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IBM recently teamed up with Cisco to launch VersaStack, a pre-engineered, tested and supported system that leverages Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS) Integrated Infrastructure with IBM’s Storwize storage system technology and storage arrays. Designed to operate as a “data center in a box,” the technology is being embraced by managed service providers (MSPs), including iVirtualize in North America, DutchCloud in the Netherlands and Global Business Machines in the Middle East.

The biggest benefit for MSPs is the new offering delivers fully tested, validated and integrated systems for faster delivery and implementation. These integrated, or converged systems consist of a full stack of data center technologies—storage, compute, networking and management components—that are combined into a pre-tested and supported system.

The market is expanding: The global integrated infrastructure and platform market reached $9.4 billion in 2014 with 28.9 percent year-over-year growth, according to IDC. In addition, new storage capacity shipments grew to 3.5 exabytes, posting 52.8 percent growth. In the first quarter of 2015, the market increased 8.3 percent to reach $2.1 billion, and generated 945 petabytes of new storage capacity shipments.

“The fact that this much storage was moved as part of integrated infrastructure is a huge opportunity from a partner perspective,” said Eric Herzog, vice president of marketing for IBM Storage Systems.

This is an ideal opportunity for MSPs, cloud service providers (CSPs) and software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies, said Herzog. IBM felt it was important to be in this space—offering integrated/converged infrastructure to end users through its channel partners—based on how it’s growing as a percentage and as a method of consumption at an end-user level, he added.

In addition, the VersaStack is strictly a channel partner play. The offering is delivered exclusively through the channel, said Herzog. “These are pre-racked and stacked by our channel partners. It’s very quick to install, compared to getting the servers, the storage, the networking and the hypervisor and putting it together yourself. By having it done this way, it’s much faster and more efficient.”

The traditional channel partners are offering services around the VersaStack or are putting practices together to do that, said Herzog. It’s a way for channel partners to continue to stay in the server and storage business as end users move to integrated systems, he added.

“From an MSP perspective, it’s all about efficiency and swift deployment. You need to add physical infrastructures for expansion of your cloud as an MSP, CSP or SaaS provider. The various things that a MSP or CSP would offer—platform-as-a-service, infrastructure-as-a-service, cloud-as-a-service, and as you grow your business you can swiftly and rapidly install physical hardware to support any of your offerings,” he continued.

In addition, the IBM Storwize technology delivers several benefits with built-in functions, such as data virtualization, real-time compression and easy tiering, which automatically migrates data between tiers based on real-time use patterns.

“One of the things we do provide uniquely is storage virtualization, which means we can virtualize other people’s storage. We support over 350 arrays that are not IBM,” said Herzog.

Migration is another big benefit. “Because we virtualize, we can do transparent migration of block data in the background, on the fly, with no downtime,” Herzog said.