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Cisco steps up channel efforts

Cisco has unveiled a channel partner training program that it said will take VARs to a new level of expertise.

Cisco Systems Inc. announced Monday a training program for channel partners that it said will raise the level of expertise among storage resellers from selling basic Fibre Channel switches to becoming integrators of multiprotocol SANs.

"Configuring a Fibre Channel switch doesn't give users a disaster recovery plan. These resellers need to know how to go out over an optical network, how to go out over IP networks … The market has moved far beyond the basic training offered by the competition," said Keith Zubchevich, director of advanced technologies for worldwide channels at Cisco.

Configuring a Fiber Channel switch doesn't give users a disaster recovery plan
Keith Zubchevich
Director of advanced technologies, worldwide channelsCisco Systems Inc

There are six classes in Cisco's new storage networking course that range from basic SAN configuration skills to advanced troubleshooting and design, and students can specialize in sales or engineering, or study both. The classes range from three to five days and students must take an exam at the end for a fee of $125.

Cisco is also requiring channel partners who are interested in this specialization to have a resale relationship with at least one of its OSM (Original Storage Manufacturer) partners. This is to prevent any conflict with the key suppliers of its storage switches, according to.Zubchevich.

Channel gains momentum in SAN

According to International Data Corp., within the next three years, major storage systems vendors like EMC Corp. and Network Appliance Inc. will need to develop additional indirect sales routes to meet the demands of SAN users. The VAR channel is growing 50% faster than the direct sales model, the research firm said.

EMC CEO Joe Tucci agrees. At the company's recent analyst day in New York, he said the company is making a concerted effort to increase the number of channel partners it has in North America and abroad.

In a recent IDC report sponsored by Cisco, the author states that Cisco has an uphill battle as far as gaining mindshare in the storage market. "The company is not a household name in the storage market-at-large, nor is it particularly well-positioned to become one." However, the report adds that Cisco has forged relationships with the top names in the storage industry and is well prepared to shore up the same support in the channel.

All this may be so, but VARs are not traditionally known for their high-touch technical expertise. Time will tell how enthusiastic they are about heading down this road.


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