Data centre of the future will need versatile channel partners

Toronto – What will the data centre of the future look like? Consider this: Business pressures are forcing data centre architects to stop implementing servers, storage and networking as islands of technology. Customers today want data centres that have cost efficiencies with high utilization, according to a panel of experts at the Data Centre of the Future conference, held here.

Most of today’s data centres have been built and powered by “accidental architecture,” according to a group of executives from Cisco Systems Inc., VMware Inc. and NetApp Inc.

The three companies got together in a united front to bring awareness that data centres must break away from siloed operations. The three are working together to address this problem.

Val Bercovici, a senior director with NetApp’s CTO office and known throughout the industry as the cloud czar, said that most enterprises today have acquired their network, server and storage level infrastructure through a variety of separately funded projects. “The money didn’t come from one place,” he said.

Despite the downsides brought as a result of the recession, many IT shops can actually use the struggling economy to focus investments and give IT a meaningful seat at the boardroom table, Bercovici said.

And while Cisco, VMware and NetApp all agree that this can only be achieved through virtualization and private clouds, investment in this technology without the proper focus is destined to fail.

While all three vendors believe the data centre of the future will bring a huge opportunity to the channel, one panelist said that solution provider community needs to change and adopt an integrated approach that includes networking, servers and storage.

Jason Reil, product sales specialist with Cisco Canada, said traditional partners are too networked focused and it could mean they get left behind.

Cisco Canada is looking for partners that understand networks, servers, and storage. The company’s channel program is “finely tuned” to drive that channel strategy.

“Instead of having 5,000 partners, we narrowed it down to a few partners to drive success and make sure those partners succeeded,” Reil said.

He added, these were more sophisticated resellers that could be able to handle optimizing these converged networks and that the company has worked for more than 18 months to achieve this.

“Size doesn’t always matter,” Reil said. What Cisco looks for is competency from its channel.

Executives from each company highlighted their role in the Virtualized Dynamic Data Centre strategy, which is a joint venture between the three companies to offer network, server and storage solutions that work well together.

Cisco is bringing its Nexus 1000 virtual switches and unified computing servers to the partnership, NetApp is delivering on the virtual storage component, and of course, VMware is providing much of the virtualization capability.

Under the strategy, the three companies will bring enterprises an end-to-end secure multi-tenancy platform.

The plan was announced earlier this year, but company executives said it wouldn’t be aggressively pushed in marketing campaigns until early 2010.

Bercovici said that this new infrastructure will bring new opportunities for the channel. When he joined NetApp, he said the company was 90 per cent direct, now they are 75 per cent indirect and it was forced out of necessity.

“The overriding message to me is that this is a giant partner opportunity in general,” Bercovici said.

The third panelist, Stephane Lalonde, a senior engineer at VMware, said customers are now bringing network, storage and server people into the meetings he has with them, they will need channel partners with expertise in each of these fields.

“It’s a joint effort and a joint solution,” Lalonde said.

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