Over the past couple of days my colleague Mark Bowker and I have had the pleasure of being out in California’s San Diego area spending time with all the top execs at VCE. A bunch of the juicy stuff can’t be shared as yet due to NDAs – though I will say it is all directionally good and going to provide some really great new capabilities for VCE customers.
That being said – what I really came away with was so much more than just another ‘yada-yada-speeds-and-feeds’ understanding of what VCE is all about. A year ago I would have been thinking ‘but what about … and what about … or why didn’t you do this?’ Now I’m just damn impressed with a company that has really figured out what it is good at and it has completely focused on that. The VCE folks talked a lot about simplicity – simplicity in the product line as well as the experience of moving a Vblock from the loading dock to making it run workloads. What really is going on is there is an executive team highly focused on delivering outstanding service to their customers. Here are some of the highlights on how they are doing that:
· Product line – by listening to their customers VCE has come up with a way to manufacture and ship a hyper-standardized platform that is modular. Quality is so good that customers don’t just come back for more – they come back for a lot more. VCE has grown to over $1B in annual revenue but they have shipped over 1700 systems (system is not a frame – many are multiple frames) to more than 800 customers.
· Services – when a customer buys a Vblock they get a system ready to go from the factory – but they can also get concierge service setting it up. A system can be up and running in just a few days and VCE can manage it for the customer for a period of time while they learn how to manage the system.
· Innovation – building new technology is always interesting to see – and the VCE parent companies spend over $20B a year on R&D that VCE can tap into. That said VCE has filed over 45 patents of their own – many of which are designed to simplify the customer experience or have an impact on improving quality.
· OPEX reduction – When the total cost of running a VM is looked at VCE purports to reduce annual datacenter costs by 50%. Add in the fact that downtimes are reduced by 96% as well and this becomes very compelling. Just the fact that most VCE customers see a reduction from 3 people managing the system layers (compute, storage, network) down to just one is also important.
· Customers – we got to listen and chat with a group of great customers. One is a big datacenter company, one a BPO cloud provider, one a media company (broadcast and Internet), and one a large educational institution. They all said they just stopped focusing on the infrastructure and actually were able to redeploy their headcount for things like applications support, database administrators, and business analysts – in other words the kind of IT people who engage directly with the lines of business.
So what is VCE really selling – the best customer experience possible with reliability and scale capabilities 2nd to none in the industry. What’s their biggest challenge? Getting IT people to think differently about the datacenter. DIY and reference architectures are too expensive to design, build, and maintain. IT has to get used to the idea that they can buy a ‘datacenter in a box’ and just use it as they need to and let someone else worry about designing, building, and for the most part maintaining it. Having had to be on call for more than a decade myself for system failures – this really sounds good to me.
One more thing. VCE President Frank Houck ran the ‘total customer experience’ (TCE) program at EMC for a number of years – so it is no wonder that he took all that great leadership and experience to VCE and made the customer experience part of VCE’s DNA - making it – the Virtuous Customer Experience company.