In-depth: Slow burning Cisco UCS gains traction at last

Speaking on a recent conference call detailing Cisco's most recent set of results, CEO John Chambers said that it had now sold 1,700 installations of its much-vaunted Unified Compute System (UCS).

Speaking on a recent conference call detailing Cisco's most recent set of results, CEO John Chambers said that it had now sold 1,700 installations of its much-vaunted Unified Compute System (UCS), the end-to-end data centre proposition that ultimately put the kibosh on Cisco's relationship with Hewlett-Packard.

The UCS proposition has indubitably been a slow starter, and more than a year after it first saw the light of day, is now starting to gain a long awaited element of traction within the UK market.

Denise Bryant, country manager at distributor Magirus, which was brought on board by Cisco to tackle the complex data centre market, said the recession may have impacted early sales.

"Within a two tier reseller channel there is always an element of not wanting to take the risk and wait for the second version," she explained.

"It was no surprise to me that some partners stood back at first," she continued, adding that a large number of accreditations, plus a personal invite from Cisco were needed to sell the B-Series line, which may also have impeded uptake.

Cisco UK and Ireland datacentre and UCS head, Jim DeHaven, refuted suggestions that the recession had damaged initial uptake, but conceded that "what probably slowed us up was our own ramp-up in terms of building UCS skills".

One source at another distributor said he thought that Cisco had struggled to sell UCS and suggested it had relied too much on its channel.

"Frankly it's been behind their expectations and they've not gained the traction that they hoped for," he said. "But they are playing a long game here, and anyone who thought that HP and IBM would just step aside is mistaken in that opinion."

DeHaven told MicroScope that he had initially targeted 12 UK partners to sell UCS, but had ended up with 17. He insisted there was no overlap, however.

"We've been cautious in terms of who those 17 are, and where they stand in relationship to the broader technology sector, who has strong relationships with Microsoft, or VMware, for instance," said DeHaven.

"Fourteen of those partners have traded UCS at least once, and most of them two to three times," he added.

Paul Sweeney, managing director at Cisco partner ANS, said that it "took a little while for Cisco to understand what they'd got on their hands" but said that as long as resellers were prepared to put in the considerable legwork required for certification, the concept was a "game changer that is paying dividends".

"Our message is about achieving more with a smaller footprint, and that has resonated, especially in the public sector," he said.

He added that ANS' specialisms in parts of the end-to-end package that Cisco can't reach, such as storage virtualisation, was also paying off, something also picked up on by Cisco's DeHaven, who said this finally put the boot into rival claims that UCS was a proprietary, locked in system.

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