EMC: Cisco Is Preferred Partner, Not Lenovo

EMC and Cisco Tuesday introduced new Cisco-focused IT infrastructure designs for its VSPEX reference architecture for storage, server and networking, and it said EMC's new strategic relationship with Lenovo will have no impact on the long-term EMC-Cisco alliance.

The introduction of new Cisco Validated Designs, or CVDs, for EMC's VSPEX reference architecture for building converged infrastructures that integrate storage, server, networking and virtualization technologies comes less than a month after EMC unveiled a strategic agreement with Lenovo that includes making the Beijing-based server vendor a part of its VSPEX blueprints.

The new Lenovo relationship led to industry concerns that the EMC-Cisco relationship might be loosening, concerns that Jeremy Burton, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at EMC, brushed off.

[Related: EMC Lenovo Deal Raises Questions For EMC-Cisco VCE Partnership ]

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"With Lenovo, we were after a low-end commodity x86 server provider," Burton said. "Those words would never be used to describe Cisco. If Cisco had products in that area, we would use Cisco. ... Cisco is our preferred partner. Both EMC and Cisco are putting money into the VSPEX business. Could Lenovo bake success into VSPEX in the future? Yeah. Lenovo is a strategic partner. But, I see no overlap between Cisco and Lenovo. If you ask Lenovo guys if they compete with Cisco, they'll probably laugh at you."

The Lenovo deal was focused on building EMC's China market and on replacing the Dell servers currently used in EMC's storage hardware, Burton said. The long-term partnership between EMC and Dell dissolved, turning the two partners into archrivals.

"First of all, we don't want Dell servers in our products," he said. "We want to shift to another vendor."

Jamie Shepard, executive vice president of technology solutions at ICI, a Marlborough, Mass.-based solution provider and partner to EMC and Cisco, agreed with Burton that any concerns about EMC hurting its Cisco relationship by moving closer to Lenovo are overblown.

"Lenovo will be in VSPEX soon, no doubt," Shepard said. "But it won't compete with Cisco."

For now, the focus at EMC is on working with Cisco on building out its VSPEX business.

The two companies unveiled two new CVDs for unified computing reference architectures based on Microsoft Hyper-V and on VMware vSphere virtualized architectures for cloud computing.

NEXT: Details And Benefits Of The VSPEX CVDs

The new CVDs are very specific in terms of how to build private clouds, EMC's Burton said.

"Now, instead of saying, 'insert server here,' we're making a number of reference architectures available as CVDs with Cisco server and networking in them," Burton said. "This will move the quickest and with the least friction with the Cisco channel."

The first CVD, called the Cisco Solutions for EMC VSPEX for Microsoft Hyper-V Architectures, specifies how to use EMC storage, Cisco UCS servers and networking technology, and Hyper-V to build private cloud infrastructures for either 50 or 100 virtual machines.

The second, the Cisco Solutions for EMC VSPEX for VMware vSphere 5.0 Architectures, is similar, but it uses vSphere to build private cloud infrastructures for 50, 100 or 125 virtual machines.

"Hyper-V tends to play more down-market," Burton said. "So they are typically smaller infrastructures."

EMC currently has about 500 channel partners ramping up on its VSPEX reference architecture, of which about 200 are joint partners with Cisco, he said.

Rick Snyder, vice president of Cisco's global and strategic partner organization, said the CVDs are "pressure-tested" and designed in a rigorous fashion, and they are well documented, making it easy for solution providers to build them.

"The first two CVDs for VSPEX are in the right part of the market," Snyder said. "They're recipes, which customers like. And from a size perspective, they fill a big niche in the market."

Shepard said the architectures for which the new CVDs were designed are exactly the kind of architectures his own company has been building.

"VSPEX offer solid blueprints and are perfect for the channel," he said. "For us, we get strong support from the vendors. And with reference architectures, the vendors test things stringently, which we like."

The CVDs also bring a lot of engineering to the channel, Shepard said. "They show a lot of pre-validation going on," he said. "The vendors will tell you to do this, don't do that, here are the best practices. But, customers still need us to deploy them."

Keith Norbie, vice president of Nexus, the Minnetonka, Minn. office of Stratos Management Services, an Atlanta-based solution provider and partner to EMC and Cisco, said that building on solid intellectual design and co-marketed solutions is significant for channel partners.

"VSPEX is more than Cisco," Norbie said. "There is still our own intellectual property in there. We can design IT infrastructures, but they are orchestrated with EMC. The storage platform is consistent. It's only EMC. This gives us the opportunity to move into our own infrastructure play."