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Archive for April 2012

As I mentioned in my last posting, Cisco held its annual Partner Summit reseller conference in San Diego last week. While the overall tone of the conference was positive, there was one issue that I felt was worth bringing up, as it could have some long-term impact on Cisco and its channel.

I was sitting in the audience prior to the keynote and, looking at the stage, I saw a big rack that said “VBLOCK” on the side. So, I thought to myself that a demo was coming (of which there was a very good one). I’ve been talking to channel partners about VBlock since its launch a couple of years ago and there appears to be two schools of thought. Some partners, and I would say the majority of them, like VBlock. They can go from nothing to a fully functioning cloud in the better part of two days. Other partners, though, look at VBlock as a big threat to their business.

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Last week, under the sunny skies of San Diego, Cisco held its annual reseller Partner Summit. The setting was fitting as the show itself indicated that there are sunnier skies ahead for Cisco and its Partners.

Cisco and its relationship with its huge reseller base is one of the most talked about topics in the networking industry today. Competitors accuse Cisco of taking too much business from its resellers, and Cisco, of course, steadfastly defends itself. My belief is that the truth is actually somewhere in the middle, where Cisco has a very good relationship with its partners but there are some chinks in the armor.

However, I do think the changes announced at this year’s Partner Summit indicate an improvement to the company’s channel strategy and will smooth out some of those issues.

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Last week EMC launched its eagerly awaited VSPEX architecture. VSPEX is a turnkey reference architecture made up of best-of-breed partners to deliver an end-to-end cloud solution. The solution, while led by EMC, also involved collaboration from such partners as Brocade, Cisco, Intel, Microsoft and VMware. VSPEX is another option for customers who do not want to build their own from scratch nor want a converged solution like VCE. It’s a proven solution that’s been validated by EMC.

One of the main points that I think was missed by much of the press around this announcement is that it can bring a solution to the mid-market. For all the hype and media attention VCE has received, it’s really not that appealing to mid-market companies. It may work, but it certainly has a premium price tag attached to it. Since VSPEX has various different configurations (14 in total), there are a number of lower-cost options that use infrastructure like Brocades ICX switches. So while there are many expensive cloud offerings out there for large enterprises to buy directly, VSPEX is an affordable channel play. Channel partners can customize it for different customers and even put their own brand on it if they want.

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According to much of what I hear and read, we’re on the precipice of everything moving to the cloud. Why should an IT or business leader care? Lower cost – check, got that, better mobility – got that too. Anything else? There is another element of cloud though that tends to fly under the radar and that is the benefit to a company’s disaster recovery plan.

As a former IT person, one who was heavily involved in disaster planning, I know how challenging it is to put a good disaster recovery plan together. In fact, I often joke about that fact that everyone is an expert in backing up data but restoring it is where the challenge comes from. However, even the best companies with dedicated IT teams struggle to get to a recovery point objective of 24 hours. Think about that. One day of outage before things are brought back up. It doesn’t seem too bad, but who knows what can happen in a day? If you’re in financial services and the market moves quickly, that one day could cost more than the rest of the year. A small business that misses out on delivering a big order could damage its reputation. A school system being unavailable during exams could have significant ramifications as well.

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Management and analytic tools are needed to help make decisions on who to give what tool to, why and what the payback will be.

Everyone at Enterprise Connect loves the shiny new things. The mobile video being done by Vidyo, Cisco’s new TelePresence system and Jabber, and new cloud offerings like Sprint’s Complete Collaboration solution grabbed much of the spotlight at the show. I understand why too. They’re new, they’re flashy and they make us think about the great possibilities.

However, there’s another part of this industry that needs some focus as well and that’s management and analytic tools to help make decisions on who to give what tool to, why and what the payback will be. This part of the market isn’t so sexy and tends to not gain focus inside companies until the pain is felt. However, it’s hard to have a successful deployment without it.

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Cloud has obviously become one of the biggest, if not the biggest, topics of conversation in the tech industry today. I’ve done a number of presentations, panels and roundtables on the subject and the big topic of conversation is always security and deployment strategy, which makes sense based on where we are in the evolution of cloud. However, I do think one of the often overlooked topics of investigation is the impact on the network and how to optimize user experience.

Legacy networks are built with a “hub and spoke” design. That is, all branches connect to a single “hub” location from which they receive network-enabled services, including Internet access. So, with the hub and spoke design, all traffic, in effect, “trombones” where it comes into the central location and then back up one of the spokes to a branch office.

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