Cisco Partners: Four Years In, UCS Has Been A 'Game Changer'

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"When we first heard of UCS, we said 'wow, this is definitely going to be a disruptive technology," said Jason Nash, director of the data center practice at Varrow, a Greensboro, N.C.-based solution provider that specializes in virtualization and storage.

Nash said the unique, converged architecture touted by UCS immediately set Cisco apart in the blade server and data center market, even from veterans like HP and IBM. Specifically, Nash said Varrow was drawn to the scalability offered by UCS, and the ability to manage networking, storage and virtualized environments from a single pane of glass.

"Cisco had the advantage of working with a clean slate," he told CRN. "And what we saw was a much different model than anyone else had."

Nash said customer demand for UCS has "exploded," and that UCS represents one of the fastest-growing products in Varrow's portfolio, which also consists of VMware's vSphere and EMC's storage. Selling UCS also helped Varrow bolster its routing and switching business, Nash said, and round out its data center networking practice.

John Bristol, practice director at Trace 3, an Irvine, Calif.-based solution provider, said selling UCS has helped expand Trace 3's data center play beyond storage, which was the bulk of its business before partnering with Cisco about two and a half years ago.

"It's been fundamentally a game changer for Trace 3," said Bristol, who joined Trace 3 to help manage its partnership with Cisco. "It allows our company to take on a more architectural view of the data center."

Today, Trace 3 also sells Cisco's Nexus 5000 Series Switches and has waded more and more into the networking space through its partnership with Cisco. Still, Bristol said 60 percent of Trace 3's Cisco business is in the data center.

Bristol noted that Cisco still has some legwork to do in displacing server incumbents like HP and IBM but that the momentum with UCS is clearly there.

"There are things UCS has that no other compute platform has. It is a very converged stack, and it is an architecture sell and companies have to see the value in that," Bristol said. "Obviously, there is heavy, massive install base there with HP, Dell and IBM, so it won't just transition overnight. But we did this with voice, and we didn't displace Nortel and Avaya overnight [either]."

Jamie Shepard, regional vice president for the Northeast and principal at Lumenate, a Dallas-based solution provider, said one of the biggest benefits of selling UCS is that it represented a new business for Cisco, so partners were especially leaned on by the Cisco sales team early on to drive new deals.

"We started to get a lot of attention from the Cisco reps, and they looked at us as heroes because they couldn’t have a data center discussion," Shepard said. "They needed us."

NEXT: What's Next For Cisco Data Center Partners

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