Julian Salinas Leads VMware Technical Account Manager Program for Edge
Julian Salinas didn’t follow a direct route toward helping customers with their technical situations. Early in his career he deployed his first ESX host, and the business quickly grew from 0 percent to 60 percent virtualized. From there, the company he was working for at the time had a multisite configuration consisting of 16 hosts and was still growing.
However, in 2010, Salinas found his true calling, working closely with customers.
“I’ve always been a fairly shy person, so I had to break out of my shell,” he said. “I had major nerves the first time I was in front of a customer. I definitely took the jump and shook out the nerves. I went full speed ahead and have absolutely loved working closely with people ever since.”
Currently, Salinas serves as technical account manager (TAM) at Edge. His VMware experience allows him to architect, deploy, and troubleshoot situations in any vSphere environment.
“Basically my roles have ranged from administrator to presales, engineer to leader, but in all roles, I’ve had the same initiative, which is client first,” Salinas said. “I’ve always approached every opportunity as a means to learn something new.”
Salinas has found he really enjoys building rapport with his clients.
“Working with people is exactly what I love! Our conversations don’t even necessarily have to be about technology,” Salinas said. “I believe building relationships is a privilege, and I think so many people take for granted just talking, not texting and emailing, but actually speaking to another human being.”
VMware & Edge: A Secure Partnership
For Edge members who look to provide more security protection to their datacenter infrastructure, VMware is included in Edge’s EdgeSecure solution. Via EdgeSecure, Edge and VMware can help with security initiatives as well as managing the constantly changing world of cybersecurity struggles. Collectively, the two entities have unique ways to enter a member’s environment and help them analyze, gain a better understanding of what is happening, and determine how their system can become secured and capabilities delivered.
Since the two parties collaborated, Edge members have benefited from these technology-driven services. Currently, Salinas is providing a professional service to Edge clients.
“I feel like the TAM program gives Edge members the chance to achieve high levels of support, customer advocacy and insight into VMware, which they may or may not be accustomed to,” Salinas explained. “My initiative is to make sure Edge members utilize what they have already purchased and look for ways to help them succeed.”
Salinas provides an extra level of support to Edge members, whether support includes helping with a service ticket or making sure they received the exact agreed-upon terms as set forth in the preliminary Service Level Agreement (SLA). He can jump in and escalate the process and be their customer advocate. Salinas can also reach out to product managers and pull information and share the data through nondisclosure agreements.
“We can also talk about what’s coming next,” Salinas said. “The partnership is a good arrangement, and I really enjoy working for Edge.”
Another service Salinas assists Edge members with is a practice review, which involves deploying a virtual appliance in a VMware environment. The result provides a detailed best practice review and insight of the VMware infrastructure.
Salinas also utilizes a tool called a capability assessment. This tool allows a joint effort to verify your readiness for the capability you desire. He helps customers fill out the information and understand the progression. Together, they then assign their initiatives and go through certain steps needed to go onto any particular initiative, such as VDI or Cloud.
Additional support involves a TAM business review, which is a collective of everything being gathered throughout the TAM engagement, including a best practice review, capability assessment or submitted support requests. Salinas then combines this information into a presentation showing where collaboration took place throughout the year and how he was involved, helped, and which issues were found and then solved.
The analytic aspect and metric aspect Salinas provides are vital to the TAM program.
“I believe the TAM program is the added value component Edge took into account when they made the partnership with VMware,” he said. “TAM is how we can help Edge members succeed and maximize their investment in VMware.”
Helping VMware Administrators
One of Salinas’ tasks involves working with VMware administrators and showing these individuals where improvements should be made in their organization. First, Salinas has the member undergo a TAM best practice review, which generates an output of the current environment into a PDF format and showcases levels of severity.
“The best practice review would put a Severity 1 if the report sees you missed the mark by a large amount on a very important matter,” Salinas explained. “The higher severity numbers, however, indicate how close the administrator is to performing the function correctly.”
The report scans the whole environment and provides an analysis. If an institution isn’t meeting the best practice, the description shares the justification for why the best practice should be met. The data behind the report points to the infrastructure itself and looks at the specific configuration on the specific host.
“The report is very detailed and provides vital information for the administrator, even if you think your environment is running pristine,” Salinas said. “Every client so far has given glowing feedback on the best practice review.”
