Necessity makes strange bedfellows. It what is a bold move by three of the leading manufacturers in the IT industry Cisco Systems Inc., EMC Corp. and VMware Inc. have formed a coalition to push virtualization and private cloud solutions through the channel.
The three companies are calling this alliance a virtual computing coalition. Their objectives are to rapidly push customers towards a fully virtualized data centres or private clouds.
According to Mitch Breen, senior vice president, global channel strategy and sales for EMC (NYSE: EMC), based in Hopkinton, Mass., this coalition is different from any other type of partnership or alliance that you typically see in this industry because the three firms made four significant investments together.
They are: A unified customer engagement model, the VBlock infrastructure packages that have been validated, tested and ready to go for a best of breed solution, a joint venture called Acadia and a combined channel partner ecosystem.
“Today customers need help for private clouds and they either go to a vertically integrated company or a technology company for it. The customer is then left to piece it all together and this coalition is the best of both worlds,” Breen said.
The VBlock infrastructure packages combine products from all three vendors and will start at the entry level market for small data centres and rise up to mid-size configurations and large enterprises. In total the VBlock packages can handle between 300 virtual machines up to more than 6,000.
Edison Peres, senior vice president, worldwide channels and go to market for Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO), said the coalition was driven in concert with the partner ecosystem each company shares.
“The bottom line with this coalition is that we shall work aggressively with system integrators and the channel to bring all of these realities to the market place. These are referenced architectures. The products sit at each other’s company and have been brought together in VBlock,” he said.
Currently, there are 10 channel partners that will carry VBlock. In Canada only FlexITy has the authorization.
Peres added that partner training, certification, enablement and the profitability programs that the channel works with today will be offered for these validated VBlock designs.
The joint venture Acadia, which will be made available to the channel in early 2010, will see Cisco and EMC build, operate and then transfer VBlock solutions customers themselves or to the channel partners on behalf of the customer.
Acadia was created to show customers how to build, scale and manage the infrastructure for a predetermined period of time. Then when it is fully operational it can be transferred to the customer or partner. Peres cautioned that Acadia is not outsourcing, but a way to fully enable a customer or partner to operate a virtualized data centre.
Ben Matheson, senior director of global partner marketing for VMware (Nasdaq: VMW) called the coalition a massive opportunity for the channel.
“Partners should be interested in the value of VBlock. When you look at the market it is definitely moving to private clouds and virtualization. This is going to be an $85 billion market in five years time. It’s an enormous play for the partners and a unique play for deployment across all the areas of data centre. It affects storage, virtualization, management of technology and other areas where a partner can realize margins and increased sales,” Matheson said.
Breen, Peres and Matheson each said that this coalition is in now a reflection that the channel partners could not live up to their end of the bargain when it comes to virtualization and private clouds and meeting the demand in the market place.
Breen said the coalition was about properly designing the architecture and the solution better and more succinctly so that it can get to market faster.
“It is more a reflection on the customer and partner waiting for us for a best of breed technology and a unique approach really. It is more a reflection of Cisco, VMware and EMC getting its act together,” Breen said.
Peres also said that VBlock is not a product sku. Partners will still be involved in the design and integration of the solution and will have to source the products through distribution or whatever route is more convenient for them.
All three members will be actively recruiting more channel partners to become a part of the ecosystem especially for the SMB market.