Nimble Storage Co-Founder: Dell-EMC VCE Reps Will Face 'Intense Pressure' To Sell Dell Servers Rather Than Cisco UCS

Nimble Storage co-founder and Vice President of Engineering Varun Mehta Monday predicted that Dell EMC sales reps are going to face "intense pressure" to sell Dell servers rather than Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) once Dell completes its $62 billion blockbuster acquisition of EMC.

"There is going to be intense pressure there to sell up and down the Dell integrated stack," said Mehta in an interview with CRN at the 2016 GreenPages Cloudscape Summit. "They want to sell an integrated stack. They would not have bought EMC to sell more Cisco. I do believe that is where they are going to be focused. I think that relationship with Cisco is going to be more and more at arm's length as they go forward."

That anticipated fissure in the EMC-Cisco relationship will directly impact their VCE converged infrastructure partnership, opening the door for an "opportunity" for Nimble to be tied into more Cisco UCS sales, said Mehta.

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"We would love for Cisco to sell more Nimble instead of more EMC," he said. "I do think it is an opportunity [for Nimble], and if we play our cards well we should be able to grow our business with Cisco much more."

Nimble has a strong three-year relationship selling its all-flash arrays on Cisco UCS with that business growing at a double-digit clip, said Mehta.

GreenPages CEO Ron Dupler said there is tremendous disruption in all segments of the market with upstart technologies like Nimble. "We have had tremendous success with Nimble as one of those next-generation players," he said. "They have a strong platform and capabilities. Customers really like what they are doing."

Top executives at Dell and EMC have been adamant that Dell archrival Cisco will have a prominent place at the table once Dell and EMC are merged.

In July, Marius Haas, Dell COO and president of enterprise solutions, told CRN that Dell "will have a strong partnership with Cisco going forward. There is a lot of work being done with the whole VCE Vblock architecture where we want that collaboration to exist."

Dell Chairman and CEO Michael Dell, in a letter to customers and partners in January, said, "After joining with Dell, VCE's close working relationship with Cisco will continue. Vblock will continue to follow Cisco's compute and networking roadmaps and EMC's storage roadmaps to bring the latest technologies to VCE customers."

"We're absolutely committed to the Cisco relationship once Dell and EMC combine," a Dell spokesman said in an email when asked to comment on Mehta's remarks.

Cisco did not respond to a request for comment for this story as of press time, but Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins has also stressed the importance of the Cisco-EMC relationship.

"It's incumbent upon us to make that work," Robbins said last fall of the Dell-EMC-Cisco relationship.

Early this year, Chad Sakac, after being made president of VCE, as EMC's Converged Platform Division, told CRN, "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. We would be crazy and Cisco would be crazy to inadvertently mess that up."

Still, there’s no question EMC and VCE are eager to begin working with Dell servers, and the relationship between EMC and VCE, which was founded as joint venture between the two, has been showing signs of stress, including VCE's introduction a little over a year ago of its white box server-based VxRack hyper-converged solution, and Cisco's development of its own hyper-converged solution based on its relationship with software start-up Springpath.

A number of Cisco partners have pressed the company to acquire a storage company in order to compete more aggressively against Dell-EMC and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

"The big question is whether Cisco will ever acquire a storage company," said Mehta. "As an outside observer it will be interesting to see where things go there. I can't really comment further. At the current time, they are continuing to partner with everybody."

It remains to be seen how Cisco will react to the full integrated converged stacks being aggressively brought to market by the likes of Dell-EMC and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, said Mehta.

Cisco is going to be competing against "large companies with fully integrated stacks," said Mehta. "We'll have to see how that works out."

Cisco acquired storage vendor Whiptail three years ago but had trouble integrating it into its UCS server.

Mehta said he sees Cisco's cautious approach with its Springpath partnership, which provides the underpinnings of Cisco's Hyperflex hyper-converged offering, as a "dip a toe in the water approach" to see if Springpath has what it takes to scale with Cisco UCS.

"We'll see whether Cisco-Springpath will be successful or whether they'll need to do something else," he said. "Regardless our relationship with Cisco continues to go strongly, and we continue to increase our relationship with them in terms of the product lines we are supporting.

Dell is also going to face challenges sorting out the product overlap between the Dell and EMC storage lines, said Mehta. "You have a situation where [Dell] Compellent and [EMC] VNX are going head-to-head, so you can imagine a Dell [sales] rep and an EMC [sales] rep fighting each other at the customer level," he said. "I am sure there was already a lot of that going on. They are going to have to rationalize that."

Matt Brown contributed to this story.