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DAY 1: Cisco global partner summit

by Stuart Wilson, Wednesday 2 March 2011

Thousands of channel executives from around the world have descended on New Orleans for vendor giant Cisco’s annual global partner summit. Today’s keynote sessions kicked off with senior Cisco executives queuing up to take the stage to reiterate the vendor’s complete and ongoing commitment to the channel. Cisco also unveiled a new cloud partner programme as it challenged partners to embrace new market opportunities and build services capabilities.

John Chambers, chairman and CEO, painted a bright picture of Cisco’s future prospects: “There is a constant flow of new ideas and new opportunities and we need to balance that with the resources that we make available in each area.”

Chambers identified opportunities around collaboration, video, datacentre virtualisation and security architecture as the cloud becomes more pervasive. “Cloud is a paradigm IT shift,” added Chambers. “It changes how IT is delivered and consumed.”

There was a warning for partners that public sector spending patterns would be ‘tough’ in developed markets, with partners asked to work harder to communicate the benefits of collaboration solutions and claim a bigger share of the wallet.

“Partner services is an opportunity together,” added Chambers. “We’re not like some of our peers with hundreds of thousands of people in our own services organisation.”

Cisco reiterated its commitment to the channel, noting that it has to earn partner trust each and every day and ensure their continued profitability. Chambers was followed on stage by Edison Peres, senior VP for worldwide channels at Cisco. Peres emphasised the importance of continuous dialogue with partners and urged them to provide the vendor with feedback.

Delegates applauded the success of Cisco’s value incentive programme (VIP) in driving partner profitability and Peres pledged that the scheme would continue to deliver and evolve. “Partners are saying simplify VIP as much as possible,” he noted. “We will continue to evolve VIP to help [partners] continue to make investments that enable them to build profitability.”

Cisco’s recently launched teaming incentive programme (TIP) is also facing changes as the vendor responds to partner feedback that the rewards are out of line with the opportunity incentive programme (OIP). Peres said: “We are changing the TIP programme so that the rewards are equal to the OIP programme.”

Inevitably, one of the major buzzwords at this year’s event is the cloud and it is a technology where Cisco is keen to take a central position. “I don’t want to downplay the cloud,” continued Peres. “The cloud is part of a broad set of opportunities we have before us.”

“Some people have said that the relevance of partners and resellers is decreasing because of the cloud,” he added. “Cisco does not believe that, but we have to think about what customers want and how we develop them.”

For Peres, the cloud-related opportunity for partners and resellers includes integration and management of solutions involving multiple vendors and multiple platforms. Building expertise in vertical solutions and driving channel-led managed and professional services all formed part of Peres’ vision of the changing channel role.

With customers increasingly looking at hybrid models of cloud-based and on-site solutions, partners are viewed as the natural resource for rationalising these systems. Cisco has launched a cloud partner programme at this year’s event and Peres confirms that the vendor’s go-to-market strategy for the cloud is partner centric.

Peres also touched on a change for gold certified partners with qualification shifting from technology-based to architecture-based specialisations. His presentation also focused on the integration of Tandberg as Cisco looks to successfully integrate the company’s 1,300 partners into its own channel programme.

Finally, there was a rallying call to partners urging them to adopt collaboration solutions in-house to help drive adoption. Cisco offered substantial discounts for partners investing in these technologies for use in their own IT systems.

Peres concluded: “You want to work with a vendor that minimises competition with you – you’ve come to the right place. Our strategy is to enable you.”

Even in the largest accounts, Cisco is keen to get partners involved. The vendor has defined a list of 500 customers that it refers to as ‘transformational accounts’ and introduced an integrated architecture specialisation for partners that can work alongside Cisco in this space.

The latest partner profitability survey for 2010 painted a positive picture despite the economic conditions. Peres called on partners to continue investing in services – especially professional services – as these remained a major driver of profitability in the channel.

The theme of this year’s Cisco global partner summit is ‘impact’. With elevated roads running directly over the top of the conference centre, it was interesting to hear from one of the event’s shuttle bus drivers that the roof of the venue is ‘impact proof’. He claimed that if a car comes off the road (it has happened in the past apparently) it won’t go through the roof.

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