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Cisco partners gain low-end, high-end UCS options

Cisco expands and innovates its Unified Computing System product line, enabling partners to seize more business with the current UCS customer base as well as new opportunities in the edge scale environment.

Calling today's Unified Computing System  announcement one of the most significant for the product -- and for channel partners in related opportunities -- since its launch five years ago, Cisco expects to see partners expand their footprint in existing UCS customer accounts and capture new customers based on the new crop of UCS offerings.

With the majority of Cisco products sold through its partner businesses -- 85% to 87%, according to John Growdon, senior director for data center sales with the worldwide channels organization at Cisco -- today's announcement of the Unified Computing System (UCS) Mini, the UCS M-Series Modular Servers, the UCS C3160 Rack Server and innovation around UCS Director and management platform expands the sales opportunity for Cisco partners up and down the product line. It also expands partners' ability to capture private and hybrid cloud business, according to the company.

The new products are focused on addressing customer challenges such as extending computing out to the edge, i.e. branch office, remote site or small and medium-size business (SMB) environment, while operating a common environment between the core data center and the edge, as well as powering traditional applications and the new class of emerging applications in a common operating model.

Selling UCS is a prominent part of the server business at Cisco Gold Certified Partner ePlus, and the technology is a significant attached component to the partner's FlexPod business. ePlus, which is based in Herndon, Va., is a leading Cisco FlexPod partner in terms of both the number of units sold and revenue earned.

According to Jerry McIntosh, senior vice president of advanced technology at ePlus, today's product announcement presents new sales opportunities within the company's current client base of about 3,000 customers.

"For us it means doing more business in accounts we already sell to," he said, including new "white space" opportunities.

With today's news, Cisco addressed the edge scale environment, or remote sites, for example, the core data workloads and cloud scale-out application environment covering new territory for the vendor and exposing new opportunities for partners, according to Todd Brannon, Cisco UCS marketing director.

For our channel partners, we're creating a new entry point for UCS.
Todd BrannonCisco UCS marketing director

With the emergence of the Internet of Things and increased use of mobile devices driving an increasing amount of computing outside of the data center, such as in branch offices or traditional retail environments, for example, Cisco's UCS Mini is a product that Cisco partners can take to existing business customers that need computing power at the source of the demand as well as to new SMB customers, according to Cisco.

"For our channel partners we're creating a new entry point for UCS, taking it down to a new order of scale for small and medium customers, and for smaller environments for larger IT shops," according to Brannon. Through a SmartPlay limited-time, special-priced promotion, customers can buy a UCS Mini for less than $20,000, he noted.

For ePlus, having an integrated infrastructure option at that price will be welcome.

"In most cases, we see [smaller customers] running a chassis-based server separately from storage and from networking, so in terms of all the maintenance and potential breakdowns of various components, it can be costly," McIntosh said.

While over the past half-dozen years, customers have been consolidating servers from a remote site to the corporate data center, today's computing application requirement to process more data locally makes products like the new UCS Mini advantageous for customers, he stated.

At the opposite end of the compute spectrum, the new Cisco UCS M-Series Modular Servers are designed for customers, such as cloud service providers and large enterprises, that need a scaled-out application architecture.

The new Cisco UCS C3160 Rack Server is another product that partners can take to this market and is suited for distributed data analytics and object stores, unstructured data repositories, streaming media and transcoding -- or for customers requiring servers with a lot of disk storage.

"With our fourth generation of UCS rack and blade servers, there are constant upgrade opportunities for partners within the existing installed base of more than 36,000 customers. And, partners are capturing new customers every year based on UCS' capabilities," Growdon said.

And UCS Director Express for Big Data, the last component of today's announcements, automates deployment of Hadoop and provides a single management pane across both the physical infrastructure and Hadoop software.

Cisco partners can go forth and conquer with the vendor's new products with their existing specialties. There are no new education requirements for partners; however, Cisco will offer new sales and technical training classes so partners can get up to speed on the new platforms.

With a new sales opportunity at both ends of the compute spectrum, Cisco partner ePlus, McIntosh said, can develop the right solution for the next wave of virtualization and computing as customers begin to virtualize storage and even the network in the data center.

"And, out at the edge, with the Internet of Things, there are new requirements to have the processing and local memory and network integration with new interfaces that can translate traffic that is not typically today IP protocols onto the IP network," he added.

According to Cisco's most recent quarterly earnings report released last month, data center revenue was a bright spot, with 30% year-over-year growth accounting for $3 billion in annual run rate for that business. UCS has gained market share for 18 consecutive quarters. Company CEO John Chambers commented that the data center pipeline looked strong and that UCS continues to take market share.

UCS boasts more than 36,500 customers and for this latest quarter, repeat customers grew by 49%, according to the vendor.

In a recent IDC report, titled "IDC Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker, 2013 Q1, May 2014," Cisco was ranked as the top x86 blade server vendor in the U.S. and North America, and the No. 2 player worldwide in x86 blade server revenue market share, with a top five ranking among server vendors overall.

The UCS Mini is currently shipping; the UC C3160 is scheduled to ship in mid-October; and the M Series will ship in December, according to the vendor.

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