Channel Insider content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

Looking to make it easier for channel partners to deploy data center and cloud technology at customer sites, Cisco has formed a coalition with EMC and VMware which will create reference designs for an infrastructure architecture it calls Vblock which incorporates technologies from all three companies including Cisco’s Unified Computing line up of products.

The so-called Virtual Computing Environment coalition will do the research and development on the reference designs and help with a go-to-market strategy to better work with all types of channel partners from systems integrators to service providers to independent software vendors (ISVs), executives from the companies told Channel Insider.

The coalition will begin with about 2 dozen channel partners, according to the companies. It approached large existing partners of all three organizations who held the certifications the coalition believes are necessary to properly deploy and service Vblock. The include names such as Accenture, CDW, Dimension Data, and CSC. The companies say that it approached these channel partners to participate in the program, but that it expects to expand to include other channel partners, too.

Cisco initially announced its Unified Computing technology earlier this year – a set of pre-integrated technologies from Cisco for the data center – including networking and servers — to simplify deployment and management of those systems. However, the initial systems were not broadly available through the channel.

This new coalition builds on Cisco’s existing relationships with EMC and VMware. Cisco, EMC and VMware say that this new coalition will scale customer adoption of Vblock systems through channel partners. The companies say that the coalition has also established unified presales, professional services and support capabilities to simplify customer engagement.  

And while some may question the opportunity for partner value-add in an environment where reference designs are already dictated, EMC senior vice president of global channel strategy and sales, Mitch Breen, tells Channel Insider that there is still plenty of room for partners to differentiate themselves and add value in the services they offer to customers.

In conjunction with its Virtual Computing Environment announcement, Cisco and EMC also announced a joint venture between the two companies called Acadia, which they say will focus on “accelerating customer build-outs of private cloud infrastructures through an end-to-end enablement of service providers and large enterprise customers. Acadia’s unique ‘build, operate, transfer’ model for delivering the Vblock architecture, addressing people, process and technology, will offer customers further choice, flexibility and cost advantages as they seek to virtualize their IT infrastructures and evolve to private cloud environments.”

This separate organization will serve customers such as large enterprises and service providers.  It will rely on a subset of channel partners who serve those particular use cases and who are already working within the Virtual Computing Environment coalition. Cisco and EMC are lead investors in the joint venture, but VMware and Intel are also investors. The company will initiate operations in early 2010, and it is in the process of recruiting a CEO. It is anticipated that it will initially be staffed with about 130 employees, according to Joe Tucci, CEO of EMC.

Regardless of whether they are dealing with the Virtual Computing Environment coalition or the Acadia joint venture, when ordering product, partners will still do business as usual, going to their normal distributors or vendors.