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All about the SMB: What to watch for at Cisco Partner Summit 2012

New Partner Led strategy has the channel and Cisco delivering future proofing concepts

Monday marks the opening day for Cisco Systems’ (NASDAQ: CSCO) Partner Summit in San Diego. But beyond the keynote addresses from senior leaders such as John Chambers, Rob Lloyd, Gary Moore, Keith Goodwin and Edison Peres, the networking giant will be aiming to bring new network architectures to partners and encourage the channel to “future proof” customers with Cisco equipment.

CDN spoke with Cisco Canada channel chief Mike Ansley about how the channel can create a preference for Cisco over competitors, and what to watch for in San Diego. The following is an edited transcript.

CDN: What’s your channel philosophy?

Mike Ansley: We do our business with partners and don’t play that edge game. So I think it’s incumbent upon us to create a preference for our technology. With the new Partner Led business it’s a whole different area and we have room for improvement. We’ve devoted $75 million in investment to create the incentives and enable them. But there’s a hard dichotomy in partner and customer-led. We have to do things differently. There will be a strong emphasis on Partner Led in 2012. I want to cross the finish line with the partner. There’s not a lot of leverage in that model for Cisco. What we’ve done best is we bring in investment of $5.3 billion in R&D and we’ve not done a great job yet in bringing that for the SMB. In that space I need to work with partners and I want to make sure it’s financially motivating for them.

CDN: Your predecessor said that the SMB business was one of the more challenging areas to build. Do you see it the same way for Cisco Canada?

M.A.: (Former Cisco Canada channel chief) Donna Wittmann was promoted to the Partner Led team and my priority will be Partner Led. I have to identify mid-market and small business opportunities and I believe it’s not that difficult to achieve. I think it’s within our capabilities. Rebecca Leach will be in charge of Partner Led for Canada and what we’ve done is remodel our approach to business to focus more on funding Partner Led and have the partners cross the finish line alone. They’ll be creating the demand for our technology. We expect to see a five-fold increase in that business.

CDN: At last year’s Cisco Partner Summit in New Orleans you introduced channel program changes featuring cloud programs. The cloud broker model in the channel is now getting some traction. How have these programs worked so far?

M.A.: We’ve had some good success with cloud brokers with white labeling, but its still early days of the cloud. With V-Block and FlexPods with NetApp I think there’ll be more of a move to the cloud. It’s taking longer than most people thought. We’re still coming down from the high expectations. I’ve never seen a technology not go through this type of cycle. And it’s not a bad thing, but a natural cycle. Cisco created a compensation model so sales forces are compensated for driving business on Cisco-based clouds. When customers move to the cloud they choose OP/EX instead of CAP/EX, and we pay sales for driving business with a partner who is developing this kind of cloud service. I can tell you that my sales force will not compete with you and will only try to help you drive more business.

CDN: Where is channel recruitment and managing channel capacity on your list of priorities? Will you target the Microsoft channel community?

M.A.: We already are and a lot of our large partners are LARs in Microsoft. In the world of multi-vendor it’s not just about the hardware or about the software folks. We look at LARs as part of a multi-vendor offering. As we move to the data centre we’ll increase that. We co-exist and we shall continue to do that. There really isn’t too much contention in this business. I think we are under covered in the Partner Led business and we have some work to do especially in the SMB.

Cisco Partner Summit continues through until Thursday of this week. Look for more stories, blogs and videos from the conference on CDN. You can follow Paolo Del Nibletto on Twitter: @PaoloCDN.