Cisco looks to drive Metapod business on strong data application, IoT demand

Selling Metapod successfully demands focus on LOB units and applications, something partners have responded to well.

Scott Sanchez Cisco slider

Scott Sanchez, Cisco’s director of cloud platform strategy, cloud and managed services organization

Cisco acquired its’ Metapod business a year and a half ago, and boosted its’ potential to Cisco partners at last year’s Cisco Partner Summit. Now, almost a year later, the vendor has made moves to expand Metapod’s presence with new configurations, and views it as a stronger partner play than ever.

Cisco Metapod is a subscription-based offering designed to deliver a true public cloud experience in a private cloud environment. It is an OpenStack-based solution which eliminates the complexity of OpenStack, and is engineered, deployed, and remotely operated by Cisco 24x7x365. Originally Metacloud before its September 2014 acquisition, it was initially branded Cisco OpenStack Private Cloud. Feeling that name lacked pizzaz, last fall it was rebranded to give it a more Cisco feel, said Scott Sanchez, Cisco’s director of cloud platform strategy, cloud and managed services organization, who came to Cisco a year and a half ago through the acquisition of Metacloud.

“We essentially run a private cloud in a pod,” Sanchez said.

“Our core expertise at Metacloud is that we were operations people,” he said. “We took OpenStack and took it into a well-run cloud, and ran it for the customer as a subscription. For a company like Cisco, with customers who want a private cloud beyond the hardware, this was the driver in the acquisition, to  bring in the operational aspect of how to run a big complicated cloud. This is a problem in any large distributed system. Cisco Meraki does something similar in their wireless space. This is the same kind of thing, but for the cloud.”

Sanchez said that the acquisition has not only expanded Metapod’s market reach, but has also impacted the type of customers they acquire.

“As a startup, you attract smaller and more nimble customers,” he said. “Although we did have one of the largest entertainment companies in the world as a customer, mostly it was bleeding edge companies adopting it. Now, since the acquisition, it has become very mainstream, and passed that tipping point long ago.”

With that expansion, Metapod has become a strong channel product.

“We announced this at Partner Summit last year, that we were rolling this out to the channel,” Sanchez said. “Since then, a large number of our Metapod numbers have come with or through one of our partners. We have seen particularly strong response from new non-hardware partners, more application integrator type partners for whom the hardware is the drag.”

Sanchez emphasized that selling Metapod successfully requires the transformation to selling to Line-of-Business [LOB] units that Cisco has been urging on partners generally.

“We invest heavily in enabling this transformation in partners,” he said. “This isn’t about selling the hardware. It’s about having a conversation with LOB about their needs – a more flexible, agile type of computing environment. It’s very different from leading with hardware.”

Partners have been responding possibly to this message around Metapod.

“The majority of our partners have been making this transformation,” Sanchez said. “We really ramped up this message last year specifically for us. We did many training sessions for partners across the country, and they all had waiting lists to get in.”

Last month, Cisco took steps to broaden the reach and appeal of Metapod further. It is now available in three configurations — Starter, General Purpose, and High Performance  — which drop the price point and lower the barrier to entry. The new offers drop the minimum socket count from 30 sockets to 20 on all three configurations. Cisco Capital financing options allow customers to amortize the full solution costs.

The Starter configuration – which begins at $8,490 per month – is designed for dev and test environments, proof-of-concepts, and learning environments. It scales from 7 to 40 compute nodes, with 2.4 Gpbs of throughput. The General Purpose Configuration is for most common production use cases, including web applications, Big Data, self-service IT, and mixed-use environments. It scales from 7 to 100 nodes at 10 Gpbs of throughput. Finally the High Performance Configuration scales up to 400 nodes at 20 Gpbs. It is intended for large and network intensive workloads like media delivery, and process intensive applications.

A three month subscription has also been added, in addition to annual terms ranging from one to five years.

“We are really seeing increasing demand around data-driven applications,” Sanchez said. “Metapod doesn’t require a tremendous investment to get forward, so customers can put it at the edge where the data is. We are seeing really strong interest there. The Internet of Things pulls customers into the conversation. With all these connected things, the way you pull it off is not having a data center 3000 miles away if you want instant response. So we are seeing very strong demand, driven by the push in the IoT, in things like retail and manufacturing.”

More Canadian partners would be welcome.

“In Canada, there is really strong demand for trusted partners that can have that application conversation,” Sanchez said. “There aren’t enough partners yet to quench that thirst.”