SAN DIEGO — One of the most beautiful stretches of North America was the site for Cisco’s 8th annual partner conference. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t co-operate for the more than 2,200 partners here.
One of the main complaints from last year’s show in Vancouver was the weather. Attendees had to cope with the 15C marine climate of the Canadian Pacifi. Well, the venue may have changed (San Diego is just a 20-minute drive to the Mexican border) but – you guessed it – the temperature hasn’t. It’s still 15C.
The cooler weather did not chill the company in terms of making major enhancements to its partner profitability programs. I interviewed many executives, partners, customers and analysts, virtually all of whom agreed that Cisco is on the right track when it comes to channel programs.
Laila Kaiser, the president of Loud Marketing, who was at the show drumming up publicity for Cisco’s portfolio of security products, asked a question that really made me think: “Who is my most intriguing person you interviewed at the show?”
Well, let me start with my first interview, which was actually with three people: Rob Lloyd, senior vice-president of the U.S. and Canada for Cisco, Ross Pellizzari, vice-president of Canadian channels and Chuck Robbins, vice-president of U.S. channels.
Lloyd used to run Cisco Canada back in the mid-nineties. He said that investing more than US$500 million in the channel has made the partners very optimistic and in a good frame of mind. Lloyd was also instrumental in merging the U.S. and Canadian operations.
Next was Robbins, who described Cisco’s work with universities and colleges in helping channel partners recruit engineers as similar to speed dating. Later on at the show’s closing night party, Robbins, nattily attired in a red exercise suit and big gold chain, wowed the crowd with his hip hop dance routine.
Pellizzari, meanwhile, talked about how the SMB market is growing very rapidly and how the Canadian team should draw on some U.S. efficiencies to help out the more than 1,600 Cisco partners in Canada.
Up next, the unforgettable Les White, the owner-operator of 25 Subway franchises in Arizona. I interviewed him along with John Moore, director for Dallas-based ISV IPcelerate and Jay O’Callaghan, director of Cisco gold partner Calence. Moore and I commiserated over the loss of Daunte Culpepper, who was traded from the Minnesota Vikings to the Miami Dolphins. Both Moore and I are huge Vikings fans. White, whose story of developing young people was quite fascinating, couldn’t help but laugh at us.
Day two of the show and I had some time with one of the most famous IT leaders, John Chambers. But before that I met with Alex Thurber, Cisco’s director of data centre security for worldwide channels. He told me of the company’s new acquisition of Sypixx, which gets Cisco into the physical surveillance market.
Now it was time for Chambers, the CEO of the company. I always enjoy Chambers, especially when he drops names of high-profile political leaders and fortune 500 CEOs. Chambers admitted to ducking my question on the similarities of Cisco’s Telepresence and HP’s Halo. He added, however that Mark Hurd, the new HP CEO, was doing a great job.
After Chambers it was Charles Giancarlo, the chief development officer, who told me that Telepresence will be more of channel play than Halo.
How can anyone really follow that lineup of interviews? Well, someone has, and it was T.C. Doyle, channel analyst for Amazon Consulting. Doyle used to be VAR Business magazine’s top channel editor and has amazing insight on how vendors use the channel. I guess that’s why a company like Amazon hired him.
Day three and the press met with Keith Goodwin, the senior vice-president of worldwide channels and Surinder Brar, worldwide channels program architect for Cisco. Both men did a good job in filling in all the gaps from the major announcements.
My final interview was with Dave Martin, senior channel analyst from IDC Canada. He explained how networking is similar to plumbing and why it’s critical to businesses.
So as you can see from this list of interviews, it is really tough to choose just one. Instead I will give you my three stars from the event — I am Canadian after all.
The third star from Amazon Consulting: T.C. Doyle.
The second star from Cisco Systems: John Chambers.
And, the first star from Subway: Les White.