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Tech Data’s Cisco Solutions Group aims to create a new breed of “data center savvy” solution providers, who will leverage knowledge and expertise in storage, networking, servers and virtualization to deliver converged network solutions.

The new group will fall under Tech Data’s Advanced Infrastructure Solutions (AIS) Division and will help Cisco solution providers capitalize on the convergence of data center and networking technologies. The group will be headed by Chuck Bartlett, formerly Tech Data’s vice president of network product marketing.

Over the last several months, Cisco has focused on a ‘unified fabric’ approach to the convergence of networking and data center technologies. Pete Peterson, senior vice president and general manager, AIS, says this strategic focus mirrors that of Tech Data’s AIS division, founded two years ago to support solution providers specializing in servers, storage, advanced management software and virtualization solutions.

This significant technology shift, driven by the explosion of virtualization technology, emphasizes the need for comprehensive, integrated server, storage and networking solutions within the data center, says Peterson.

“Ultimately, the lines between devices like switches, routers, servers, storage arrays and even PCs will disappear in a fully optimized and much more efficient virtual data center environment,” he says.

“Cisco will surely be a leader in the converged networking and data center space,” says Chuck Bartlett, vice president, Cisco Solutions Group. 

“We’ve been talking for a while about the importance of the networking piece in data centers, and how we can integrate Cisco’s architecture into AIS. This is just a natural fit with where Cisco’s going and where AIS is going,” he says.

The shift toward converged networks in the data center also requires a new breed of solution providers that possess comprehensive knowledge of networking, storage, servers and virtualization, and the Cisco Solutions Group can help solution providers deepen their knowledge around these areas, says Peterson.

The group has been completely separated from Tech Data’s traditional networking practice, and includes specially trained Cisco product experts, inside and field sales professionals and systems engineers, as well as business development, channel marketing and product management specialists to help solution providers gain this specialized knowledge, Petersen says.

“We have server-centric VARs, storage-centric VARs, and networking-centric VARs. But where we’re going to be successful is contributing to building new ‘data center-centric’ VARs who have all those types of skills that can put together entire solutions,” says Bartlett.

That doesn’t mean Tech Data will focus on data center technologies to the exclusion of other Cisco practice areas, says Bartlett. The Cisco Solutions Group supports solution providers deploying all Cisco solutions, including traditional networking, indoor and outdoor wireless, unified communications and physical and information security, he says.

As for Cisco’s recent announcement that it will move into the server hardware market, Peterson says the move isn’t surprising and makes perfect sense with Cisco’s focus on the convergence of networking and the data center.

“We’re anxiously awaiting formal announcements of any new partnerships and products from Cisco,” he says, adding he’s certain the Cisco server will make a huge splash in the data center industry.

“The one thing I’ve seen is when [Cisco] put[s] their mind to something and leverages their brand and their financial strength, they typically make a big impact,” he says.