Cisco is hoping to transform the data center and is relying on its partners to help in what the networking vendor said is a $14 billion opportunity.

Speaking at its Partner Summit in Honolulu April 8, Cisco said it intends to double sales of hardware into the data center in the next five years to $10 billion, and according to Edison Peres, vice president of worldwide channels at Cisco, create a $4 billion services opportunity for partners.

To enable this increase in sales Cisco made a number of announcements: the next product in its Nexus Series of switches, the Nexus 5000 Series; the acquisition of the remaining 20 percent of Nuova that it currently doesn’t own; and the unveiling of a new partner program focused around the data center to help drive partner sales.

The Nexus 5000 Series is the second in the family of switches designed to create a unified fabric in the data center. Cisco launched the Nexus 7000 in January, which took four years to develop and cost $250 million in research and development.

“This is an innovative architecture that will drive an architectural shift in the data center,” said Soni Jiandani, vice president of marketing at Nuova. She said the Nexus 5000 will allow a standards-based Ethernet fabric that can drive consolidation of the LAN, SAN and high performance computing clusters into a unified fabric.

The 5000 Series provides 10GB Ethernet switching and I/O consolidation via support for Fibre Channel over Ethernet, data center Ethernet and virtualization technologies, the company said.

Cisco already has some major vendor partners on board including Intel, Dell, EMC, APC and Network Appliance, and said further partnerships are in the pipeline.

The 5000 series is the result of further collaboration between Cisco and Nuova, and Cisco announced on April 8 its intent to acquire the remaining 20 percent of the company. Cisco began investing in Nuova in August 2006 and has since invested $70 million in the company. Nuova, based in San Jose, Calif., is a business that delivers I/O consolidation.

For channel partners, Cisco announced a new specialization, the Data Center Networking Infrastructure 2.0 (DCNI 2.0), which Peres said will include a curriculum for training and is open to any partners. Although he admitted that the DCNI 2.0 is not for everyone.

“The data center transformation is not for every channel partner out there. They will have to be selling storage, servers and networking and be able to bring this all together to make this successful,” he said.

Cisco also introduced the Partner Practice Builder, which helps partners to build a practice around the data center by validating their investments, finding where they have gaps in their portfolio and giving them a step by step plan, Peres said.

This is then coupled with a “Steps to Success” element, where Cisco provides new services practice tools and support. “The relevance of partner services will double, because this is an architecture play, and architecture creates opportunities around professional services,” Peres said.

To compensate partners that do qualify for the DCNI 2.0 specialization, Cisco has launched a data center element to its value incentive channel program whereby partners can expect a 5 to 10 percent rebate.

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