Distributor Westcon First Up to Carry Cisco's Unified Computing System

Comstor unit will distribute UCS B-series and C-series servers. Rivals Tech Data and Ingram Micro also on board with vendor.

November 5, 2009

D.H. Kass

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Westcon Group Inc., a specialty distributor of networking, convergence, security and mobility equipment, this week added servers to its portfolio, signing on to supply Cisco Systems Inc.’s United Computing System to its lineup of channel partners.

Westcon’s Cisco-dedicated Comstor unit will distribute the UCS—a cohesive suite of data center gear including blade and rack mount servers, networking, virtualization and storage products--to its qualified channel partners worldwide.

Westcon is the first distributor to publicly announce its intention to handle the UCS line. Cisco has declined for months to accelerate the channel ramp up of its UCS portfolio but this week abruptly switched gears with the Westcon announcement.

Westcon competitors Ingram Micro Inc. and Tech Data Corp. subsequently said that each has received the nod from Cisco to sell the UCS portfolio. Ingram said that its Cisco business unit would handle the UCS line and that it has launched an initiative to educate its solution providers on the platform.

Westcon president and chief executive Dean Douglas said that Comstor has “distribution responsibilities for Cisco UCS servers B and C,” referring to Cisco’s B-series blade servers and its C-series rack mount servers.

“This underscores the endorsement of Cisco to our distribution channel,” he said.

John Growdon, Cisco director of go-to-market, worldwide channels, said that the vendor previously has constrained channel partner authorization of its B-series blade servers, currently limiting access to about 60 resellers. The vendor has authorized a “wider set of partners” for its C-series rack mount servers, he said.

He said that by the close of this fiscal year, Cisco expects to grant B series rights to about 200 resellers and C-series authorization to about 1,000 partners.

Bill Corbin, Comstor executive vice president, said that the distributor expects to work with up to 90 percent of channel partners already certified on Cisco’s B-series blade servers. Of those resellers certified to sell the C-series rack mount servers, Corbin expects to “bring many of them to the table.”

He said that Comstor already has trained about 75 percent of its U.S.-based account managers on the UCS platform and suggested that the remainder will be trained and certified worldwide by mid-November.

Comstor also is readying a series of programs and services to support the UCS platform, including global training centers to pump up market penetration, Corbin said.

Cisco accelerates UCS channel ramp up

Growdon said that the Comstor authorization is “part of the overall expansion of our channel strategy for UCS. From a channel standpoint we have a stated goal of a unified data center practice within our community.”

“Comstor’s approach to UCS is from an architectural standpoint rather than treating it as a discreet product,” he said. “They understand that it can save customers 20 to 40 percent in capital expenditures and operating expenses.”

Neither Westcon nor Cisco officials would provide Comstor’s sales estimates for the UCS platform.

Douglas said that the distributor views mid-sized businesses as the market sweet spot for the UCS portfolio because “customer adoption can be quicker.”

He said that Westcon’s internal assessments of the server market acknowledged a crowded supplier marketplace but allowed that the UCS folder presented channel partners with “an opportunity to get deeper into IT infrastructure at the customer level.”

Douglas said that Westcon’s concentration on a relatively small number of vendors favorably positions it to handle the UCS platform.

“We are focused on a small number of vendors and products and one of our challenges is to drive adoption,” he said. “We don’t carry HP, Sun, IBM or Dell. Because our server platform focuses in on Cisco, we can provide a great deal more service capabilities for our channel partners.”

TAGS: Cisco,Unified Computing System,distributor,Westcon,Comstor

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