Opinion: EMC Cisco NetApp – New Reality TV Show — Cisco Not Leaving VCE Anytime Soon

The IT infrastructure business can sometimes feel like a “reality TV show” and their partnerships a zero sum game. A reality show maybe zero sum game NOT!

Today I read a Network World article titled Cisco gets closer to NetApp, further from VCE. Go read it such an amazing plot. Cisco will leave their massive EMC, VMware, Intel partnership called VCE.

New Bravo TV Reality TV Called  “Partners of SDN”   {Airing soon on theCUBE on SiliconANGLE TV) – Starring Cisco, EMC, NetApp, and VMware.

When Cisco seeks to extend its business through partnerships with NetApp, EMC doesn’t throw all of Cisco’s belongings out onto the lawn and call their Mother-in-law. When VMWare bought Nicira, Cisco didn’t throw a glass of wine in EMC’s face and storm out of the restaurant on their anniversary.

The name of the game is “co-opitition”. Companies cooperate, and they compete at the same time. Every company hedges their bets in the form of partnerships that will benefit their shareholders. NetApp’s Flexpod strategy is gaining traction in the market place as is VCE’s Vblock architecture. EMC’s VSPEX offering- an “EMC proven, partner packaged”…and more “flexible” model for converged infrastructure is also doing well. VSPEX is a more analogous “rival” to FlexPod.

The fast is that the market is embracing converged infrastructure or as we say “Software-led Infrastructure (SLI) – see groundbreaking research from Wikibon analysts. EMC, NetApp, VMWare, VCE and Cisco will all continue to be beneficiaries. Even Bravo TV Channel, home of canceled Startups of Silicon Valley #siliconvalley, can’t turn this into a real drama. A Software Defined Smackdown “cage match” sure would be entertaining, though. I’m getting Dave Vellante of Wikibon on the horn right now to draw up this script for our next Cube event.

Word on the Street

Talking to folks on the streets of Silicon Valley and Twitter Cisco has the combined networking server product called UCS. Cisco needs UCS to be “agnostic” to their channel partners.  In other words, Cisco is an arms dealer and will work with anyone. Cisco has invested dollars and resources in VCE so that joint venture remains very important to Cisco. Yes there’s friction over VMware snagging the Nicira deal but in the mean time Cisco is doing business in the field and driving revenue. Cisco will work with anyone that can help it sell and that includes competitors of EMC – like NetApp.

Here’s the deal.

VCE sells vBlock. vBlock is a single SKU, drop it in as a total solution type of situation. EMC storage, cisco networking and servers, vmware…any color as long as it’s black. The benefit being it’s pre-engineered, pre-tested and simpler. Often, however, channel partners want to mix and match other components – like storage. So NetApp – which sells 75% of its products through the channel – isn’t going to help Cisco sell vBlocks b/c vBlocks use EMC storage. Rather Cisco is going to partner with NetApp and develop a solution that’s more ‘friendly’ to NetApp’s channel.

Cisco would be idiotic NOT to do a deal with NetApp because NetApp’s channel increases Cisco’s served market. At the same time, Cisco has a lot invested in VCE so it would be foolish to walk away from that deal – especially since EMC moves so much product.

So the bottom line of all this is Cisco is an arms dealer and will work with anyone. Journalists, blogger, and the general Twittersphere will make this a zero sum game (i.e. more NetApp means less VCE) are missing that fact that Cisco wants to expand it’s market, not confine it to few partners.