Michael Dell And Chuck Robbins Are VCE BFFs

Have no fear channel partners, the "C" in VCE is staying intact. Cisco Systems CEO Chuck Robbins and Dell CEO Michael Dell shook hands and pledged their allegiance to their VCE alliance and its $3 billion Vblock business in a face-to-face video interview.

"Everywhere I go our customers have asked, ’What's the commitment to Vblock?'" said Robbins in a one-on-one sit-down with Michael Dell posted on YouTube by Dell EMC. "From our perspective it drives UCS, it drives our Nexus portfolio, it drives our ACI portfolio -- so we are committed. … We both feel like our customers and our partners can continue to invest with confidence."

Michael Dell said, "As Dell Technologies, we couldn't be more excited about our future together with Cisco."

[Related: CRN Exclusive: Michael Dell On A Rival's Failed Bid To Buy EMC, HPE's Attempts To Recruit EMC Partners And ’Channel Day' At Dell Technologies]

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With Dell's $67 billion acquisition of EMC closing earlier this month, Cisco is striving to reassure partners and customers that VCE – a joint venture formed by Cisco and EMC in 2009 -- will continue as Dell, which has its own server portfolio, takes control of EMC. Richardson, Texas-based VCE's flagship Vblock product line is a $3 billion business with more than 3,000 systems installed, which includes Cisco's server and networking technologies.

"We've heard fantastic feedback from customers on VCE. EMC and Cisco have a great legacy of success working together for the past 15 years," said Michael Dell. "As the leader in this space, again, together EMC and Cisco are very well positioned for the future."

One top executive from a solution provider that partners with both Cisco and Dell EMC said that although the formal CEO handshake and commitment to VCE is "encouraging," the relationship might become "constrained" over time.

"You could say it's comforting to see them both making the effort to show the world that they plan to play nice together right now, but VCE and Cisco and now Dell EMC … that could become constrained," said the executive, who declined to be identified. "It's hard to keep a competitor [Cisco] inside a successful product rather than just doing it all by yourself when you have the means."

In 2015, VCE launched its new VxBlock converged infrastructure system that offers VMware – now majority-owned by Dell -- NSX software-defined networking technology for the first time. Vblock originally only supported Cisco's SDN technology -- Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI).

In the past 12 months, VCE launched its VxRack hyper-converged infrastructure line using white-box servers rather than Cisco UCS, while Cisco launched its competing hyper-converged offering, HyperFlex. Cisco sold most of its stake of VCE in 2014 and currently owns roughly 10 percent.

The worldwide converged systems market's revenue increased 11 percent year over year to $2.5 billion during the first quarter of 2016, according to research firm IDC. IDC said that in 2015 the worldwide converged systems market generated $10.6 billion in revenue.

Cisco's Robbins said the VCE relationship has been successful over the years because of the long-term agreements and commitments to work together in engineering and sales. "We even have joint support for our customers and there's a joint commitment to road maps and continuing to deliver on those," he said.

Both Cisco and Dell are trying to get the VCE commitment message out in various ways including from a recent blog post from Burney Barker, senior vice president of global sales at VCE.

"[Customers] can invest in us with confidence knowing that Dell EMC and Cisco have strategic alignment, long-standing resell arrangements in place and a solid support agreement to deliver world-class single support," said Barker in the post. "I'm tremendously excited about future opportunities that will further strengthen this relationship."