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Cisco’s signaling of its intentions to play a much bigger role in the management of data centers has a lot of implications for solution providers because of the nature of Cisco’s holistic approach to the opportunity.

As part of a broad ranging Data Center 3.0 initiative that Cisco plans to build over the next three years, Cisco is promising to unite the various server, storage and network management disciplines that are required to successfully run a data center.

The reason this has implications for solution providers is that right now all three of these areas tend to be separate practices that solution providers have largely build profitable businesses around.

But in the Cisco vision of the future of data centers, server, storage and network management will all be unified under a single data center management practice. In fact, Cisco is positing the theory that in the future solution providers will build their practices around specific areas of activity around the network rather than on broad based sets of technologies.

Pointer eWEEK Channel Insider’s Mike Vizard recently spoke to John Growdon, Cisco’s director of routing and switching in worldwide channels, about Cisco’s data center initiative. Click here to listen.

Now it will be awhile before customers are ready to buy services in the way Cisco envisions because they have their own political fiefdoms to sort out before they are ready to engage in a holistic approach to data center management. As we all know, the server, storage and network teams with the IT department don’t always see eye to eye, which means its unlikely that they are going to join hands to buy holistic sets of services any time soon. But as advances in virtualization technologies continue to evolve, it’s also becoming pretty clear that the lines between server, storage and network management are starting to slowly evaporate.

That pretty much means that is really only a question of when rather than if all these technologies will ultimately converge.

The only mitigating factor determining when that convergence will actually happen is how quickly vendors such as Cisco can unify their product development plans so the multiple products required to develop a successful data center practice actually come to market at the same time. For vendors, that means bringing a discipline to product development that has historically eluded them in terms of getting multiple product lines to ship on the same rollout schedule.

So the long and the short of all this is that once the customers get through all the cultural and process re-engineering that will be required to create a holistic approach to data center management while the vendors simultaneously get their collective product development schedules under control, it should be roughly 2010. That means solution providers only have three years to get their own services practices in order before their current practices become obsolete.

The good news is that to be forewarned is to be forearmed. The bad news is that this warning is coming so far in advance of the event that nobody is likely to remember the warning until it’s too late.