If you follow the IT press, you will notice that not a week goes by without tech vendors announcing collaborations, partnerships and alliances. When IT companies collaborate, it often comes under the heading of “better together”.
Some of the alliances that exist are quite surprising. In this cloud driven era, coopetition is the order of the day. As customers increasingly demand more flexibility and choice, companies that have competing products and visions have no choice but to work with each other. This results in some unexpected bed fellows. Examples would include Red Hat the leading light for OpenStack cloud, working with Microsoft to make Red Hat Enterprise Linux available for Azure. Pure Storage sharing the storage landscape has an alliance with Cohesity and even VMware and Docker talk publicly about how they partner together.
A question that can legitimately be asked is “Are these alliances just marketing hype?”
The answer is that in some cases they are more about messaging than substance, however a few pointed questions about the alliance can quickly uncover whether the partnership is built on messaging hype or something more substantive like a tested reference architecture.
In most cases, vendor to vendor collaboration starts with finding technical solutions that bring best-of-breed products together to solve repeatable customer problems. The work that goes into these alliances can be detailed. It can involve testing of multiple use cases, expected performance and outcomes, ratified reference architectures, joint development, and even joint post-sales support engagement. Where some or all of these elements come together, then the value in these alliances is real.
Having different vendors come together to offer tested solutions also gives customers choice, where lock in is less likely with the option to reconfigure individual best of breed products down the line as strategy or needs change.
Perhaps the biggest value of alliances is seen at the sharp end in customer sites where the solutions are implemented. Sometimes vendor alliances are end user driven. Vendors see that end users are consistently building a solution based on technology from multiple vendors. Where this intelligence filters “back up the chain” those same vendors can come together, ratify the solution and market it as a jointly supported architecture.
Even more interesting is where Vendors partner and the companies that invest in the joint solutions develop the value over time. After implementing a preferred or reference architecture from partnering vendors. The users themselves extend the value and the use case over time.
A great example of this is Veeam and Cisco UCS. The partnership has led to many companies around the world using these technologies together. What both vendors have seen is that the collaboration in the field has seen their joint customers achieve much more than a data protection solution for virtualised environments. End users have explained that the combination has been fundamental to the success of virtualisation deployments.
Learning from customer experience to understand and enhance the power of these vendor alliances is critical. In Veeam’s case with Cisco UCS they commissioned the “Enterprise Strategy Group” to conduct in-depth interviews with 10 joint customers to explore the real-world value that customers experienced from the partnership. The results are compelling and can be downloaded in full at this link.