Virtualization kingpin VMware (NYSE: VMW) quietly rolled out a new Consulting and Integration Partner Program (CIPP) a few weeks ago -- so noiselessly that it went largely unnoticed. That perhaps has prompted this latest, more recent — and this time partner benefits-centric -- round of marketing by the company to get the word out on why this is a good thing.

Why is CIPP kind of a big deal? Mainly because it hones in on partner evolution, a challenge faced by every vendor whose success depends, in part, on solution providers embracing new business models.

With CIPP, VMware -- which has long positioned channel partners as essential to advancing the cloud -- essentially wants to play off of the consulting and professional services capabilities of solution providers, backing them with enablement, planning, practice-building and go-to-market resources.

VMware figures the deal will bring it more cloud engagements and, correspondingly, spike service sales for partners.

Doug Smith, VMware vice president, Partner Strategy and Operations, took the first run at announcing CIPP in a blog post in mid-June, pointing out that while public and private cloud development is prompting a “tremendous amount of architectural and application integration/migration work,” for service partners, VMware realizes “that moving to a cloud-based platform can present new challenges …”

That’s really the heart of the matter, isn’t it? In VMware’s latest video promo for the program, Michelle Hodges, senior director, Worldwide Systems Integrators/Outsourcers, said that “delivering cloud-based business vertical applications not only allows CIPP partners to differentiate themselves but also maximize the value of the offerings while promoting a brand new business model.”

There’s also some novelty here. The CIPP program, with four tiers, is based not on the idea of incenting partners to climb levels, but on aligning solution providers with their existing services and consulting capabilities.

Education is a critical part of channel partners moving up the IT food chain, especially for cloud services. So, it’s interesting that VMware has had an open job requisition since at least January for an Education Marketing Manager.

What’s the job entail? Among other duties, promoting the value of VMware education to customers, partners and key stakeholders not only for licensing but also service sales. Hope it's filled soon.