Cisco pushes channel to become cloud masters

Cisco Systems has made significant changes to its Cloud Partner program, a channel program the networking giant introduced at its Boston Partner Summit in 2010.

The changes are not a complete overhaul, nor are they small tweaks say Susheel Chitre director, cloud go-to-market, Worldwide Channels for Cisco.

The San Jose, Calif.,-based company has renamed the program to Master Cloud Builder Specialization and introduced a rewards component for those partners who have developed their own cloud services and expertise. Chitre said that Cisco is looking to reward partners who have developed infrastructure, virtualization, cloud management and virtual desktop integration services and solutions that are ready to be deployed.

The Master Cloud Specialization will have channel incentives that are stackable and can gain solution providers margins from seven to 10 per cent.

Inside the Master Cloud Specialization program solution providers will get new branding positioning them as an elite group of channel partners. They will also be afforded deeper engagements with Cisco’s sales team and either up front incremental discounts or a back end VIP rebate.

According to Chitre, the infrastructure equipment for building on-premise clouds will provide a good opportunity for solution providers in the next few years as that market will surpass the $110 billion dollar mark by 2015 growing at 24 per cent clip.Another key factor will be the X-as-a-Service market, which is just as large, Chitre said hitting $113 billion by 2015.

“Channel partners need to have a holistic approach to this market. We do see partners having to build on our strategy as a primary business for on-premise private clouds with part of that strategy needing to address the X-as-a-Service trend. The Master Cloud program is structured to enable solution providers to team up with cloud providers in either a white label scenario or to provide the cloud services for a fee,” Chitre said.

So far the two-year old Cloud Partner program has 133 solution providers of which 10 are based in Canada. Of those 133 partners 46 are approved cloud providers who offer more than 50 Cisco-powered cloud services.

The Master Cloud Specialization program will have a formal onsite audit that looks for company processes, customer references, and proof of concept designs. “The program from two years ago is transitioning to a validation type of program,” Chitre said.

Solution providers will have about 12 months to enter the new Master Cloud Specialization program. Cisco said that they will not be taking any new applicants for the Cloud Builder program.

With this new type of program, Chitre sees solution providers targeting greenfield opportunities with customers who are opening up new data centres. In this type of opportunity, Chitre said solution providers can show customers the benefits of on-premise private clouds verses off-premise along with offering an alternative to consolidating data centres. It will also mean solution providers can offer more professional services in this scenario such as migrating apps.

Another opportunity will be with customers who already have a data centre and have gone through the virtualization or consolidation phase and are looking for a solution provider who can deploy a virtualized data centre.

Cloud Partner Marketplace

Chitre also announced a secondary program called Cloud Partner Marketplace. This new program will enable channel partners to load their own content to positioning them in the marketplace as a company with cloud competency skills. This program is only for members of the Master Cloud Specialization program and is free of charge. “Cisco is offering more real estate on These partners will essentially be getting their own microsite with partner control,” Chitre added.

It is searchable for other solution providers by region, solution, competency and by services they offer. Some of those services have margin opportunities attached to them, Chitre said.

Cisco confirmed it has acquired ThinkSmart Technologies of Cork, Ireland. ThinkSmart is a software company that develops location data analysis based on Wi-Fi networks. No financial details were disclosed by Cisco.

ThinkSmart software collects information on people movement within a certain venue such as a shopping mall, hotel or airport. With this data, retailers, hoteliers and airport staff can identify appropriate staffing levels. The hope is that this type of software can reduce wait times for customers, hotel guests and passengers, Cisco says.

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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