Cisco overhauls incentive strategy, launches new tools at Partner Summit 2023

Cisco Systems today announced major new changes to its partner incentives programs, rolling them into one framework called Cisco Partner Incentive in a move it described as a “significant evolution” for those who sell its hardware, software and as-a-service offerings.

A key pledge of the initiative, which was announced at the Cisco Partner Summit 2023 in Miami Beach this week, is the addition of six new Solution Specializations by the end of next year.

In a release issued at last year’s summit in Las Vegas, Cisco explained that “specializations are designed to showcase partner value to customers and represent the type of solutions partners are selling today. They reflect how partners are using cross-architectural solutions to solve some of their customers’ biggest challenges in today’s hybrid work world.”

Marc Surplus, the company’s vice president of partner strategy and programs, described the launch of the newest channel initiative in a blog as the “biggest change to our incentives portfolio in 20 years. We listened to your feedback around the complexity involved in managing individual incentives. You asked us to simplify the way you earn. We heard you. This new incentive will reward all aspects of go-to-market, increase predictable growth, and improve the partner experience.

“I have been signaling for the past two years that Solution Specializations are the future. We will be retiring the Architecture Specializations and as you know, we started this transition with the Data Centre Architectures, which will retire in July 2024.”

Cisco’s Small Business Specialization has been refreshed and renamed the Small and Medium Business (SMB) specialization, and plans call for the launch of two new Internet of Things (IoT) Solution Specializations (industrial and non-industrial) in the first half of 2024. Scheduled for the second half are specializations in secure networking, network security and Zero Trust.

In a release issued this morning, Surplus said that, in broadening the suite of Solution Specializations, “we are helping our partners differentiate in the market and demonstrate their expertise in the technologies and solutions sought by customers.”

Also launched today were enhancements to the Partner Experience Platform or PXP, a “personalized online portal to support partners’ productivity, competitiveness, profitability and go-to-market strategies. PXP has been augmented with AI/ML-powered predictive insights that can guide partners in ways to differentiate and grow their business.”

Also planned is the introduction of a Sustainability Estimator, launching Nov. 20 and available to Environmental Sustainability Specialized partners, that will provide them, Cisco said, “insight into the estimated energy savings, emissions reduction, cost reduction and environmental impact that a customer may realize by modernizing their IT hardware. The tool is also supported by a new Sustainability Partner Journey with resources and collateral to help partners build their sustainability practices.”

On Tuesday, Cisco introduced Cisco Validated Designs for AI (CVDs), which it said are designed to simplify IT for organizations by helping them quickly integrate AI workloads into mainstream production environments.

“Effective utilization of AI has emerged as a top priority for organizations around the world,” it said in a release. “At the same time, unfamiliar application stacks and infrastructure patterns create challenges for IT teams being asked to support these initiatives.”

To help overcome these and other challenges, Cisco has collaborated with partners NVIDIA, Intel, AMD, NetApp, Nutanix, Pure Storage and Red Hat to create the CVDs it said help “accelerate customers’ journey to AI without adding unnecessary risk or new silos of operations.”

In a blog released yesterday, Jeremy Foster, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco Compute, wrote, “the hype triggered by the emergence of generative artificial intelligence (AI) feels a lot like the early days of cloud, bringing the topic – and the need for a strategy – to the front of the IT leader agenda.

“But while AI is poised to change every aspect of our lives, the complexity of AI infrastructure and operations is holding things back. At Cisco, we believe AI can be a lot easier when we find ways to avoid creating islands of operations and bring these workloads into the mainstream.”

AI workloads, he maintained, place new demands on networks, storage, and computing: “Networks need to handle masses of data in motion to fuel model training and tuning. Storage needs to scale effortlessly and be closely coupled with compute. Plus, computing needs to be accelerated in an efficient way because AI is seeping into every application.”

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Paul Barker
Paul Barker
Paul Barker is the founder of PBC Communications, an independent writing firm that specializes in freelance journalism. He has extensive experience as a reporter, feature writer and editor and has been covering technology-related issues for more than 30 years.

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