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Cisco: UCS Helps Partners Make The Leap
Cisco staked its claim in the data center and converged infrastructure space with its 2009 launch of UCS, a bundled solution bringing together networking, servers, storage and virtualization under a single management console.
For the channel, Cisco sees UCS—and the ability to help move clients to converged infrastructures, in general—as a major differentiator, particularly for partners that can break down the vendor and technology silos across the compute, storage and virtualization landscapes.
"If you look at our channel community that works with us today, and with UCS, in particular … they also have relationships with storage vendors, virtualization vendors, software vendors, and [so on]," said John Growdon, senior director of data center sales, worldwide channels, at Cisco, San Jose, Calif. "It's bringing together those silos—bringing together the compute, the virtualization, the storage, the infrastructure. This has been our channel strategy for the past five years as we have gotten into this."
Kent MacDonald, vice president of converged infrastructure and network services at Long View Systems, a solution provider based in Calgary, Alberta, shares Growdon's belief. Long View's rich heritage in working up and down the data center stack—and partnering with vendors including EMC, Cisco, NetApp and VCE to do so—has really helped propel its converged infrastructure business, MacDonald said.
"We have been in the networking, storage, virtualization and compute game really since day one," he told CRN. "All the elements of converged infrastructure are in our DNA."
According to MacDonald, not only has Long View's UCS business been very successful in and of itself, but UCS has become a key driver behind customers also choosing to embrace VCE's Vblock or NetApp's FlexPod converged infrastructure offerings, both of which are also sold by Long View.
"I would say 80 [percent] to 90 percent of our UCS sales have been selling into a converged infrastructure architecture with FlexPod or part of a VCE Vblock," MacDonald said.
MacDonald noted that UCS, as a stand-alone product, still serves as a major "differentiator" to legacy server architectures. But when customers choose to take the leap to unified compute with UCS, MacDonald said most of them ultimately decide to go "all in" with a converged data center infrastructure.
"When you are making that transition to unified compute from what you've had formerly, we are really selling a customer on, ‘When you make that transition, go all in and go for the converged infrastructure stack, and don't necessarily do it as a phased scenario,' " MacDonald said.
It's become clear that data center convergence is a priority for customers, MacDonald said. Converged infrastructure sales are expected to drive about 15 percent to 20 percent of Long View's overall revenue this year, with that figure expected to double or more over the next year or two.
To best meet this rise, Long View decided to create a dedicated converged infrastructure business unit in October 2012, which MacDonald now heads.
"I think it was important for us to put our investment in, and to say, ‘We are making investments, and we are creating this alignment of skill sets to go to market effectively,' " MacDonald said. "So, really, I think it's just a validation or confirmation of where the market is going to go."
Cisco, for its part, is also placing its bets on infrastructure convergence. Its UCS business has flourished into one that's valued at roughly $2 billion, growth that Cisco attributes, at least in part, to the significant ROI seen by customers who take the converged infrastructure leap. Cisco said integrated data center infrastructures, according to customer studies, have been found to reduce provisioning times and data center cabling by a whopping 80 percent, and reduce ongoing system management costs by as much as 59 percent. — Kristin Bent