Cisco wined and dined -- and we mean wined and dined -- about 200 partners at Partner Velocity in Barcelona this week, and while we're sure the princely-prepared gambas, delicious riojas and picturesque setting had something to do with it, they had nothing but rave reviews for the show.
Partner Velocity itself, now in its fourth year, brings Cisco partners together with marketing gurus and social media experts who get down to brass tacks about how social media presence, video, CRM, mobile apps and other tools can transform their marketing when used the right way.
"I've been to most of these, and there is no other vendor that gives partners as much real marketing discussion -- you know, what it is you could do better, and not just all that 'good to great' fluff -- as Cisco. Can't say enough good things about it," said an impressed attendee from one of Cisco's top U.S. partners.
Naturally, events like this attract some of the most plugged-in, knowlegedable, skeptical Cisco partners around, and between the sessions and dinner seatings came plenty of chatter between the tapas. A few chew-ables:
* Several Cisco partners said the idea of Cisco buying Skype -- mentioned as a hot rumor some months ago -- would have been exciting for VARs but earned Cisco stern stares aplenty from a raft of service provider partners. Pressure from the monster telcos to stay off the Skype sauce?
* Most everyone thinks Cisco has another blockbuster acquisition on tap for 2011 -- Tandberg-level blockbuster, not Moto Group-level curiosity -- and more than one data center-oriented partner has been trying to feel Cisco out on the likelihood of a pickup of NetApp. "It would piss off EMC plenty for obvious reasons, but don't say I didn't warn you," said a top executive at one Cisco Gold partner.
* The great irony of the conference? "Many of these guys are the ones doing the cutting edge social media marketing," the Gold partner kvetched. "Many of the Cisco partners that could use this training would never get invited."
* Why did so many Cisco partners skip out on the opening night reception Tuesday? Probably to hop in a cab. More than a few bleary-eyed breakfasters on Wednesday whispered that they caught FC Barcelona hosting Russia's Rubin Kazan soccer club at Barcelona's bustling Camp Nou stadium (2-0 Barcelona, for those keeping score) -- or that they'd checked out Lady Gaga, playing a show at Palau Sant Jordi. P-p-p-poker face indeed.