception of Intel, who is more of a silent partner anyway. The end result is that this partnership has teeth where most don’t and that’s why it has been able to execute.
VCE Convergence Advantage
Virtually all current generation companies, including the ones that make up VCE, are structured around products. This makes it very difficult to create offerings that blend products from different groups. The reason is because the company tends to silo, and both employee review and internal competition for resources drives a wedge between the groups trying to create the converged offering. While it isn’t unusual for these firms to have internal groups focused on conversion, such groups typically don’t have much authority and thus can’t drive the decisions they need to get the products they must have to make their convergence offerings take full advantage of the firm’s capabilities.
Convergence is all VCE does. It is what the company was created for. As a result it is focused like a laser on convergence and as more of a super customer. It has the power to get the authority it needs to get the job done. That is why much of its visible advantage has been on process rather than product. Because in a convergence structure, you have to find a way to massively reduce complexity or the complexity will kill the deployment. VCE’s unique process of assuring software release levels and hardware compatibility before a deployment is why its offerings tend to go in much more quickly than its competitive equivalents.
Wrapping Up: VCE’s Difference
You could argue that VCE is really the only enterprise scale convergence company in the market. Other firms in its enterprise class are product companies attempting to build convergence products. EMC is a convergence company that outsources its hardware and some of its software to its owners who then supply the base components of VCE’s solution. Or to put it differently, it is the only Convergence OEM that currently exists. Conversely you wouldn’t go to it if you needed a server, storage, or networking solution to increase existing capacity (unless it was to increase the capacity of a VCE solution) because that wouldn’t be its strength.
This also suggests that if you intend to do a convergence product, bringing in VCE to understand the process should allow you to figure out what you’ll need to have done to assure the success of your own effort. This is because convergence is the company’s unique specialty.