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Growdon added that he doesn't see partners having to invest in new personnel to tackle UCS. Instead, they should be able to promote from within.
"The winning strategy is to take your own folks and evolve them into this," he said.
But some partners may not be ready for that evolution. Rich Baldwin, CEO of Nth Generation Computing, a San Diego-based solution provider and partner to both Cisco and Hewlett-Packard, said Cisco is making a classic mistake with its attempt to crack a new market.
"Gosh, Cisco is taking their best partners -- HP, IBM, Dell, Sun -- and pitting themselves against them, since they all are in the blade business," Baldwin said, adding that HP already has a nearly 60 percent share of the blade server market, which will make it hard for Cisco to gain traction there, Baldwin said.
"I don't see where Cisco will ever get the economies of scale to compete with that," he said. "It just seems like they could have invested somewhere else and gotten a better ROI."
Cisco's move is already pushing HP to focus on sales of its ProCurve products over those of Cisco to customers and partners, Baldwin said. "I think Cisco has a lot more to lose than it can gain in this particular situation," he said. "It just doesn't make sense."
Baldwin said he does not anticipate Cisco's blade servers to be of much interest to Nth or to customers.
"Server groups and network groups in big companies tend to be somewhat isolated, or stove-piped," he said. "Standards are already set. I don't think networking guys are going to take over the data center and dictate the server standards where they can bring their friends from Cisco."
Growdon, however, said UCS is not a straight server offering for partners. Partners wanting to offer servers, not an architecture, won't be forced to choose which vendor they side with.
"This is not about selling a server ... this is selling a system," he said. "We're not making a play to get into the server space. The value here is not in selling a server."
Olwig agreed that UCS isn't geared toward knocking out the incumbent server vendors. World Wide Technology has existing partnerships with HP and Sun Microsystems on the server side. Olwig said he doesn't anticipate Cisco's offering will strain his relationship with the competing vendors.
John Marchese, vice president of the systems engineering group for BlueWater Communications Group, a New York solution provider, said Cisco's UCS play really is the "game-changer" Cisco says it is. He said BlueWater will be able to grow out its practice while also tearing down the silos between its different technology groups: storage and virtualization, networking and data center.
"It'll have some challenges, but at the end of the day the silos have been converging already," he said. "The key is, as a VAR, we need to have a solid understanding of the solutions. But we've already built that foundation. We're well-traditioned in that regard."
Marchese said having an existing storage practice and an existing data center practice give BlueWater a leg up.
"It'll help us provide value-add across all lines of business," he said, adding that all three practices will leverage UCS and be able to tell an ROI and TCO story around it. "It's a complementary architecture, not point products, in the data center. It differentiates ourselves from the competition."
Olwig said World Wide Technology will attack UCS from the other side, using it to build on its networking expertise to reach into new markets.
"If it were World Wide three or four years ago, it would be a difficult transition because we were more networking- and core-centric," he said. "If that's your bread and butter, it'd be more difficult to embrace. But this provides us an opportunity to build our networking expertise into new accounts where we haven't been able to do servers. It's going to allow us into some new markets and accounts."
Kerravala added that partners need to embrace Cisco's new direction or risk getting left behind.
"For the network pure-plays, they need to learn the world of computing," Kerravala said. "For the ones that invest the time and resources to do so, it will open the door to more services and opportunity, like VoIP did. For the ones that don't, they'll become dinosaurs and go extinct, like pure voice resellers did."