Changing the Channel: Networking VAR news

Jun 4 2009   10:01PM GMT

Cisco channel gameplan for expanding its data center footprint

Shamus McGillicuddy Shamus McGillicuddy Profile: Shamus McGillicuddy

At this week’s Cisco Partner Summit in Boston, Cisco revealed its game plan for expanding its channel partners’ role in selling Cisco data center products. At the center of the plan is the Unified Computing System (UCS), Cisco’s server product line, which was announced earlier this year after many months of speculation. Now, as Cisco begins to roll out its go-to-market strategy for UCS, enterprises are taking notice.

Investment bank Goldman Sachs recently surveyed 100 IT executives at Fortune 1000 companies and found that 18% plan to evaluate Cisco’s servers in the next year and about 67% expect to see an “increased presence for Cisco servers in their data centers over the next two to three years.  Several executives touted these findings during various keynote presentations at the partner summit.  However, GigaOm pointed out, an “increased presence” for Cisco servers doens’t mean much since Cisco’s servers are just now hitting the market. Since the vast majority of companies have no Cisco servers, just one Cisco server in a data center would represent an increased presence.

In any case, here’s a rundown of the channel-relevant news that came out this week around the Unified Computing system:

First Cisco announced several new programs aimed at expanding its data center partner channel.

  • Cisco expanded its Value Incentive Program to all of its data center technologies. This program was limited to its data center switching line, but now partners earn incentive rewards for developing expertise around the company’s unified computing servers, storage networking, WAN optimization.
  • Cisco also introduced its Data Center Channel Solutions Program. This appears to be a program that helps partners validate reference data center designs that incorporate products from leading data center vendors, such as EMC, Microsoft, Netapp, Red Hat and VMware. Note that leading server vendors like HP and IBM are not mentioned here. Old friends are now frenemies.
  • The company also rolled out an Authorized Partner Program that expanded the number of channel partners that can sell Unified Computing servers. After completing some online training and an exam, all Cisco DCNI (Cisco Advanced Data Center Network Infrastructure Specialization) partners will be able to sell the newly announced UCS Series-C rack-mounted servers. (more on these new servers below).

In conjunction with all these channel programs, Cisco also announced an expansion of its Unified Computing System server family.  Cisco unveiled the UCS C-Series Rack-Mount servers, a new form factor for the UCS line (or an older form factor, depending on how you look at it).

Cisco’s initial roll-out of UCS involved the UCS B-Series blade servers, which work with specialized blade chassis, fabric interconnects and fabric extenders. The new C-Series rack servers will offer the following features:

  • The servers will run on the unified, lossless 10 Gigabit Ethernet fabric that eliminates the need for separate storage network connections in the servers.
  • Like the B-Series servers, the C-Series will also have Cisco’s new memory extension technology, which Cisco claims will yield more than 2.5 times the addressable memory of currently available two-socket rack-mount platforms. this will allow companies to run more virtual machines on physical servers.
  • Cisco will also include a virtualized adapter on these servers, which optimizes workload consolidation and virtualization by allowing each adaptor to define up to 128 Ethernet or Fibre Channel connections inside the box.

These new servers are built on Intel Xeon 5500 processor. They will be available in the final quarter of 2009.

Cisco also announced two new IT career certifications in data center management, which it will target at both customers and channel partners.  the new certifications are Cisco Data Center Unified Computing Design Specialist and Cisco Data Center Unified Computing Support Specialist. Both certifications will involve skills in storage networking, data center networking infrastructure, data center applications services and virtualization.

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