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As the economy keeps sinking, everyone from investors to individuals are racing for stability until the recessionary storm passes. Conventional wisdom says that you should stay put if you have a good job at a solid company.

Staying put is a safe bet. Mike Brunner, on the other hand, is bucking conventional wisdom in favor of a challenge. He recently gave up a solid job at vice president of worldwide channels at Wyse Technologies, where he oversaw a partner base specializing in thin clients. While he enjoyed Wyse and respects the company, he found the opportunity to be a senior director in VMware’s channel program irresistible.

I recently spoke with Brunner about what made VMware so appealing, the virtualization leader’s channel plans for the coming year and the impact of the slowing economy.

I recently caught up with one notable mover in this cluster, Mike Brunner, who recently vacated his role as vice president of worldwide channels at Wyse for VMware. In our dialog, I was searching for why shift at all, why now and why choose VMware?

KRAKORA: Why did you leave the global channel chief position at Wyse for a senior director level at VMware?I It seems a risky step in this economy? 



BRUNNER: Wyse remains the dominant player in the thin-client arena, I felt the real opportunity at the desktop level had more to do with software than hardware. I was intrigued by some of the bold channel moves made in early ’08 by Steve Houck and his team at VMware. After confirming my instincts with some trusted joint partners, I decided to make a move.

What is your perception of VMware’s biggest challenges, as you enter the organization with a fresh perspective? 

As the market leader we need to stay extremely close to the partners who got us here, because we’re relying on these same partners to take our next generation products into their customer base. We have to pay close attention to what they’re telling us they need to be successful, because we’re no longer the only ones they’re talking to. Our challenge is to make sure we do a lot of listening and don’t let past success lead to any bad habits. Losing a customer here and there hurts; but losing a key partner hurts much more.

Where do you expect to impact VMware?

My largest area of focus will be to ensure it becomes easier and more profitable to do business with VMware versus our competitors globally. Right now we have some great benefits in our program, but we need to simplify how a partner actually achieves benefits, their visibility into achievement, and how quickly they receive benefits. Removing friction for our partners is extremely important and is not always as easy as it sounds.

Why now during this crazy economic time and would you make another bold move in this economy? 

Economic downturn or not, this was a unique opportunity to join a world-class organization at a critical point in its history from a channel perspective. I couldn’t pass it up. There is a cage match about to go down in the virtualization space, and the time was now or never. I was well aware of the risks heading in, but that was also part of the attraction. If I knew two months ago what I know about the economy, would I do it again? Absolutely.

Would I consider moving again? No, but it has nothing to do with the economy or the current stock price. We have big channel plans for the end of ’08 and 2009, and I am looking forward to seeing them through to completion.

In a big, bold move such as yours, what now keeps you up at night? 

It’s not the economy! I guess I’m just an optimist. Virtualization plays well in both up and down economies. My concerns have more to do with making sure that any program enhancements we choose to make don’t also layer complexity into the equation. Partners don’t want or have the time to dig through fine print to figure out how much they stand to make on any given opportunity. If we can continue to add and simplify at the same time, we’ll be in great shape.

Diane Krakora is the CEO and founder of Amazon Consulting, a channel professional services firm in Mountain View, Calif., and partner of Channel Insider. Diane can be reached at