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Exclusive From New VCE President: 'We Would Be Crazy' To Mess Up Cisco Relationship

Chad Sakac says the company has no desire to end its relationship with Cisco Systems, even as Cisco pursues its own hyper-converged infrastructure plans.

New VCE President Chad Sakac says the company has no desire to end its relationship with Cisco Systems, even as Cisco pushes forward with its own hyper-converged infrastructure plans.

"All signals from customers on all fronts [are] that UCS is the way to go, period. Cisco Nexus hardware is the way to go, period," Sakac told CRN in an exclusive interview. "We would be crazy and Cisco would be crazy to inadvertently mess that up."

The reaffirmation of the EMC-Cisco-VCE relationship comes even as Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC prepares to be acquired by Cisco rival Dell in a $67 billion deal.

[Related: Sources: Cisco Inks OEM Deal With Startup Springpath, Preps UCS Hyper-Converged Appliance]

"Our partnership with Cisco is incredible," Sakac said. "We're the largest single route to market for Nexus and UCS, and customers say, 'Keep going.' "

The full-steam-ahead approach for the Cisco-EMC relationship comes even with CRN reporting this week that Cisco is preparing a new hyper-converged appliance that combines its UCS servers with technology gained from an OEM agreement with hyper-converged software startup Springpath. Sources said Cisco has also made an undisclosed investment in Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Springpath, which was founded in 2012 by former VMware storage engineers.

Cisco, San Jose, Calif., has refused to comment on the Springpath relationship.

Sakac, for his part, called the Springpath hyper-converged play "an example of where Cisco has partnered and OEMed technology. They've done stuff with SimpliVity, with Whiptail, and during the Invicta period. Those have literally no effect on the relationship with EMC and Cisco and VCE."

Sakac, a longtime EMC engineering executive, was installed atop VCE this week with a mission to more deeply integrate VCE, now known as the EMC Converged Platforms Division, with parent company EMC.

VCE, based in Richardson, Texas, started as a joint venture between EMC and Cisco. Cisco still holds a roughly 10 percent stake in the converged infrastructure firm.

But the relationship has evolved in recent months, with VCE launching its VxRack hyper-converged infrastructure line using white-box servers rather than Cisco UCS, and now Cisco moving to develop its own hyper-converged infrastructure line.

EMC's pending acquisition by Round Rock, Texas-based Dell is also raising questions about the future of the relationship, and not everyone is convinced EMC will maintain ties with Cisco.


Bob Venero, CEO of Holbrook, N.Y.-based solution provider Future Tech, a longtime Dell and EMC partner and No. 232 on the 2015 CRN Solution Provider 500, said there are a lot of unknowns in the wake of the Dell acquisition of EMC, but one thing that is certain is "Dell is absolutely taking a major bite out of the Cisco server networking business."

"I see that only continuing to grow more with the acquisition of EMC by Dell," said Venero. "Obviously there are political and relationship ramifications that need to be looked at based on what VMware's role in VCE is going forward, what EMC's role in VCE is going forward. Those are unknowns. There is no doubt that Dell is looking at those things and is going to make the right decision based on what is the overall best answer for themselves, their customers and partners."

Dan Serpico, president of large Dell, EMC and Cisco partner FusionStorm, agreed with Sakac's assessment that the vendors can live together. That scenario, he said, is best for partners. "We're a very strong Dell partner, we're also a very big Cisco partner, so it's very important to us," he said.

Serpico said VCE accounted for about $20 million of the $120 million in EMC revenue San Francisco-based FusionStorm took in last year.

"There's a whole portfolio that includes the integration of EMC and Cisco technologies," Serpico said. "I don't think there's any reason why there needs to be a shooting war between EMC and Cisco or Dell-EMC and Cisco. This is why a company like FusionStorm has so much diversity in its portfolio. We have the depth of engineering to offer all these different technologies. That is one of the critical roles we play in complex environments."

For his part, Glenn O'Donnell, an analyst for Forrester Research, Cambridge, Mass., says he sees the Dell-EMC merger in effect dissolving the EMC-Cisco-VCE relationship.

"It may not be formally dissolved, but it sure looks like it," he said. "They give us a lot of heat for that, but anybody who thinks they're going to preserve that relationship with Cisco is borderline delusional. They're not going to cut the umbilical cord right away, but gradually, and maybe quickly, replace those Cisco components with Dell components."

Steven Burke contributed to this story.

PUBLISHED JAN. 8, 2016

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