VCE coalition goes on hiring spree to push Vblocks

EMC, VMware and Cisco's VCE coalition is hiring hundreds of new technical and sales staff to boost sales of its Vblocks, which have been slow so far.

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The VCE coalition is hiring up a storm.

The Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) coalition, formed by EMC, VMware Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc., is adding engineers, other technical talent and salespeople to its roster. The goal is to reach a $1 billion run rate on sales of its preconfigured Vblock bundles next year.

VCE has hired about 400 people in the last four months and wants to add 100 more by year's end, a source close to the coalition said. The current VCE headcount is just under 700, and the plan is to get to 1,000 by the end of the first quarter of 2011, this source said. But others said the coalition's hiring is even more aggressive.

Many of the hires are coming from VCE's parent companies -- a trend not lost on customers such as Adam Baum, IT architect for the city of Mesa, Ariz. He said he witnessed the migration of personnel from Cisco and EMC to VCE first hand.

"I lost part of my UCS sales team to the venture," he said. "My [sales engineer] is now a direct [VCE] employee, and my sales rep is on loan from Cisco to [VCE] for a year or two."

VCE got its start in November 2009 with many employees on loan from Cisco and EMC. Much of the new hiring may come from a desire within VCE to solidify the sales and engineering force with permanent staff, rather than continuing to allow people from the parent companies to move in and out.

Staffing frenzy across VCE, Cisco, EMC
VCE isn't alone in the head hunting. EMC and Cisco are also in hiring mode.

The VCE hiring push comes as Acadia, a services company set up by the VCE consortium to guide implementation, transitions. Acadia was formed to devise Vblocks that suited the needs of large service provider customers, build them and thoroughly test them before turning them over to customers

"The original thought process was that there'd be an operational model called VCE and, because the market was developing, there'd also be a need for a build-operate-transfer model," said another source close to VCE. "A big buyer may not have the time, space or desire to spec out the Vblock needed. So Acadia would build the Vblock on site or off site, operate it for a certain amount of time for pay, see how it all runs and transfer it back to a third party provider or the customer."

But customers didn't flock to that model. In many cases, they moved faster and showed no desire to have Acadia build and test their implementations, this source said. As a result, Acadia is being merged back into VCE's operational unit, he said. That transition started a few months ago and will wrap up by year's end with the formation of a more formal VCE company, the source added.

Users are eyeing, but not widely buying
The goal of this new VCE push is to grease the skids on sales of Vblocks, which combine VMware virtualization, Cisco servers and EMC storage. The idea of Vblocks intrigues many IT pros, but actual Vblock sales remain sparse, according to partners and others following the market.

That could change as VCE works on sales incentives to make it more attractive for customers to buy complete Vblocks instead of their individual parts. Sources expect VCE to unveil such incentives early next year.

"Vblock is quite a handy solution for a solutions designer who … would rather sign a [purchase order] and have a pallet delivered with a turnkey capacity to run X virtual machines," said Chris Dearden, a U.K.-based senior hosting center engineer for one of the world's largest accountancy and professional services firms. "The second you want to run x+1 VMs, then send out for another Vblock. If there was some flexibility around that last part, I think [Vblocks] would sell better."

Added Baum, "Vblock would have been interesting to us a year ago, when we were evaluating UCS, but it was not scaled down to our size, had limited blade support … and our funding wasn't lined up."

But the bundles are getting more appealing, he said.

"If the current Vblocks were available last year and funding permitted, I think there would have been a good chance that we would be a Vblock customer," he added.

Stuart Miniman, analyst with Wikibon and former EMC staffer, said purchasing a Vblock can mean more than a technological change for a company.

"People need to change from a siloed approach to overlapping a lot more," he said.

A big part of VCE's strategy going forward will be to "walk customers through that transition," he added.

What did you think of this story? Email Barbara Darrow, Senior News Director, and Beth Pariseau, Senior News Writer.

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