Unified Computing heats up in distie channel

Published: November 5th, 2009

When Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO) first introduced its Unified Computing System, it said it would only sell direct. And up until now, only a few select Cisco channel partners were designated to resell the Cisco B series enterprise-class UCS.

Now, following a deal with Westcon Group, Cisco will be making its UCS solutions more broadly available to the channel through the distie’s Cisco-focused Comstor division. Not to be outdone, Ingram Micro reiterated its commitment to Cisco shortly after Westcon’s announcement, and Tech Data spoke up about its relationship with Cisco.

The bigger story, however, is that Cisco is growing its channel. Or, perhaps, that demand for unified computing is heating up. Or both.

Cisco has been slowly ramping up its channel, rather than partnering with everyone and anyone and flooding the market with product. Instead, it’s taking a smarter, more controlled approach. And it seems to be working, since the disties want to prove that they, too, are best friends with Cisco.

But this is really the only way Cisco can approach the UC market – this isn’t exactly commodity product. UC combines servers, switches and storage in the same box for simplified management, higher performance and greater availability. And the battle is heating up between Cisco and HP, while Juniper Networks is teaming up with Dell and IBM to add some more competition to the market.

Distributors play an important role when introducing disruptive technologies. Comstor, in this case, will introduce programs and services involving Cisco’s UCS platform and is developing global training centres around the technology.

Still, it’s not entirely clear how much demand there is from customers for UC at this point, though UC is considered a disruptive technology and is expected to create opportunities for the channel in coming years, particularly in the virtualization and data centre markets.

Comstor, however, says there are more orders than products right now. And this could be why Cisco has chosen this moment to expand its channel strategy.

Westcon already distributes Cisco products through Comstor and this particular partnership is aimed at mid-market Cisco channel partners. Following on the heels of this announcement, Ingram said it would continue to support Cisco’s data centre play, including UCS (a year ago the distie created a Cisco Business Unit to focus on data centre architecture). And Tech Data – which has distributed component pieces that make up UCS – said it would now offer the consolidated product.

The difference, of course, is that unlike Ingram and Tech Data, Westcon is a niche player and when it comes to servers it’s focused solely on Cisco. And this is where its Comstor division has a high degree of expertise. But regardless of how this plays out through distribution, one thing is clear: this is a win for Cisco resellers.