ePlus Inc Takes a Winning Approach to Desktop Virtualization

Many organizations are considering the move from legacy “fat” PCs to virtualized desktops, particularly as Windows XP approaches end of life and an improving economy is easing IT purse strings.  However, the traditional process required to build a custom solution – planning, assessment, design, specification, implementation, testing – takes a long time and does not guarantee success. “We saw that customers were often confused and unsure about what to do, especially when a desktop virtualization engineering project dragged on for months,” said Richard Bernard, National Practice Lead, Advanced Systems, for ePlus, inc., based in Herndon, VA.

ePlus, a system integrator and VAR with equipment leasing and software divisions, saw desktop virtualization as a growth sector with major potential, but recognized the need for a new approach that could speed up customer decision making as well as implementation. “It’s complex to push what’s on the desktop into the datacenter and still deliver a satisfying user experience. I had an idea that an enterprise-class design with repeatable, proven infrastructure components could lower costs and spare customers from a thousand decisions involved with a custom solution,” Bernard explained.

ePlus is definitely onto something special, because this turnkey, repeatable approach is also being adopted by a number of leading channel partners across the globe who are winning in the desktop virtualization space. It is this thinking that was the impetus for the development and launch of the Cisco and Citrix Partner Accelerator framework. It provides joint partners with the resources and training needed to sell an integrated and validated virtual desktop solution featuring Cisco Virtualization Experience Infrastructure (VXI) and Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops, with a choice of hypervisors (Citrix Hypervisor, Microsoft Hyper-V or VMware vSphere) and storage solutions (NetApp or EMC).

Not only did Bernard play an important collaborative role in developing the program, which launched in late June 2012, his company has already achieved notable success using it.

Big benefits for partners and customers

As an active participant in the Partner Accelerator, ePlus has closed a number of deals, many involving thousands of seats. “This solution enables us to cut through the fear, uncertainty and doubt that many customers feel when contemplating a virtual desktop project,” he said. “Not only does it employ a common architecture with repeatable, validated components, but it offers more than the average solution. For example, it’s based on Cisco Unified Communications, which allows customers to support mobile workstyles.”

The Cisco VXI with Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops solution is a differentiator that is ahead of the market. Citrix and Cisco are investing significant resources to make it successful and provide new opportunities for joint partners. 

Through its simplicity, affordability and speed, the solution gives partners a competitive advantage. Bernard explained, “We are able to offer important value to customers, including a ‘tried and true’ solution that is based on a Cisco Validated Design and guaranteed to work. It keeps the customer out of the weeds of technology decisions. Finally, support is managed through Cisco, with partners like Citrix working closely behind the scenes to resolve any technical issues. This gives customers a single point of contact, which is very attractive.”

The Partner Accelerator framework provides a wide range of tools, including templates, playbooks for selling scenarios and ROI and TCO calculators.  “We feel very supported by this program, with many people to rely on for advice and mentorship,” he said. “It also frees us to concentrate on new business.”

Cutting the sales cycle in half

Speed is one of the main advantages for partners. In one case, ePlus won a deal with a bank that had been struggling to find a virtual desktop solution for many months. “They had been working with six different competitors, but we were able to close the business in just eight days.” By entering a small number of variables – use cases, seats – into standard planning tools, ePlus can quickly provide a tailored proposal.

Bernard estimates that using the Partner Accelerator system allows ePlus, conservatively, to cut the sales cycle by 50 percent, even taking into account three onsite assessments (for apps, network sizing and security) that are included in each project.

From a profitability standpoint, he said that the company is seeing higher blended margins as a result of the Partner Accelerator, sometimes increasing by as much as 1.35 times their previous margins. Another financial advantage is the ability to scale the solution incrementally, allowing ePlus to run paid pilots with a few hundred seats that can be expanded by adding servers and licenses to the existing infrastructure and design. “Paid pilots are a better deal than unpaid, lengthy POCs for us, our vendors and the customer,” he noted.

“Strategically, the Partner Accelerator is enabling us to enter an active market space, improve margins, provide a simple, cost-effective and phased solution to clients and ensure great results.

“I believe this is the gold standard for desktop virtualization,” Bernard concluded.

Strategically, the Partner Accelerator is enabling us to enter an active market space, improve margins, provide a simple, cost-effective and phased solution to clients and ensure great results. I believe this is the gold standard for desktop virtualization

Richard Bernard
National Practice Lead, Advanced Systems
ePlus, inc.