Cisco, EMC close ranks for new VCE partner program

Chris Sullivan, vice president of channel and investor alliances for VCE

Chris Sullivan, vice president of channel and investor alliances for VCE

Cisco, VMware, and EMC are getting a little closer together around their VCE converged infrastructure offshoot, for the first time offering a truly combined channel program around converged infrastructure plays.

The new Cloud Infrastructure Solution Accelerator program is jointly owned by Cisco, EMC, and VCE, and will focus on promoting both VCE’s VBlock converged infrastructure units, and data centre gear built to EMC’s VSPEX reference architecture, which also includes Cisco networking and computing gear.

The program includes incentives that can amount to an additional two per cent in rebate on a VBlock 300 system, or similar discounts on systems built to the VSPEX standard – a three per cent front-end rebate on the EMC portion of any such deal, and three per cent back-end rebate on the Cisco portions. All of these are stackable with other benefits, incentives, and programs from any of the three vendors.

“Across the board, this is one of the fastest-growing opportunities in our collective lines of business,” said Chris Sullivan, vice president of channel and investor alliances for VCE. “This an awesome opportunity in a mature but accelerating market.”

While EMC officially recognizes “three paths to the cloud” (best-of-breed infrastructure, reference architecture, and converged infrastructure,) the program is designed to educate partners about and incent them on the latter two, said Tom Tormey, vice president of alliances at EMC.

“There’s no one right answer. There are different solutions that will satisfy different needs in the market,” Tormey said. “This is the first time we’ve come together and put the focus on joint enablement and how to sell on a business outcome. We think we’ve got a compelling value proposition for our partners to invest.”

Brian Allison, director of partners solutions in the worldwide channels group at Cisco, said the program was the result of partner feedback that they wanted to hear from the allied (if sometimes squabbling) vendors with a single voice.

“Partners want to take advantage and move faster then they’re already moving. We’ve heard from them that ‘if I’m going to invest in these capabilities instead of selling on speeds and feeds, I want to be put on a pedestal,’” he said.

Getting away from selling on “feeds and speeds” is a core part of the new program. Education and enablement efforts in the program centre around “boot camps” to help partners improve their ability to have discussions focused on business outcomes around opportunities for VBlock or VPEX deployments.

The program also seems to be aimed at dispelling partner concerns that Cisco and EMC are drifting apart in terms of strategy, a move that could leave VCE in a tough spot. The two vendors have been seen butting heads or at least at odds more frequently recently, with EMC-owned VMware’s NSX networking virtualization launch a particular point of contention.  But with this program the three vendors have all invested long term, including assigning employees from each organization to manage it.

“This program is one voice, one message to our partners. This is channel innovation to match our technology innovation,” Allison said.

The program will be open to VCE Gold and Silver solution providers, the ranks of which are currently about 90 worldwide. It will also be open to solution provider that have both a Cisco Advanced Data Centre Architecture specialization and EMC Signature-level or VSPEX authorization. To qualify, solution providers must also have two account managers, two system engineers, and two field engineers trained on VCE and converged infrastructure topics, and must do a joint business and marketing plan with the three-vendor coalition.

While Sullivan said he expects existing VCE partners to be the foundation of the new program, he also believes the focus on converged infrastructure, and additional profitability, will bring new partners into the fold.

“We’re always looking to expand with the right partnerships, but the highest level of impact will be with those who’ve made the investments,” he said.