“Wow!” was the general reaction when we found out that VMware had announced End of Availability for their VMware Go Pro offering. Only a little more than a month ago, VMware published a competitive comparison calling out SolarWinds®, Windows® Intune™, and others in comparing VMware Go Pro with those products. I wrote a blog on February 6 titled “Has VMware Decided Not to Cede the SMB to Microsoft Hyper-V.” While we disagreed with some of the implied criteria VMware used in the comparison, in my blog response I noted that it looked like the Go Pro offering was a sign that VMware was taking the needs of the SMB customer more seriously. While that provides some virtualization management competition for SolarWinds, it was good overall for the market and the end-user to have both VMware and Microsoft® aggressively vying for their hypervisor business. Now only three weeks later, it looks like I might be forced to retract the assessment that VMware is taking the SMB seriously.
So why would VMware do that kind of “about face” so soon after taking such an aggressive stand with the competition? According to a letter on the VMware website, they say:
“Over the past few releases of vSphere, VMware has taken steps to ease the vSphere installation experience and added vCenter Operations Manager Foundation to provide the IT Management capabilities. To prevent product functionality overlap, VMware has announced that no further orders for VMware Go Pro™ will be accepted beginning March 1, 2013, the End of Availability (“EOA”) date for VMware Go and VMware Go Pro.”
It is interesting to note that there is no “functionality overlap” with the primary features of Go Pro - patch management or trouble ticketing - with either vSphere™ or vCenter™ Operations Manager Foundation. If customers want to continue patching, they have to buy a new copy of vCenter Protect but apparently get no entitlement to it. Given that, it is hard to understand how “functionality overlap” is the only issue driving this decision. While there is no way to know for sure what other reasons VMware may have, we can look at common reasons why companies might abruptly pull a low priced entry product from the market. Typically the cause falls into one of three categories:
- Offering Doesn’t Do Well with Target Customers – The solution either doesn’t meet the needs of the target customer or isn’t a high enough priority for the target customer. While any vendor can have a few missteps, too many can be a sign that they don’t understand the target customer.
- Offering Does Too Well – This probably happens more than you’d think. As companies try to leverage their enterprise offering to appeal to SMB customers, one of the first things they often try is adding restrictions and reducing the price. However if a company is trying to protect big revenue streams from an enterprise offering, they can start to cannibalize their own revenue stream. When the CFO sees the company’s high priced enterprise revenue streams going south, it can be amazing how fast an SMB offering can be pulled.
- Offering Packaging Just Not Appropriate – It is difficult to put together a hard bundle of products that really hits a broad sector of the target audience. Often, they are related but don’t really provide substantial incremental value over getting them separately. Additionally, it is pretty common that one portion of the bundle provides more value than the other components, leaving the customer to feel like the other pieces have been forced on them. That is why SolarWinds tends to offer solutions á la carte but at a price that doesn’t require a bundle to be affordable.
These situations could boil down to two underlying scenarios: either the company is not in tune with their SMB customers or they are considering prioritizing their enterprise customers.
We don’t want to be too hard on VMware. After all, their leadership and innovation in the hypervisor market has gotten the server virtualization market where it is today and finally given Microsoft some competition in the x86 server space. However, it is difficult to balance complex technology solutions required by just a few bleeding edge customers with the need for simplicity and ease of use that the bulk of the market requires. At SolarWinds, we have made a conscious decision to offer the exact same easy-to-use but powerful solutions to all of our customers regardless of size. In some cases, that means that we have to walk away from a large deal that requires the complexity of a “left-handed purple widget” feature that only one customer is likely to want. On the other hand, we’re not conflicted when we sell to either a Fortune 500 or an SMB customer.
For customers affected by the VMware announcement or considering related VMware offerings, now may be a good time to at least consider a SolarWinds alternative like Virtualization Manager, Patch Manager and Web Help Desk™ before “the information stored in VMware Go and VMware Go Pro will be irrecoverably deleted.”