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Just over a year ago Cisco  fired a bold shot across the data center market with its Project California initiative and its intent to enter the server market. Following various product announcements and sweeping realignments by competitors like HP and Brocade, Cisco created a new alliance called the Virtual Computing Environment coalition with VMware and EMC (CVE) to help speed time to deployment and time to benefit for its pre-integrated data center solutions.

Now comes a new triumvirate, CVN — Cisco, VMware and NetApp  — and a new announcement, the Secure Multi-tenancy Design Architecture. Just a framework for the time being, SMDA is intended to provide security in cloud environments by isolating the IT resources and applications of different clients, business units or departments that share a common IT infrastructure.

Based on Cisco Nexus switches and the Unified Computing System, NetApp FAS storage with MultiStore, and VMware vSphere and vShield Zone, SMDA provides details about implementing and configuring the architecture, as well as best practices for building and managing these solutions.

"This is an extension of how NetApp, VMware and Cisco are working together on the vision of the dynamic data center," says Julie Parrish, Vice President, Global Partner Sales, NetApp. The key elements are SMDA, a co-operative support model for customers deploying that architecture, and how we’re going to work with our partner ecosystems, she said.

"The route to market for this is partner led," she says.

Current partners signed on include MSI, Trace/3, E+, Forsythe, Cognizant; Presideio, Logicalis, Longview, WWTechnology, Lockheed Martin and INX. The validated design helps partners achieve revenue results faster, with less risk, she adds.

"It puts them in the driver seat for delivering services. They get the services benefit and the benefit of a validated design," she said.

Cisco’s Ralph Nimergood, Vice President, Partner DC/V Partner Sales & Practice Management, says there’s tremendous excitement from partners. "We’re really giving out partners the tools they need. It’s our three marquee brands that they can leverage," he says.

Addressing joint support was a critical element, adds Ben Matheson, Senior Director, Global Partner Marketing, VMware. The company already had this kind of relationship with NetApp, and now Cisco has been added to the mix, to give customers "a single throat to choke". Whichever company is called will act as the lead to drive the solution, he says.

While the announcement is "very important", Matheson says it’s just one component of the long relationship all three companies have aligned along the vision of the dynamic data center. "This is a very important validated design we’re delivering."

The intent is to make sure nothing falls through the cracks, says Nimergood. "The idea is to have three pairs of eyes looking at the environment from the get go."

Parrish says the "warm handoffs" and processes have all been identified to ensure they get to the problem quickly. "There is a process and methodology around this."

The basic requirement for the channel is that they be authorized by the individual vendors, says Parrish, and the overlap among the three is significant. "We have done the work, but we want to validate it."

VMware plans on training all of its joint partners at its upcoming Partner Exchange in February, says Matheson. "We expect upwards of 2,000 partners there."

SMDA has already been previewed to partners, says Nimergood. A three-hour WebEx session started with 400 attendees and ended with over 375, indicating the strong channel interest. The three companies are doing a number of joint activities together, he says.