Cisco is introducing a dedicated data centre partner programme and individual certifications to drive take-up of its Unified Computing architecture. The initiatives coincide with the release of the vendor’s first range of rack-mounted servers. The new Data Centre Channel Solutions Program is aimed at enabling the channel to sell standardised offerings using products from Cisco as well as its data centre alliance partners Microsoft, NetApp, EMC, Red Hat and VMware. It will sit separately from the vendor’s Premier, Silver and Gold go-to market channel programs. The data centre partner push is being complemented by two individual certifications from Cisco: Data Centre Architect and Data Centre Engineer. These will focus on building networking, virtualisation and server skills and are open to both partners and customers. Cisco has also expanded its Unified Computing Systems products line with a new range of three rack-mounted servers. The C-Series is based on Intel X 5500 series processors and utilises Cisco’s virtual adapter, providing up to 128 Ethernet or Fibre Channel connections. The first C-Series models will be available globally in Q4, 2009 and will sit alongside Cisco’s B-Series blade server offerings, launched in March. To sell the products, partners will need to sign up to Cisco’s new Authorised Partner Program, which involves completing its Data Centre Network Infrastructure Specialisation (DCNI). They will also need to have previous server experience. “We are adding the end-to-end requirements which will allow us to take a leadership role in transforming the data centre,” Cisco’s CTO, Padmasree Warrior, said at the vendor’s Partner Summit in Boston. All these pieces tied into the vendor’s overarching concept of a Unified Data centre Practice, the vendor’s practice manager, John Growdon, added. “Partner organisations are aligned with technology siloes, such as compute/virtualisation, storage and networking infrastructure. Customers are also aligned like this,” he says. “But the reality is with our news, we are putting technology between those siloes.” To further push partner profitability in the data centre, Cisco partners will now be able to access rebates for selling Unified Computing, storage, switching and WAN optimisation products through its established Value Incentive program (VIP). Cisco senior vice-president of data centre, security and services, John McCool, claimed increasing technology complexity in the data centre, combined with power concerns and demands for more flexible and agile tools, were driving a transformation in infrastructure management solutions. Virtualisation was also an inevitable disrupter in how the future would unfold, he said. “We need to be more responsive, and deal with the pressure of operations. Customers have higher demands on IT based on user experience and Web 2.0 tools in the home,” he says. “By bundling this together with Unified Computing, we have doubled the total addressable market to $20 billion.” To illustrate the opportunity for its Unified Computing System, Cisco executives cited a recent Goldman Sachs survey of 100 CIOs, which found two-thirds expected Cisco servers to be in their data centres in the near future.