Cisco Partner Summit 2019 at a glance

More than 3,200 Cisco channel partners walked the halls of the Aria Convention Centre in Las Vegas last week – and 12,000 people joined virtually – to attend the Cisco Partner Summit and hear what Cisco has planned for the next several years.

While its hardware and switching portfolios remain popular product lines, Cisco is aggressively pushing further into software, going as far as integrating its software developer program into its partner program. The company also redoubled its efforts to make itself more attractive to small businesses and unleashed a bevy of announcements around its collaboration portfolio.

We’ve compiled last week’s top news items and moments right here in this slideshow. Click on the arrows to navigate the slideshow, or click on the dots below to skip through slides faster. Cisco also hosted its Canadian partner awards gala in Vegas. You can read a full list of those winners here.

Slow and steady

It’s going to be a slow process, and partners who find success selling switches is still fine, but Cisco’s channel chief Oliver Tuszik is serious about pushing partners towards a software recurring revenue and lifecycle model.

Tuszik pointed to steady year-over-year growth in the number of software subscriptions, in addition to a 23 per cent increase in the number of registered DevNet participants.

Cisco’s focused on building new management platforms combined with automated, intent-based networking, allowing one administrator to manage a much wider field. But those systems need to be installed and maintained – enter the partner community. Combine that with the fact that in the next three years, more than 13 billion devices are projected to be connected to the internet, the opportunities for partners are aplenty, explained Tuszik.

More than business

Cisco chief executive officer Chuck Robbins took to the stage – after Cisco channel chief Oliver Tuszik encouraged everyone to sing him Happy Birthday – to kick things off Tuesday. But before he talked about the company’s latest moves, he listed some of the geopolitical events taking place globally: Trade wars, impeachment investigations, and Brexit, and noted how they have a direct impact on people’s lives.

“Our customers are going through some of the most dynamic changes that we’ve seen in an incredibly long time,” he added. “Businesses need to step up”

Cisco’s revenue record-breaking 2018, that saw the company eclipse $50 billion in revenue, $2.5 billion of which came from its Software-as-a-Service offerings, was nothing to scoff at, said Robbins, but customers, he added, are worried about much more than buying the right product.

“Customers are now finding themselves in a more complicated world. They’re consuming hundreds of SaaS services and running multiple clouds…cloud has made things much more complicated, and it’s a huge opportunity for our partners,” he said.

Robbins also unveiled the Cisco Problem Solver Partner program. Launching in May, it allows recent college graduates to submit project proposals that tackle everyday challenges with the help of technology. Robbins said it’s a project that’s going to be launched with the help of the partner community.

Leading the way in Canada

The Canadian market is relatively small, so it can be tougher for partners to differentiate themselves. But Mark Collins, Cisco Canada’s channel chief, said the Canadian team has been working hard to ensure partners have a path to differentiation. The new DevNet certification and the multiple partner program enhancements that encourage selling into the small business market are going to be crucial for growth in 2020, added Collins.

Cisco has been extremely successful with the enterprise and public sector, but now we want to have the trickle-down effect,” he said.

Cisco Canada president Rola Dagher and Women in Communications and Technology’s 2019 Woman of the Year explained how Canada has greatly influenced the global corporation’s social outreach work in recent years.

“Chuck will tell you that [Cisco’s] mental health focus started in Canada,” she said while pointing to the additional work Cisco Canada has done with TakingITGlobal’s Connected North program. (Photo by Alex Coop).


David Goeckeler, Cisco’s executive vice-president and general manager of Cisco’s networking and security business, revealed a new integration between Cisco’s SD-WAN and Microsoft’s Azure Virtual WAN and Office365. This allows customers to extend their WAN to Microsoft Azure Cloud and further customize Office 365 experiences.

Last year, Cisco announced improved application performance in connecting Cisco SD-WAN to Microsoft Office 365 by up to 40 per cent. This SD-WAN solution directs Office 365 traffic from the customer site to the closest Microsoft network points of presence using the optimal path, in many cases bypassing the corporate data centre, improving users’ experience, said Goeckeler.

More Meraki

The Cisco Meraki portfolio is expanding. Alongside Goeckeler, an enthusiastic Todd Nightingale, senior vice-president, and general manager of Cisco Meraki, unveiled the MS390: A next-generation access switch that combines the simplicity of Meraki with the power of Cisco switching innovations.

Nightingale said the switch is the newest Cisco Meraki’s intent-based networking solution, and the first Meraki switch built with Cisco Catalyst hardware innovations combined with Cisco Meraki software innovations. He also unveiled a new product line for Cisco Meraki called Trusted Access Meraki Gateway (MG) is a wireless WAN cellular gateway

Nightingale said this is the biggest Meraki launch of all time.

