Cisco and EMC have extended their partnership to include an end-to-end storage consolidation solution for remote-office data.
By combining Cisco's wide area file services (WAFS) technology acquired from Actona with EMC's network attached storage (NAS) solutions, the two say they will offer an integrated solution to consolidate branch office data into the data center, allowing enterprise-wide data to be centrally stored and managed.
George Kurian, vice president and general manager of Cisco's caching services business unit, and Tom Joyce, EMC's senior director of platforms marketing, say the combined offering is unique.
Kurian said the joint solution solves a "well-established class of problems." IT users spend $6 billion a year trying to improve total cost of ownership, protect data and meet compliance demands, he said, while the EMC-Cisco solution accomplishes all that for half the cost.
"There are not a lot of solutions that allow you to strategically leverage the network infrastructure and cut costs by more than half," Joyce told Enterprise Storage Forum.
The agreement boosts EMC's stature in the NAS space, where the company is second behind Network Appliance.
"It's a great thing for EMC," said Nancy Hurley, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. "Just announcing the partnership alone boosts their status in the NAS market. However, we do believe it may take some time before Cisco will really be able to sell NAS solutions on their own, so we expect EMC will be providing a significant amount of sales support for some time to come."
Also, while the solutions are "a good fit," Hurley said it isn't clear how much the partnership will boost NAS sales. "Many of Cisco's customers may very well have NetApp already installed, so it won't be as simple as just saying 'buy NAS from us now,'" she said.
"What will be interesting to watch is how Cisco's other storage switch partners will react to this," Hurley said. "IBM and HP push [Cisco's] MDS switches, but they may not be thrilled with this deal. We'll be watching this closely to see if those vendors begin to favor McData and Brocade based on this new liaison."
Arun Taneja, founder and consulting analyst at the Taneja Group, said the partnership "shows Cisco's desire and motivation to play a significant role in storage. I know they are not satisfied with the revenues they have been getting from switch sales. ... Medium-term, I would bet Cisco would go direct to the end user with a full portfolio of storage."
The partnership will have its own challenges, Taneja said. "It will be interesting to see how they avoid channel conflict with EMC sales. ... Cisco can only sell these NAS products in conjunction with the WAFS product they acquired from Actona. With this partnership, Cisco will learn how to manage relationships with partners in storage. Then I expect to see them add additional products to their arsenal."
Kurian said Cisco doesn't "see any problems with any other partnerships." The partnership is preferred but not exclusive, and Cisco's WAFS technology is standards-based and interoperable with other vendors' gear, he pointed out. And EMC's NAS products are well qualified for the data center-class solution, Kurian and Joyce said.
As part of the expanded partnership, EMC and Cisco have agreed to develop an OEM agreement that will enable Cisco to sell and support the EMC NS Series/Integrated NAS solutions. Cisco plans to offer the NAS solutions together with its Cisco File Engine technology to offer a solution for enterprise storage consolidation over wide-area networks. The integrated solution will be sold and supported by Cisco directly and through its worldwide partner channel.
WAFS technology provides LAN-like performance for accessing central files from remote locations. With the integrated solution, Cisco and EMC said IT administrators will be able to take advantage of centralized resources for backup and disaster recovery to better protect branch-office data. Centralized management will simplify and reduce the cost of data administration for remote offices, they said, and customers will gain a single point of contact for support and services for the solution.
"Today's announcement is a natural extension of our ongoing partnering with Cisco to bring leading solutions to market that help our mutual customers manage information throughout its lifecycle and solve some of their most pressing business challenges," stated Howard Elias, EMC's executive vice president of corporate marketing and office of technology. "The combination of technology from these two industry leaders will form a compelling enterprise-class data consolidation and management solution."