Placing customers at the heart of everything we do is an ethos applied throughout the Converged Platforms Division (CPD). Constant interaction with them is a significant part of my role as the EMEA CTO and my team and I spend a lot of our time meeting and working with different groups to understand their challenges, what’s working for them and, most importantly, what’s not! In fact responsiveness to customer feedback has played a crucial part in our success to date, and has been a key element in enabling CPD to continually evolve.Today we have the most comprehensive converged platforms portfolio in the industry spanning Blocks, Racks, Appliances and including solutions for Enterprise Hybrid Cloud, Native Hybrid Cloud and those addressing almost all data center use cases including VDI, big data and analytics. Customer feedback and insight becomes even more important as we expand these platforms both horizontally with an increased breadth of products, and vertically up the stack with higher levels of software integration.It is for these reasons that for the last four years we have organized the VCE Customer Advisory Board (CAB), a marquee customer engagement combining it with an Analyst Day. These events enable us to capture crucial feedback on VCE offerings, plans, and portfolios. Insights gleaned from these critical two day events have enabled us to launch the VxRack System, the industry’s first engineered Rackscale System and VxRail, the most tightly integrated, preconfigured, turnkey hyper-converged appliance, featuring a unique combination of VCE engineering alongside major components of the VMWare software stack. Customer feedback was also instrumental in the activation of new enterprise initiatives to streamline processes, such as the new ‘on-boarding’ service.It is against this backdrop that I headed out to Boston to immerse myself in an open dialogue with our customers and analysts for CAB and Analyst Day events. And they did not disappoint!Over 50 strategic VIP customer executives and 15 analysts attended this year’s event. The highlight for me was the two customer panels led by Todd Pavone and Trey Layton. We had participation from four key customers in each panel. Participating customers included Insight Enterprises, JLG Industries, Mohawk Industries, WEX Health and Fujifilm Medical Systems. Facing direct, un-filtered questions from the attendees, these sessions brought to life our products and portfolio and showcased the real life benefits delivered by our solutions.In other sessions we continued the CAB tradition of an open exchange of ideas as we discussed our technology roadmap and solutions strategy. Nothing was off the table. It was great to see the enthusiasm and energy with which customers participated in these discussions.One of the biggest themes that resonated with the customers was the Converged Platforms Division’s commitment to reduce complexity and enable our customers to be successful as the change agents and critical differentiators for their business. Our customers understand and appreciate our focus on doing right by their urgent business needs. We’re providing choice, flexibility and turnkey converged infrastructure options to both traditional and cloud-native applications. Flash, scale-out, software-defined and cloud-enabled is what our customers need and that’s what we’re delivering.In individual breakout sessions we discussed what wasn’t working for our customers and brainstormed their evolving needs over the next year, for example, how do customers manage the changing networking environments, how do they simplify technology upgrades and independently scale each dimension of capacity, based on consumption, use case and utility pricing rather than fixed product boundaries.There was of course some time for fun, with an excursion to Fenway Park, the home of the Boston Red Sox baseball team (they won!) and also a visit to the hugely impressive JFK library. At these events, the full range of customers and analysts were openly encouraged to talk, and the analyst community in particular pointed out that this level of interaction is unique; no other vendor allows such an open exchange, and it clearly demonstrates the extent to which our technology makes a difference, and the confidence we have in the experience that we deliver. Every person working for the CPD contributes to the overall impression that our customers have of us, and this is evidenced by the conversations that I overheard.At the end of the two days, we gather together the feedback we have received and use it to drive a constant evolution of our products, processes and to ensure that we remain relevant and valuable in the eyes (and wallets!) of our customers. A big thanks to Dawn Carney and her team for putting on a great event and I look forward to supporting next year’s CAB.