Cisco, EMC, VMware Channel Chiefs Talk Up Vblock Partner Play

data center

The companies on Tuesday unveiled Vblock Infrastructure Packages, a series of preconfigured, pretested solutions based on Cisco's Unified Computing System (UCS) and networking switches, EMC's Symmetrix or Clariion storage arrays, and VMware's vSphere server virtualization platform.

They are aimed at helping customers build virtual data centers and private computing clouds.

Vblock is not a product offering in itself, said Mitch Breen, senior vice president of global channel strategy and sales at EMC.

"These are not specific SKUs [stock keeping units]," Breen said. "They are validated architectures to let partners bring our technologies to market."

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The three vendors currently have two Vblock packages available to integrator, service provider and solution provider partners, with one more on the way.

Next year will also see the debut of Acadia, a Cisco-EMC joint venture with investment from VMware and Intel, which will help the vendors work with large customers and channel partners to build, operate and then transfer Vblock infrastructures, said Edison Peres, senior vice president of worldwide channels at Cisco.

The goal of Acadia, which will be set up as a separate legal entity, is to ensure the Vblock Infrastructure Packages are built in a standardized and repeatable fashion for customer data centers, Peres said.

However, he said, Acadia is not a way for customers to outsource their virtual data centers or private cloud computing services, but instead works with partners and customers to help operate virtual data centers.

The channel will be the go-to-market focus for Vblock and Acadia, Peres said. "The partner ecosystem is at the core of making this a reality to our partners," he said.

Ben Matheson, senior director of global partner marketing at VMware, said the vendor coalition is targeting what could be a total market worth $85 billion by 2015, and as such it is a market too big for any vendor or group of vendors to tackle alone.

"The coalition is all about accelerating, getting the technology to customers, and that means partnering," Matheson said. "They will be selling hardware and software, and creating a services drag. It will mean accelerated profits and margins for partners."

Breen said that customers and partners will continue to procure the products that go into the Vblock Infrastructure Packages as they have always done from the three vendors individually.

"There's no intent by EMC to provide the Cisco products or the VMware virtualization piece," he said. "Our customers still have their options for procurement. But even if the customers work directly with the EMC support teams, our intent is to have the partners handle the business."

As of Tuesday, the vendor coalition has already signed up six system integrators, six service providers and nine solution providers for the Vblock program, Peres said. Other partners will be able to sign on as they attain certification from all three vendors.

Currently, there is no specific distributor program for the Vblock Infrastructure Packages, Peres said. However, solution providers will continue to purchase the products related to the Vblock configurations from their existing Cisco, EMC and VMware distributors, he said.