Tech Data Creates Cisco Solutions Group

networking data center

The Cisco Solutions Group will be a unit of Tech Data's Advanced Infrastructure Solutions (AIS) division and will work specifically with solution providers interested in selling any Cisco solution, data-center-geared or otherwise, the distributor said.

Chuck Bartlett, formerly Tech Data's vice president of network product marketing, was named vice president of the Cisco Solutions Group. According to the distributor, he will head a team of Cisco-specialized inside- and field-sales professionals, along with systems engineers and business development, channel marketing and product management staff who will work with Cisco representatives in-house and in the field.

Tech Data declined a request to give specific details beyond "dozens" on the number of employees in the Cisco Solutions Group and did not disclose how many of the positions, if any, were fully funded by Cisco.

In an interview with Channelweb, Bartlett and Pete Peterson, Tech Data senior vice president and general manager of AIS, called the group's formation a "natural progression." Tech Data created AIS two years ago to burrow into the data center business and focus on industry-standard servers, storage, management software and virtualization.

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"We wanted to be at the forefront of that transition, if you will," Peterson said. "Now we've seen what I would call 'networking' taking a more prevalent role in overall IT optimization strategy. The critical key to our success is taking elements of our Cisco solutions strategy and rolling that into and synchronizing that around our traditional server and storage strategy. I think you're going to see further evolution of products, if you will, from Cisco, but also from the more traditional server and storage manufacturers. As the evolution continues to unfold, we'll be positioned."

Bartlett said the Cisco group was something Tech Data had been working toward for much of the past year.

"[Cisco has] a range of products all the way from the edge to the core, and we started to put all the pieces in place in place the last three quarters," Bartlett said. "Pete and I started talking about how traditional VARs in the data center space were structured with storage and virtualization and the networking practice was sort of separate around other things. And we were kind of the same way, so we started saying we need to integrate these because the approach to the data center has been converging around these practices. It makes perfect sense to form the Cisco practice like that, but there are also solutions around unified communications and indoor and outdoor wireless and video that they're going to be a very prevalent player in."

Other networking vendors such as Hewlett-Packard's ProCurve Networking by HP and Juniper Networks have also made aggressive forays into the data center.

Bartlett opined that HP is the company best positioned to compete with Cisco. "The Junipers that have only a piece of it will have a more difficult time, and I'm not sure how you piecemeal in parts of the network or parts of the storage against folks that have the more complete solution," he said.

But both Bartlett and Peterson suggested the vendor to keep an eye on is EMC.

"If you look, they're partnering with a lot of, quite frankly, the same vendors on [VARs'] line card," Peterson said. "And some of their acquisitions have been for other aspects of the full data center solution. I'd view them as a vendor that definitely warrants watching as we move forward in this new infrastructure optimization push.

"Clearly those [VARs] who are virtualization-savvy are going to do well," he added. "We're all seeing the next evolution of virtualization. Eight or nine years ago when VMware first launched its business it was all built around servers—consolidate servers, folks got that. Now you're seeing not only servers but storage and the desktop and the convergence of the network. I'm no Nostradamus, but I think in the next 12 months you'll see a more collaborative approach from what I'd call the tier-one partners—a new horizon that's coming upon us from a data center perspective. There are a lot of neat things happening with people like the HPs, the IBMs and the EMCs of the world."