VMware: Stick with us because Amazon will kill us all

VMware(s vmw) has gone to the mattresses —  telling its reseller and systems integration partners that if corporate workloads go to the Amazon(s amzn) cloud, everyone else is dead.

vmware-logoI’m exaggerating, but not much. Accounts out of VMware’s partner conference in Las Vegas this week really lay it out: CRN‘s Steve Burke quotes VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger telling VMware partners that “if a workload goes to Amazon [Web Services], you lose, and we have lost forever.”

Gelsinger continued:

“We want to own corporate workload … We all lose if they end up in these commodity public clouds. We want to extend our franchise from the private cloud into the public cloud and uniquely enable our customers with the benefits of both. Own the corporate workload now and forever.”

So who really loses or wins here? Would it really be everyone or would it be VMware? No one is blind to the fact that Amazon Web Services’ growing power is of huge concern to legacy IT vendors and even to some of AWS’ own partners, but VMware hasn’t exactly covered itself in glory when it comes to partner relationships. Long-time VMware partners always complain about having to compete with VMware sales in the field. And, Gelsinger’s verbiage sounds very much like Microsoft whining a few years ago that Microsoft partners lose when customers go to Google Apps.

logo_AWSIt’s a never-ending story: vendors love their VAR and integration partners until the vendor hits critical mass and business matures. Then those partners — and the margin they take from vendors — become an albatross and it’s time to go direct or to cut partner margin. Guess who loses then?

Conflating your own vendor-specific interests with those of your partners (and  users) is tricky stuff, as Matt Asay writes in ReadWrite.

CRN also quoted VMware President and COO  Carl Eschenbach telling conference attendees: “I look at this audience, and I look at VMware and the brand reputation we have in the enterprise, and I find it really hard to believe that we cannot collectively beat a company that sells books.”

To which, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels responded on Twitter:

The problem VMware has is that many of its own partners don’t see huge value in selling vCloud Director: Many will provide it but they often offer other options — OpenStack etc.– as well.

VMware’s advantage is that nearly every company of any size runs vSphere in-house, but parlaying that virtualization dominance into the public cloud has proven difficult. Fair or not, VMware is seen as the expensive, proprietary option while AWS has become the go-to plan, at least for  test and development environments. Now Amazon is pushing hard  to win production workloads as evidenced by its big AWS: Reinvent show last November.

Here’s the thing: Gelsinger’s a smart guy. If he really wants VMware partners to fight its battles, the company has to start being better to its partners and stop competing with them in the field. Oh, and it has to offer a public cloud strategy that people want to buy into.