The MS390 and MG21/21E will be orderable in Cisco’s second fiscal quarter. Trusted Access will be available in Cisco’s second fiscal quarter.

Here since day 1

Only a few have been attending Cisco’s partner summits since they first began 24 years ago. Kent MacDonald, senior vice-president of strategic alliances for Long View Systems, is one of those people.

MacDonald was the lone panelist representing Canada during a security panel last week. Cisco’s security portfolio leans heavily on the channel – more than 90 per cent of the money Cisco makes from its security lineup is thanks to the legwork performed by its partners.

“Customers know they can’t keep applying bandaids to the problem. Now they’re looking at security from an end-to-end perspective,” explained MacDonald. “And I think Cisco is the only one that can address those end-to-end needs.”

MacDonald told Channel Daily News that customers are increasingly educated thanks to the information available online, but added that channel partners should become “more opinionated” with customers and better understand their roadmap in order to sidestep some of the traditional pitfalls that come with installing new security solutions across an organization. (Photo by Alex Coop).

Partner program enhancements

In addition to the DevNet business specialization, Cisco unveiled a number of other partner program updates.

To further support its partners operating in the SMB space, Cisco announced the following:

  • New ‘Perform Plus’ incentive: A new global performance incentive that rewards partners who focus on mid-size and small business customers, with a quarterly cash rebate. Cisco is also increasing the investment in partners who demonstrate targeted growth behaviors, but may not be able to capitalize on other incentives. This incentive launches in Cisco Q3 FY20.
  • ‘CMSP Express’ Program: A redesigned cloud and Managed Service Program to address managed services providers selling to small business customers.
  • X-Sell available globally: A sales community created via co-investment with partners that includes Cisco-led training and joint selling to scale to the small business opportunity.
  • Streamlined Deal Registration: Significantly accelerated approval time for deals under certain sizes allowing partners to act quickly in the fast-paced market.

For partners shifting to a recurring, subscription, or annuity-based models, Cisco unveiled the following programs:

  • Solution Starter: Included in the Cisco DNA Enterprise Agreements, this new program offers a customer entitlement for a partner that has delivered onboarding and implementation services. This enables partners to start the lifecycle journey with their customers.
  • Lifecycle Incentives: Rewards partners for performing lifecycle activities that ensure their customers are using the software in their network, taking advantage of the features and realizing business outcomes.
  • Use Accelerator Bonus: This is an incremental bonus for partners further rewarding activation and building out customer use cases in our DNA technologies, available now until the end of Cisco’s Q3FY20.

Going after scammers

Cisco’s channel chief Oliver Tuszik took audience members behind the scenes of a recent conversation he had with a customer. It was the one that led him to the discovery of a partner selling counterfeit Cisco products.

“This gentleman says ‘Mr Tuszik, we love your offer and you have all the approvals, but there’s a company’ and he produces a name of a company I hadn’t heard of before, ‘that offers all the great Cisco products 20 per cent cheaper than you do.'”

He said a colleague of his explains how he hadn’t heard of this mysterious company either.

“We dug deeper and found out this was one of the companies that weren’t playing by the rules. These kinds of companies can destroy your profits. We normally don’t talk about this, but I decided to this time – we take this very very seriously.”

In January 2018, CRN reported that Cisco was taking aim at counterfeit sellers In New Jersey, California by filing five lawsuits, claiming these sellers imported and sold numerous counterfeit products to unsuspecting customers

Can’t forget collaboration

Cisco announced a series of enhancements to its collaboration portfolio, including three new products, several software upgrades and a new partnership with Microsoft.

The news was presented by Cisco’s relatively new collaboration duo, Amy Chang and Sri Srinivasan.

Availability for the hardware devices are as follows:

  • Webex Desk Pro – general availability February 2020
  • Webex Panorama – general availability, first half of 2020
  • Headset 700 series – general availability, December 2019

Partner feedback

Andrew Caprara, senior vice-president of strategy and business development for Softchoice, said his team is excited about some of the collaboration announcements.

“For us, the interoperability with other partners like Microsoft was the most exciting news because both companies have truly put the customer first. This is aligned to Softchoice’s focus on delivering exceptional customer experience,” he wrote in an email. “We have many customers who have collaboration elements from both partners in their environments and now they can ensure that the user has the best experience while operating in a secure and seamless collaboration ecosystem.”

Cisco’s ongoing push into the SMB market was also well received.

Softchoice is very excited about the launch of Cisco Designed for Business and the general push by Cisco to create products that have been specifically created and priced for small and mid-sized businesses. The Canadian market is made up of many of these companies who have small IT teams that are stretched thin.”

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Alex Coop
Alex Coop
Former Editorial Director for IT World Canada and its sister publications.

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