The tool delves down deep into the organization’s environment, and the data is extrapolated. If an issue is detected in a health check, the resolution could prevent data loss.
“Something that we spent two hours preparing could possibly save the client days of headaches and stress,” he said.
Salinas explained that sometimes the fix is simple, but only via active dialogue with the client is a solution identified so quickly. He pointed to a situation where a client simply forgot to put a time server on one of their hosts. Together, they made a quick change, and the situation was resolved. The institution didn’t have to power down or shut down any VMs. In some cases, the host may have had underperformance for years and the issue had been overlooked.
Another way Salinas provides support is to help with any problems a client may experience. For instance, an administrator has an incident take place and a better answer or solution is needed. Salinas will get involved from the start and provide assistance if needed. Resolution may mean reaching out specifically to the support engineer or manager, escalating the service ticket or driving the issue to a higher severity level so a solution can be found quickly.
“If we’re not getting the answers we need or the problem is an unknown issue, I can drive the ticket to engineering to try and duplicate the problem and find out if it’s a new bug,” he said. “We are always asking how we can grow inside VMware and make the program better for the customer. This customer-forward aspect to the TAM Program is really the initiative, so having the additional push on my side is definitely a benefit.”
Navigating Common Challenges and Concerns
Salinas has been in the TAM role for the past five months and has been regularly meeting with Edge members. One of the struggles a member may experience is staying up-to-date with new technology and their revised releases. For instance, there have been three major releases in vSphere 6, whether it’s 6.0, 6.5, and 6.7.
A member can find keeping pace with the various iterations quite a challenge especially the differences between the iterative releases where customers need to understand the interdependencies, known issues, and the road mapping.
Another concern for Edge members involves navigating digital transformation and understanding how to get to the Cloud. With so many members presently undergoing digital transformations, questions are often received about how their own transformation might work.
“These are areas where I can assist in the transformation and provide guidance on how the various aspects of a transformation would look for an administrator, engineer, architect, etc. We then take the process a step further by informing the customer on the end result,” Salinas said. “When customers first review the end result output, their reactions are very powerful.”
Salinas’ assistance eases countless burdens administrators may experience, just by being an extra resource in the constantly transforming digital ecosystem. This commitment to detail has allowed Salinas to help Edge members with some bigger projects, including escalating tickets created on late Friday afternoons.
“With certain Service Level Agreements, the response may not happen until early Monday if the ticket is opened late Friday,” he said. “I can help push toward a resolution by reaching out to support directly. In certain situations, this could apply to weekend and late evenings.”
Another occasion Salinas provided extra support was when best practice reviews drew out other issues in the client’s environment. To help find a solution, he met with multiple universities, finding extra resources to assist them with problems. In specific instances, Salinas works with the VMware administrator and coordinates a specialist, thus providing a huge value to the Edge member.
There are different levels of VMware support provided to clients. Under the Edge enterprise license agreement, which is an option under the consortium purchasing program, members can purchase the license and extra support.
Edge’s VMware Practice Group
For those members who desire to become more proficient with VMware, Salinas guides a VMware Practice Group in correlation with Edge’s member communities. This group format has been beneficial to members, allowing different parties to collaborate and discuss similar issues, possible resolutons, and initiatives.
“This group is worth its weight in gold. Participants can easily talk to their peers and are able to network with them in a meaningful way,” Salinas said. “Anytime individuals can meet with others in their same industry and discover solutions together, the value is huge.”
In the group, the participants hear from peers and the VMware Teams about “what’s new” at VMware. Salinas said having the VMware account team at these sessions is incredibly beneficial because then attendees have direct access to account executives, presale engineers, TAM, and other VMware specialists.
Having specialists on hand is particularly favorable. For example, a situation arises when a member’s initiative involves migration to VMware Cloud or Amazon Web Services (AWS), and the Edge member doesn’t know who to ask for help. At the Practice Group, 95 percent of the time there is a VMware specialist or AWS specialist available to answer questions. If a question cannot be fully addressed during the session, the specialist can immediately schedule a post call with the interested party. If more help is needed, a one-on-one session, along with the discussion can take place.
“There are a lot of good things coming out of this group, and I really appreciate being a part of the team,” Salinas said. “Edge has taken the initiative to put its members’ needs into perspective. They listen to their members and then to determine the best possible solution.” Edge is thankful Salinas found his calling, building relationships while helping people with technical situations.