Comstor Launches Cisco-Focused Cloud Business

Geoff Fancher, senior vice president of Comstor U.S.

Geoff Fancher, senior vice president of Comstor U.S.

Westcon Group’s Comstor unit is the latest distributor to jump into the cloud market, sticking to its roots and seeking to build a cloud business around Cisco-powered cloud providers.

The distributor Monday introduced Comstor Cloud Distribution Services, announcing partnerships to offer collab9’s Cisco-based unified communications as a service, and Peak Colo’s Infrastructure-as-a-Service offering based on Cisco/VMware/NetApp FlexPod technologies. For now, the partnerships are U.S.-only, but Comstor says it will explore additional global markets, including Canada, next year, assuming the launch in the U.S. goes well.

“We want to support Cisco in their cloud strategy and to participate in that opportunity,” said Geoff Fancher, senior vice president of Comstor U.S. “There are great profitability opportunities for all involved, and customers want to hear about consumption-based offers.”

At its annual Partner Summit in Boston this past June, Cisco shifted the focus of its cloud partner programs from supply to demand. Over the last two years, the company has built up an army of 1,700 cloud-certified professionals, and some 350 Cisco-powered cloud offerings. And that’s the tip of the iceberg – Arjun Lahiri, senior manager in the worldwide partner organization at Cisco, said there are some 600 applications in various stages of submission.

“And I suspect every provider will have some number of resellers for all the same reasons we have a number of resellers,” Lahiri said at the time.

But the networking giant is challenged with making connections between those new Cisco-powered cloud apps and the traditional Cisco channel community. To help drive that, Cisco opened up its all-important Value Incentive Program (VIP) to include rebates for resellers selling Cisco-powered cloud applications or products from third parties. VIP is a tried and true behavior driver for Cisco, and has been very successful in helping it move key partners towards new priorities for the networking giant over the last decade.

Getting a distributor on board – and particularly as connected to Cisco-powered cloud solutions as Comstor is – is another big step for Cisco’s strategy of creating connections between the traditional Cisco partner base and this new generation of service providers offering cloud solutions based on Cisco technologies. Fancher added that the company’s first two partners are 100 percent channel, and that although it would not forego cloud solution companies that have some direct sales components, “I’d like to see us stick to that” level of channel-centricity. “It puts our partners in a much better position in the marketplace,” Fancher said.

Both of the solutions available now available through Comstor can be white-labeled by channel partners, and Fancher said the distributor planned to wrap its own value around the cloud solutions. First up will be training, including an “executive relevance selling” offering to help partners offer the Peak Colo IaaS solution to top executives and line of businesses leaders, rather than strictly to IT. That includes tools that help show the customer benefits of going with a given technology with long-term ROI. “It’s sophisticated enough that it’s CFO-proof,” Fancher quipped.

Once the two current offerings are up and running, the distributor will turn its attention to other Cisco cloud partners, and look to further build out its line card and its stable. While Fancher stressed the business will “be very profitable, even early on” for all involved at its current scale, the sheer volume of Cisco-powered cloud apps available mean there are lots of options to introduce new offerings to a channel audience.

“To my knowledge, we’re the only distributor taking this kind of Cisco-focused approach and scaling it across the partner base,” he said. “That’s a very positive thing for us and for our relationship with Cisco. We want to make these work, and make sure the model works.”