Cisco VP Cites Clear Rules Of Engagement

Cisco has rolled out clear rules of engagement to make sure its sales force does not favor Cisco UCS with Invicta flash memory over VCE Vblock and NetApp FlexPod deals, according to Cisco's top data center executive.

"We have not decentivized our sales force from continuing to hunt for FlexPod and for Vblock deals," said Paul Perez, vice president and chief technology officer of Cisco's Data Center Technology Group. "That compensation remains constant from what it was a year ago."

Perez insists that Cisco has implemented rules of engagement and sales training to ensure that the company's sales engineers and sales reps do not push Cisco UCS Invicta into environments where heavy Vblock or FlexPod investments have already been made. "If a customer has a NetApp or EMC environment, we respect that customer choice," Perez said. But in "greenfield or virgin opportunities," he added, Cisco will "absolutely" lead with UCS Invicta.

[Related: Cisco On UCS Invicta: The Target Is Our Compute Competitors, Not Our Storage Partners]

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Perez's comments come as some Cisco and VCE partners tell CRN that the next-generation version Cisco UCS, which leverages the Invicta flash storage technology Cisco gained through its $415 million acquisition of Whiptail last year, is, in some cases, being sold in direct competition with Vblock and FlexPod systems.

"If you look at it, [UCS Invicta] is a stand-alone computing system," said one Cisco partner, who asked not to be named. "This is a big controversy because Cisco has had these partnerships with EMC and NetApp for a long time."

Investment firm William Blair & Co. also reported last month that Cisco solution providers and the Cisco sales force is "enthusiastically" selling all-flash storage arrays as part of UCS converged arrays, competing directly against EMC’s XtremeIO and Pure Storage.

Perez, however, said that's not Cisco's intent.

"We are not competing against [NetApp] FlexPod or [VCE] Vblock," said Perez. "As a matter of fact, if that's the customer preference, I am the first one to endorse that choice."

Perez said Cisco is strictly using Invicta as a performance feature in UCS, helping data-intensive applications run faster in UCS environments, but not as primary or stand-alone storage that could displace technology from NetApp or EMC.

He said the first 50 customers to buy UCS Invicta are "rarely, if at all" using Invicta as primary storage.

"When you look at the richness of [EMC and NetApp] storage capabilities, Invicta has a slice of those capabilities because what we care about is performance with the right level of resiliency and protection as opposed to the ultimate in disaster recovery, data protection, [etc.]," he said.

If Cisco sales reps are actively pushing UCS Invicta deals over Vblock or FledPod, Perez said that's not how Cisco planned it.

"That is not our go-to-market plan. So I can refute the fact that that is our intent. I cannot speak for a multithousand-person sales force, especially for events that transpired when that sales force was in the process of being trained," Perez told CRN. "You can imagine that sales guys and gals tend to be aggressive. So I feel confident that by now we have a trained sales force that is educated on the value prop, the strategic intent and the rules of engagement."

Perez said Cisco held "deep" conversations with its storage partners for months leading up the Invicta launch.

"So they knew when we would start shipping systems, they knew the topology and the offerings we were going to provide," he said. "And we therefore had discussions on what is the approach to our partnerships and the converged systems and integrated systems that we are working on together."

This article originally appeared as an exclusive on the CRN Tech News App for iOS and Windows 8.