Cisco Partner Summit: VARs Seek Clarity Of Execution To Back Up Bold Vision

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Cisco channel partners have a lot on their minds, and as the annual Cisco Partner Summit kicks off Monday in San Francisco, they'll be coming at Cisco's top channel brass with plenty of loaded questions.

Everything from the Unified Computing System (UCS) to cloud strategy, the just-completed acquisition of Tandberg and the future of collaboration is fair game, it seems. So is discussion of Cisco's backed-up supply chain and its attendant solution provider woes.

But several partners interviewed by also had another message for Cisco heading into the partner conference: thanks. Cisco has emerged from the downturn posting positive growth, and it partners credit the mighty Cisco channel machine for doing right by them in a brutal 2009.

Most expect the mood at Partner Summit to be upbeat, in other words.

"I always look forward to the opportunity to meet with the Cisco people. This is the venue to do it," said Gia McNutt, president and CEO of Special Order Systems, a Campbell, Calif.-based solution provider. "You know so many people, you meet new people, and they always do a good job of offering time to talk about what's on my mind."

What's top of McNutt's mind is the range of opportunities Cisco will bring to bear in the Cisco channel between now and next year's Summit. From the just-completed acquisition of Tandberg -- which is poised to give Cisco the No. 1 worldwide market share in videoconferencing -- to the continued rollout of UCS and Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers' visions for the "30 adjacencies" he sees Cisco competing in, there's a lot to wrangle with.

All that vision means plenty of excitement for the channel. But coming out of the worst downturn most VAR businesses have seen in a decade, it also means Cisco has to make good on that vision and offer partners brass tacks information on what their product- and service-based opportunities are, as well as how to execute.

"We're really marching after the data center market space, and we're excited to understand the integration for the storage partners playing with Cisco," said Peter Belyea, vice president of Teracai, a North Syracuse, N.Y.-based solution provider. "It's great to announce products and announce vision and direction but I would love to have a lot of our questions about how UCS comes together answered formally -- how does all the vision play out as deliverable products? It's a very exciting product set, but we're not willing to step away from our other server platforms either."

Part of Cisco's UCS and overall data center strategy rests with the Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) coalition, which it launched with EMC and VMware.

Kari Yent, vice president of strategic alliances for Crofton, Md.-based partner Force 3, said still more was needed from Cisco to understand how to sell Vblock, the pre-configured cloud infrastructure package that relies on technology from all three vendors.

"We've had enthusiastic adoption of Cisco UCS from our customer base," she said, "so I'm really interested in how that overall vision translates into a coordinated effort."


Next: The Vision Thing And The Execution Reality

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