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Cisco, NetApp Flex cloud muscles in joint venture

New FlexPod designs to open up mid-market opportunities for the channel

Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) and NetApp (NASDAQ: NTAP) are furthering their FlexPod partnership to produce more validated designs for the small to medium-sized market.

With the new series of FlexPod will also come a new pricing structure that will enable channel partners to incent customers to adopt more cloud-based solutions and services.

FlexPod pricing was not disclosed by the two companies. They said pricing would vary on the design and the customer implementation.

When initially released back in late 2010, FlexPod was an enterprise play tailored for a 5,000 seat organization or workgroup. These latest validated designs for FlexPod would serve workloads with 500 to 1,000 users. There is also an entry-level FlexPod solution that features NetApp FAS2240 and the Cisco UCS C-Series, Nexus 5000 switches, Nexus 2232 Fabric Extender, and UCS 6200 Series Fabric Interconnects.

Currently, there are more than 500 channel partners actively selling FlexPod and NetApp Canada vice-president and general manager Jeff Goldstein told CDN that these new FlexPod designs for smaller workloads opens up the market for the channel.

According to Goldstein, the same training the channel has done for the enterprise-level FlexPod can be transferred to the new entry-level and mid-market series machines.

“Channel partners would call on mid-sized accounts for FlexPod and be told that they can’t afford it; now they can,” Goldstein said.

He added that there is a discussion occurring in the market on converged infrastructure ever since Cisco introduces Unified Computing System (UCS), which has added new products to channel partners’ portfolio and have driven bigger returns.

Brian Allison, director of go to market data centre solutions for Cisco said that while Cisco and NetApp have validated designs for FlexPod, both vendors have left open integration for channel partners. “We leave enough degrees of freedom for the channel to innovate. We just take care of the baseline technology,” he said.

The opportunity for solution providers is to take a leadership position in Canada and get customers into zones of virtualization, Allison added.

These validated designs will be application specific rather than industry specific. For example, there are 20 designs for Microsoft, Red Hat and Citrix. “Partners do not have to do a lot and it takes expenses off the partners’ books and enables them to introduce this to the customer further along in the sales cycle,” Goldstein said.

Other FlexPod solutions available include new products from large vendors such as CA Technologies and smaller ISVs such as Cloupia Inc. and Gale Technologies.

Goldstein made it clear that this alliance is not, and should not be, associated with VCE or the V-Block partnership among EMC Corp., Cisco and VMware Inc. Goldstein added that the FlexPod strategy stands up against the VCE. “If you are a partner; you have a new vendor and our approach is different. We did not set up a different company and we are going through the channel as a pathway for partners. EMC is new with VCE and that may end up in the channel. At NetApp we are all for the channel partner….VCE seems confusing to me,” he said.