As Cisco’s drive into the server space brings it into no-holds-barred conflict with the market’s alpha males, top partners have asserted the vendor’s datacentre architecture is beginning to find lucrative niches.
Almost a year ago, Cisco finally unveiled its unified computing system (UCS) range of servers and related technologies, following months of speculation. The 12 months since have seen it competing with market incumbents, as well as former allies, including HP, Dell, IBM and Sun.
Last month, Cisco revealed it was kicking long-time comrade HP off its partner programme. Cisco explained it wanted to prevent its newfound rival benefiting from sneak previews of product roadmaps and channel initiatives.
Keith Goodwin, senior vice president of Cisco’s worldwide partner organisation, said: “Over the past few years our relationship with HP has evolved from being a partner, to being companies with conflicting visions of how to deliver value to customers.”
Earlier that week, ChannelWeb revealed the networking goliath is cancelling future joint-development projects with Dell on blade networking products. VAR ANS Group partners with both vendors, and chief executive Scott Fletcher was unsurprised by the news, seeing it as “a natural progression”.
Fletcher said that Cisco’s architecture had the upper hand on that of the Texan PC behemoth. “For new deployments, Cisco can certainly do the end-to-end offering,” he added.
ANS managing director Paul Sweeney claimed the UCS channel, which consists of a handful of accredited partners, is far more vibrant than that of the traditional server vendors.
“There is a huge market to go after and I do not anticipate it being anywhere near as fierce as the IBM, HP and Dell market, which is very much same old, same old,” said Sweeney.
He added that his firm found itself competing against providers of rival technologies more than other UCS partners.
“In all the [potential projects) we have, we are up against the rest of the market, which still has not cottoned onto this technology yet,” he said.
2e2 is another Gold partner to earn its stripes on the UCS kit and the firm’s chief technology officer, Nathan Marke, claimed large telcos were expressing interest in the technology. But Marke added that UCS would take time to gain traction in some segments of the market.
“A lot of the opportunities we are finding are in the upper mid-market,” he said. “The larger enterprises are a little bit different. They have a very definite cycle of buying and tend to stick to a single vendor.
“It is going to take time for the market to warm up to it and Cisco recognises that. People will not suddenly drop everything and buy it just because it says Cisco on it.”
Integrator MTI Europe also recently gained admission to the UCS club. Chief marketing officer Aad Dekkers claimed his firm’s background in datacentres, rather than switching, made it the kind of partner Cisco was looking for.
He said he expected mid-market success in some of MTI’s key verticals.
“We focus primarily on tier-two players,” he said. “We have been very successful in finance, local government and education.”
Theory of evolution
Cisco’s attack on the datacentre has led to its first western European distribution addition in seven years, in the shape of Magirus.
The distributor’s UK and Ireland managing director Denise Bryant described the appointment as a “major-league coup” for Magirus.
“It is not really a departure (for us) – it is an evolution of our whole proposition into the datacentre space, which is where our partners want to take their proposition,” she added.
Bryant claimed she expected the technology to enjoy success in the public sector and the financial arena.
In recent weeks, top-level partners have fought to promote their credentials as the UK’s leading UCS firm. Integrator Logicalis recently stole a march on its rivals by announcing it had completed the first UCS deployment in the UK, at London-based finance firm Winterflood Securities.
Logicalis chief architect Simon Daykin said: “We got involved with UCS very early on as we had a lot of confidence in the architecture.”
He claimed the Cisco server line “fits very well” in his firm’s portfolio, which includes HP and IBM. “There is naturally overlap, but they all have their own strengths,” he added.
ANS is another VAR to claim it can rule the UCS roost. Sweeney claimed his firm would close its first UCS deal within six weeks. “It will be significant,” he added. “We have a good, healthy pipeline.”
He claimed ANS had an advantage over bigger firms that were entrenched with the traditional server players.
“Computacenter does so much IBM and HP, it will be difficult for it to manoeuvre and adapt,” he said. “We are a lot more flexible; we can adapt our strategy and get on with it.”
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