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Another top priority for EMC is to leverage the channel to take market share, especially from archrival NetApp.
A big part of this strategy was EMC's April introduction of its VSPEX reference architecture, which are blueprints on how to build data center infrastructures including EMC storage, Brocade or Cisco networking, VMware or Microsoft virtualization, and industry-standard servers from any vendor.
VSPEX is a channel-only offering that will help partners more easily grab SMB deals that previously were out of reach, EMC's Ambulos said. It also gives partners their first-ever opportunity to add their own brand alongside that of EMC for registered deals.
"It's an opportunity for [partners] to get some recognition and visibility from selling the VSPEX, and we think it's going to be a win-win for the partner and for EMC and our technology alliances," Ambulos said.
VSPEX is also a direct shot at NetApp, which is EMC's "enemy No. 1," said Jeremy Burton, EMC'’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer.
NetApp has been building a strong customer base for its own reference architecture, FlexPod, which includes components from EMC partners Cisco and VMware. "VSPEX is another shot directly at NetApp," Burton said.
While NetApp has been reaching down to the SMB space with new versions of its FlexPod, Burton said that move is more about competing with EMC than with expanding NetApp's market.
"NetApp is trying to protect the relationship with Cisco. They clearly see VSPEX as a threat and are responding to it," he said.
NetApp is not intimidated by VSPEX, said James Sangster, senior director of solutions marketing at NetApp, Sunnyvale, Calif.
Sangster called VSPEX "business as usual" in that it is similar to the reference architectures offered by many vendors, including NetApp's Validated Architecture, which goes beyond the company's Cisco relationship from FlexPod to make it easy to pull together any combination of IT equipment through NetApp's Solution Builder back-end configuration tool.
"I don't really see anything unique with VSPEX," he said. "FlexPod has support wrapped around it. With VSPEX, support is just like normal. Normal is OK. But it's not the same as wrapping support around FlexPod."