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Cisco offers more incentives for data centre partners

The networking vendor is opening its wallet to grow its partner base in the data centre segment

BOSTONCisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO) is putting more money on the table in an attempt to grow its channel partner base in the data centre segment.

Along with a new data centre level to its margin making Value Incentive Program (VIP) and two new channel certification programs, the networking giant released C-Series rack-mounted servers for its Unified Computing System (UCS) portfolio.

According to Padmasree Warrior, Cisco CTO, UCS is a US$20 billion market opportunity. Goldman Sachs surveyed 105 IT managers recently and found that 18 per cent of them plan to evaluate UCS within the next year, while 39 per cent cited features and performance as a main factor for adopting UCS.

At its Partner Summit in Boston, Cisco encouraged channel partners to build a unified data centre practice. To sweet the pot a bit, the company expanded its VIP program to include data centre technologies including unified computing, storage networking, data centre switching and WAN optimization.

To support the new C-Series rack mounted servers, Cisco launched the Authorized Partner Program (APP). Currently, there are 300 data centre network infrastructure (DCNI) solution providers, while another 200 in the pipeline, said Wendy Bahr, Cisco’s U.S. and Canada region channel chief.

To further develop channel specialization in the data centre segment, Cisco announced two new IT individual certifications for the channel called data centre architect and data centre builder.

“This is a journey and we are at the beginning,” said John Growdon, director for go-to-market data products for Cisco.

“We’ve made a significant move to get into this space and we are going to do it in a very serious way,” he added. The new C-Series is just one of six new products for UCS released this year.

Kent MacDonald, vice-president of Calgary-based Long View Systems, last year’s CDN Solution Provider of the Year in the Channel Elite Awards, said that virtualization is one solution that drives market for data centre.

“For many years, LongView has been selling solutions in the data centre and they have been single engagements. With Cisco, we try to align ourselves to bring it all together and get a bigger footprint in the client from a data centre perspective. The new architecture selling strategy is something we want to move to,” MacDonald said.

Growdon said that Cisco is trying to make data centres significant to partners. “They are on the front line of data centre and they make those connections to the clients and provide services that results in margins for them,” he said.

Growdon outlines three data centre profitability plays: the channel assessment of the network services, applying new technologies and integration or business transformation services.

Also, with the newly released Managed Services Channel Programs channel partners can offer UCS with hosted applications and other monitoring services on top of that, Growdon added.

The new servers will have access to unified fabric through a low-latency lossless 10GBps Ethernet foundation that enables a wire-once deployment model. The C-Series also yields more than 2.5 times the addressable memory of two-socket rack-mounted platforms. Based on Intel Xeon 5500 chips, the machines will have a virtualized adapter to define up to 128 Ethernet or Fibre Channel connections.

No pricing was announced for the C-Series and Cisco said the products will be made available in the fourth quarter of 2009.

In addition to the new data centre offerings, Cisco wants the channel to speed up the sale of tested, validated reference IT solution designs that incorporate technology from EMC, Microsoft, NetApp, Red Hat and Vmware. Cisco created a new channel program for this called Data Centre Channel Solutions Program.