When The VAR Guy first heard about Cisco's forthcoming data center push back in mid-2007, he was skeptical. What did Cisco -- the wiring closet expert -- know about data centers? But time and several key interviews have made The VAR Guy far less skeptical. Based on a meeting with a major Cisco partner two weeks ago, The VAR Guy is now convinced that Cisco's Data Center 3.0 strategy is poised to succeed. Here are five reasons why.

First, a little background. For those who missed it, Cisco today launched a family of products designed to simplify corporate data centers. Here's a link to the official pitch from the networking giant.

Now, for the channel perspective. In the 1990s, a few Cisco partners tried to get a foothold in corporate data centers. Most of those efforts failed. The reason: Server vendors and application providers dominated the data center. Cisco partners didn't have much luck pitching their goods to Oracle, SAP, Unix, ERP, CRM and Microsoft customers. At the time, crossing the chasm between network infrastructure and applications was nearly a suicide mission.

Fast forward to the current technology landscape, and there are five key reasons why Cisco's partners are now poised to successfully invade corporate data centers.

1. SANs Became Mission Critical: As storage area networks proliferated the data center, Cisco successfully became a force in the storage market.

2. Traditional Telecom Lost, IP Won: After several false starts, voice-over-IP is finally displacing traditional phone networks. As a result, Cisco advocates -- rather than traditional telecom managers -- now dominate corporate technology staffs. Those Cisco advocates have strong influence in corporate data center buying decisions.

3. Networks Became Application Platforms: In the 1990s, Cisco and its rivals provided basic plumbing. They carried data between endpoints. But now, unified applications -- marrying VoIP with CRM, document management, storage, etc. -- are distributed across networks. And the safest place to build and maintain those unified applications is within data centers.

4. Service Providers Began Trusting Cisco: Long distance phone companies, competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) and other telecommunication veterans initially dismissed Cisco as a pretender in the voice market. Proprietary PBXs and big Unix boxes dominated legacy phone systems. As telecom companies gradually embraced VoIP, it became the ultimate vote-of-confidence in Cisco's IP vision.

5. Cisco Partners Are Ready: Several major Cisco partners have made data center-related acquisitions over the past two years. Those partners have strategic relationships in place with major banks, universities and government agencies that are seeking to re-vamp their data centers. The customers crave better energy efficiency and they're more than happy to ride the "green" publicity wave.

As one Cisco partner recently told The VAR Guy, "We tried to sell into the data center in the 1990s and got destroyed because nobody in the data center understood Cisco. This time around, we're talking to all the right people."

Cisco's timing for the Data Center 3.0 push, it seems, couldn't be better.