Cisco To OEM EMC NAS Appliances

Cisco last week said it will start OEMing EMC's NAS appliances next quarter as part of a solution to allow centralized data backup from remote offices over IP networks. Under the agreement, Cisco will OEM EMC's NS500 and NS700 NAS appliances to sell through its own channels, said George Kurian, vice president and general manager of Cisco's Caching Services Business Unit.

The NAS units will be bundled with the Cisco File Engine, an appliance introduced last month based on its Wide Area File Services (WAFS) technology for high-speed movement of data across a WAN. Cisco obtained the WAFS technology when it acquired Actona last June.

Cisco plans to offer the new bundle through its field sales force and direct solution providers next quarter, with sales through its tier-two channel partners expected to start sometime after that, Kurian said.

Certification and specialization requirements for solution providers have not yet been finalized.

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Several industry observers last week predicted Cisco will run into competition with NetApp, which, according to research firm IDC, is the largest NAS vendor, followed closely by EMC.

The Cisco-EMC agreement could definitely cause NetApp some headaches, said Greg Robertson, president of H.A. Storage Systems, a storage solution provider in Minneapolis that partners with EMC. "If it was a smaller network company, then no big deal," he said. "But since it's Cisco, the deal could get some traction."

However, Keith Brown, director of technology at NetApp, said the agreement means little in the NAS market. While Cisco's WAFS technology has promise, most customers already have EMC, NetApp or other storage devices, Brown said. The OEM deal is for "the rare case" when a customer needs storage to go with the Cisco File Engine, he said. "And it is a rare case."

Still, Matt Horner, vice president of corporate strategy and services at World Wide Technology, a Cisco partner in St. Louis, said a Cisco-branded NAS device should ease the ordering process and result in increased sales.

"Customers buy network equipment and then typically look separately for storage," Horner said. "For us to present it as a complete solution, our capture rate should go up."

Dana Zahka, president and CEO of Select, a Cisco and NetApp partner, said the more interesting part of Cisco's agreement with EMC is Cisco's WAFS technology.

"The software enables remote offices connected via WAN to consolidate data backup into a central repository rather than backing up each and every site," Zahka said. "It's a slick product."

JENNIFER HAGENDORF FOLLETT contributed to this story.