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Cisco unveils Cloud Partner Program

Networking power outlines a three tiered program for channel partners to get into cloud services

New Orleans, La. – Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO) has developed a channel program aimed to fast track solution providers in monetize the massive cloud opportunity.

Called the Cloud Partner Program (CPP), the new program comes in three tracks: Cloud Builder, Cloud Provider, and Cloud Services Reseller.

Edison Peres, senior vice president, worldwide channels for Cisco, and newly crowned channel chief, told the 10,000 worldwide channel partners attending the Cisco Partner Summit, held here, that next inflection point in the market is cloud. “I do not want to down play it, but it’s here. However, if all you see in the horizon is the cloud than your focus is much too narrow,” he said.

Cisco’s approach to the cloud is to ask channel partners to know your role. CPP offers solution providers the option of playing in one, two or all three of the tracks.

Cloud Builder is tailored for a channel partner that does private clouds for an enterprise or government.

The Cloud Provider is for public cloud service providers and will encourage solution providers to brand there own Cisco-powered cloud services.

In the Cloud Services Reseller track, Cisco believes it will go hand and glove with the Cloud Provider track and enable solution providers a route to market.

Typically you will see partners with white label cloud services in this area.

All Cisco partners have been offered CPP. The company is looking over existing certifications with partners to validate competencies quickly and give out cloud badges.

The plan is to accelerate the ramp up for partners.

Harry Zarek, CEO of Compugen of Richmond Hill, Ont., said at first pass CPP looks like a program that has incorporated all the characteristic necessary. “It’s for people who want to build cloud services, for people who are provisioning and managing it and for people who just want to resell services. They got the major categories in place and as always the devil is in the details. Whatever the program is today it will change and evolve over time,” he said.

The one thing that Peres wanted to make clear was that Cisco has no intension in becoming a broadbased cloud provider. All they want to do is enable channel partners to provide cloud services. “We do not want to compete with you,” Peres said.

One of the key factors in CPP is that Cisco is willing to accept existing partner certification in an attempt to reduce start up costs. Those include certifications from vendors such as EMC, BMC, Red Hat, VMware, and Citrix, but does not include Microsoft.

According to Zarek, the most important thing to know about a new channel program is that solution providers need to get involved in a program by trying and experiment with a few customers. “Find out what the business benefits are for customers but be careful not to invest heavily early on and make sure you have sufficient investment to test the market feedback and response you are getting,” he added.

Also part of the new cloud channel direction is the Collaborative Professional Services (CPS) initiative.

Karl Meulema, senior vice president of Cisco Services, said that CPS addresses the concern channel partners have in dealing with the increased complexity of IT solutions. Solution providers are struggling with the development of these new solutions and run the risk of decreased profitability especially in the early phases of the learning curve.

CPS will combine Cisco‘s intellectual capital and engineering expertise to help solution providers develop more profitable professional services practices.

Professional services is growing at 13.5 per cent double growth rate of technical services, according to recent IDC figures.

Under the CPS agenda there will be Assessment Services which will centre on software tools that can collect data; Guidance and Development Services, which will create or review a partner’s technology designs and implementation plans; and Practice Accelerators, which are best practices around new technology that will be shared with partners in the hopes of expanding its professional services practice.

“The first offer is Practice Accelerator and its aimed at partners who want to build out a practice: There is one in UCS. In this area: technical selling and consulting, design and deliver methods, labs and demo capabilities, benchmarking so deliver services faster and at a lower cost,” Meulema said.

“This is a three month verses four months conversation in terms of developing and bringing to market a new professional service. This gets you to market earlier,” he added.

Pricing for these services start at $2,000 in Assessment Services. Guidance and Development Services has two prices: $15,000 for Guidance Service and $35,000 for Development Services. The Practice Accelerator is $27,000.

For Zarek, the price is irrelevant. “The fees that Cisco charges are already reasonable and either at or below market rates, but the professional service is critical to win business in emerging and new technology opportunities,” he said.Peres also announced that the Teaming Incentive Program will be reworked and look more like the Opportunity Incentive Program, where partners are paid for winning over new customers.

There were also a couple of promotions offered by Peres. The first 500 partners who sign up online to the new architecture specialization will get a 35 per cent discount in learning credits.Channel Partner who are interested in using WebEx internally will get that product at 92 per cent off with no limit on the number of employees who can use it. The offer is a not-for-resale offer.