Partners: Cisco Mum On Hyper-Converged Play At Data Center Conference

Partners said they were surprised Cisco Systems didn't unveil a new hyper-converged play for 2016 at its Data Center Partner Connection event in Hawaii last week.

Rumors are swirling that the San Jose, Calif.-based networking giant is preparing a new hyper-converged appliance through an OEM agreement with hyper-converged startup Springpath. Sources told CRN that under the pact, Cisco has the option to acquire the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based software company, which partners are pushing for.

"They talked about [Unified Computing System] and how it fits with other vendors like with EMC ScaleIO and things like that, but there was no 'aha' moment about hyper-converged," said one solution provider and longtime Cisco partner, who declined to be identified. "It would have helped for more guidance or at least saying, 'Hey, this isn't happening or it's happening.'"

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Although partners CRN spoke with said they hoped Cisco would have revealed news about its hyper-converged plans during the conference, some are now predicting the networking leader is waiting until next month's Cisco Partner Summit 2016 in San Diego to unleash the news in front of thousands.

"They didn't really touch on hyper-converged. There's curiosity out there," said Kent MacDonald, vice president of converged infrastructure and network services at Long View Systems, a Calgary, Alberta-based solution provider and Cisco Gold partner. "I'm anticipating we'll hear more at Partner Summit."

Executives from hyper-converged vendor SimpliVity were present at the event, according to partners. Cisco formed an alliance with the Westborough, Mass.-based startup in 2014 through which partners can add SimpliVity software and hardware to Cisco UCS servers.

"SimpliVity was there along with the many stacks they have with vendors," said Robert Keblusek, CTO of Downers Grove, Ill.-based Sentinel Technologies, a Cisco Gold partner. "I didn't hear much push on any one specific vendor."

Partners have told CRN that the Cisco-SimpliVity partnership is generating significant hyper-converged sales growth in the data center market. Solution providers said the partnership gives Cisco UCS customers a hyper-converged play.

On the UCS front, Keblusek said the take-away from the conference was that Cisco is partnering with other vendors and using more of a software-defined storage approach.

"They had a big list of players in that software-defined storage box where they could accommodate the storage needs based on various different sizes of UCS compute that are running those," said Keblusek. "They weren't buying or building a traditional array or anything like that."

Cisco introduced its highly popular UCS solution in 2009. In its first-quarter earnings report in November, Cisco said its data center business, which includes UCS, was up 24 percent year over year to $859 million.

Overall, partners said the data center conference emphasized how Cisco is going to enable partners to succeed as the market transitions to a more software-defined approach in the digital age.

"They pushed the software-defined network or data center, software-defined storage, software-defined across edge to edge with software-defined from a scalability perspective," said Sentinel Technologies' Keblusek. "Their ASIC-based approach is what they're putting their money on."

Long View Systems' MacDonald said the most common theme voiced to partners was the massive market opportunity for them around digitization.

"They were painting a picture of the market change. That we're going to have to go to market differently to capture that market with different buyers of technology and really driving around big data, analytics and applications," said MacDonald. "Cisco ONE software and how Cisco is transitioning around software and software enablement … we all came away pretty pumped."