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VMware’s picking its storage friends more carefully

VMware historically has had a good relationship with storage vendors, especially those who focus on storing and protection for virtual machines. The annual VMworld conference draws more storage vendors than any storage-dedicated show. The VMware Partner Exchange (PEX) show has also been storage vendor-friendly, although less so this year.

As first reported by CRN, VMware asked Nutanix and Veeam Software to stay away from PEX next week. Those two vendors have had success with products that help organizations running VMware hypervisors. Nutanix sells hyper-converged systems that include storage, servers and VMware hypervisors in one box, and Veeam sells backup for virtual machines.

But VMware has also become more competitive with Nutanix and Veeam as VMware expanded its capabilities and products over the past couple of years. VMware’s Virtual SAN (vSAN), currently in beta, is a software-only version of what Nutanix does. Nutanix also competes with Vblocks, sold by the VCE joint venture comprised of VMware, its parent EMC and Cisco. And VMware’s vSphere Data Protection (VDP) backup product, an OEM version of EMC’s Avamar software, directly competes with Veeam’s Backup & Recovery.

Still, VMware isn’t telling all hyperconverged systems and VM backup vendors to stay away from PEX. SimpliVity, which also sells hyper-converged systems that bundle VMware hypervisors, will be at the show and its CEO Doron Kempel will be a speaker. Unitrends PHD, which also handles VM backups, will also be there.

Why Nutanix and Veeam? Maybe because of their success. They are among the fastest growing storage vendors, according to the numbers released by the private companies. Nutanix claims it has gone over $100 million in revenue in barely two years of selling products, and forecasts more than $80 million for 2014. Veeam claims its annual revenue passed $100 million in 2012, and that its software protects more than 5.5 million VMs. These vendors can also be seen as growing threats to EMC and VMware’s larger storage partners, including NetApp, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM.

Although Veeam now protects Microsoft Hyper-V VMs too, it much of its early success came from customer referrals from VMware. Doug Hazelman, Veeam vice president of product strategy, said he would not speculate why Veeam is no longer welcome at VPX but said his company still considers VMware an ally.

“We still have a good relationship with VMware,” he said. “The vast majority of the more than 80,000 customers we have are running on VMware. In the software industry there is always overlap between vendors like VMware and Microsoft and their partners, and Veeam is no different.”

Hazelman wouldn’t say if he thought being officially absent from PEX will hurt business, but he said Veeam will send a team to the show for meetings with VMware partners. “We have a strong and vocal customer base and partner base,” he said. “Just because we may not be on the show floor or at the partner exchange, doesn’t mean we won’t be out there.”

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There are lots of vendors who play in the VMware eco system and many of them doing very well and also competing with many VMware capabilities. Just because Nutanix & Veeam are doing exceptionally well, stopping them from coming to the 'party' is not going to stop the momentum. Will they next stop them from attending VMWorld? Hope not. Nutanix & Veeam could draw more attention with guerrilla marketing tactics (learning from the likes of Salesforce) if they do so. Looking to see how this all unfolds.