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Egenera, a provider of converged infrastructure and unified computing solutions, has launched a new partner program designed to be a response to what it sees as issues in the VCE coalition, a data center alliance among vendors VMware, Cisco and EMC to create an end-to-end data center solution.

The new program was designed as a response to what VMware, Cisco and EMC (the VCE coalition) have been doing in the channel, said Ken Oestrich, vice president of marketing at Egenera.

“To be honest, there’s a bifurcation of the market. There’s no denying that people are saying ‘give me that single platform thing.’ … But there’s a larger part of the market that still says ‘I’m wedded to particular servers and particular storage and Ethernet, so please give me one of these converged infrastructure solutions that meets the multi-platform criteria,’” Oestrich said.

Other Cisco rivals have expressed concern about the VCE coalition, including Brocade.

Egenera’s goal is not lure partners away from the VCE coalition, but instead to provide an option for partners in the converged infrastructure space that don’t want to be tied specifically to one vendor’s hardware platform. Egenera is hardware-agnostic, whereas vendors tend to be focused on their own platforms, he said.

“That message plays extremely well with the channel,” Oestrich said.

The Egenera Partner Network program offers greater access to PAN Manager, the vendor’s converged infrastructure management product, but it also provides Egenera’s channel partners with increased margins and additional tools like education and training, reference architectures, sales support and demand creation initiatives, Oestrich said.

“The program is what you’d expect from a relatively mature channel-oriented company,” he added. “We have a bunch of different tiers based on level of sophistication. We’re actually only looking at four relatively sophisticated resellers because what we’re doing is new.”

Egenera is looking to work with channel partners with a high degree of specialization. According to Oestrich, Egenera partners are familiar with networking, disaster recovery, high availability, shared storage and large data center deployments. The company expects to build its channel partner base to approximately 24 partners in 2011, he said.

It’s difficult to stand out from other channel partners in the virtualization market, in part because most partners deal in VMware, said Daniel Goodman, sales director of U.K.-based Business Systems International (BSI). Everyone offers the same thing, so it means big competition and very small margins, he said.

“It’s nice to see a company with a previous direct business really embrace the channel model, but it’s also decided to focus on a small number of select players that can add value to their business,” Goodman said.

With Egenera, Goodman said he is able to provide customers with a unique product.

“It’s a unique proposition, and unique propositions are what you need,” he said. “It distinguishes you when you got to market with your clients, and customers appreciate when the partner proposes unique technology that adds value to their business.”