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Cisco partners say the networking titan is taking a pragmatic approach to the market transition and that perceived conflict between Cisco, EMC and VMware is also an opportunity for the channel to navigate vendor competition on behalf of customers.
"This is a fast-moving, fast-shifting market, so what Cisco is doing reflects the dynamics of that market," said Steve McDonald, director of business development, servers and virtualization, for Softchoice, a Toronto-based integrator and Cisco Gold partner. "I think what Cisco's done well is position themselves in a best-of-breed ecosystem. It's good for partners because we can create blended solutions with best-of-breed hypervisors and offer integration services. That's a lot better than asking customers to be squeezed into explicit terms. We're there to provide the right solution at the right time without getting too locked in to one solution set or another."
"We expect them to work together on certain things and compete aggressively on others," said Gary Alexander, president and CEO of Alexander Open Systems, an Overland Park, Kan.-based solution provider. "Cisco knows the name of the game in that [virtualization] space is still VMware. So there'll be business as usual even as VMware gets its act together on the company it bought."
Despite its partnerships with VMware and others, Cisco doesn't plan to be outgunned in SDN or any other network-centric market transition. Insiemi, the secretive startup into which Cisco has already invested $100 million, is one aspect of Cisco's SDN and virtualized networking approach, and it is expected to be Cisco's definitive counterpoint to Nicira and other SDN startups looking to disrupt Cisco's base.
"Look at these things like software and the data center, which we've seen coming for a long time," Cisco's Chambers told CRN. "Why do you think we did Insiemi? You know what we're going to do there: the best ASICs, the best hardware, the best software team and our speed to market. It isn't just about the number of transistors and capacity; it's about how many spins can you do, and can you get it out there in two to three years, or 12 months? All together, that's a tough team to beat."
Continued Chambers: "If you think about the software aspects and the architectural play, this is right in our home-run area. Some of our peers will come at us with just software-only. Well, then they have to figure out what's in the network, which means they have to take snapshots and program those snapshots. Meanwhile, we open up our APIs. What happens then?"
Cisco's appeal to customers is in both its innovation and its time to market, he said.
"The best technology doesn't always win. While I think we have the best technology here, our key is execution," he said. "We have to execute at Cisco speed with even more consistency than we did two years ago."