VCE Touts Healthy Vblock Sales, But Partners Concerned Over New Infighting

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Last September, VCE picked Cisco's version of SDN, called Application-Centric Infrastructure (ACI), as the default SDN technology for VCE Vblocks. But VMware's competing NSX technology hit the market first, debuting last November. Cisco isn't expected to ship ACI products until the middle of this year.

While most customers aren't yet looking to deploy SDN with Vblocks, at some point they'll have to make important decisions about which vendor's SDN they want to go with. VCE Vblocks, in essence, have become a sort of battleground for Cisco and EMC's SDN competition.

One VCE partner, who did not want to be identified, said the EMC-Cisco battle over SDN is making some VCE customersreconsider whether they want to buy Vblocks.

"We are hearing from customers that they just don't want to get caught up in that type of battle," said the partner. "Now the message from both sides is, 'We don't need you anymore.' We are beginning to see the results of that."

Another VCE partner, who did not want to be identified, said EMC and VCE are "operating totally separately, and in the field, they are turning into rivals pretty quickly. They're competitors with their own numbers and their own channels."

A spokesperson for VCE said the company doesn't comment "on the specifics of employee compensation or field engagement" but offered the following statement: "VCE and EMC remain strategic partners committed to jointly enabling the channel to deliver converged infrastructure solutions to customers."

Partners believe the Cisco, EMC and VCE relationship could get even messier now that EMC has revealed plans to ship its own hyper-converged appliance by the end of 2014. Hyper-converged appliances combine server, storage, networking and virtualization technology in a software-defined stack running on industry-standard server hardware.

At EMC World earlier this week, Jeremy Burton, president of products and marketing for EMC, told CRN the appliance will run software from EMC and VMware -- presumably the latter's NSX and VSAN storage technology -- and is aimed at the low end of the market.

Burton also said the appliance will not conflict with EMC's VCE or VSPEX partnerships with Cisco. But one of the big selling points for hyper-converged appliances is that organizations can scale as they grow by adding more appliances. So while EMC's forthcoming product won't necessarily displace Cisco UCS servers, it's not going to go over well with Cisco, partners told CRN.  

EMC and Cisco launched a joint channel program earlier this month called Cloud Infrastructure Solutions Accelerator, which features sales incentives aimed at solving conflict between Cisco and EMC that has been stalling VCE partner deals.

But at least one VCE partner thinks the program isn't going to amount to much because it doesn't address the underlying issues in the EMC-Cisco relationship. "They're saying, we realize our conflict is disruptive and it's costing you money, so we're going to give you more money to make it worth your time," said the source, who didn't want to be named.

NEXT: Partners Say Current Tensions Could Impact Future Vblock Sales

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