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In a move that's been nearly a year-and-a-half in the making, Cisco Systems Tuesday said it is absorbing the Linksys Small-Business Channel Partner Program into its own partner program.
With the integration -- which will incorporate the Linksys Partner Connection small-business channel program into the Cisco Channel Partner Program -- the networking vendor is amassing a global army of nearly 60,000 SMB-focused channel partners. The company is also integrating the Linksys small business field force with its own.
"For channel partners, it's going to be easier to work with us. There's going to be a single contract, a single place to go for support, a single place to go for enablement. The field force is going to be integrated, so from an ease-of-doing-business standpoint, if you're focused on the 'S' [small business] market, then this is going to make a difference for those channel partners," said Andrew Sage, vice president of worldwide small business sales at Cisco, San Jose, Calif.
One solution provider said the move will benefit Linksys partners because of its potential to create a much-needed distinction among the Linksys portfolio.
"The main thing I'm looking for is putting differentiation in place between the Linksys home products and the Linksys business-class products," said Austin Smith, president of Digital Son, I.T. Services, a VAR in Lawrenceville, Ga. He's also hoping Cisco will create lower-end versions of some of its products, such as its Adaptive Security Appliances.
Smith said he's keeping his fingers crossed that Cisco will keep Linksys's affordable product pricing. From a partnership standpoint, he said he's not fearful of getting swallowed up by the larger Cisco channel machine.
"My understanding is that not too much is going to change on the partner side, and that put my worries to rest," Smith said, lauding the Linksys partner program as one of the industry's best.
The channel program integration comes seven weeks after executives at the vendor's Cisco Live conference in Orlando, Fla., said the company is in the midst of a drive to add 300,000 new small business accounts.
It also comes packaged with several other shifts in Cisco's small business go-to-market strategy. The company is augmenting existing segment councils for its service provider, enterprise and commercial businesses with the creation of a Small Business Council, responsible for coordinating sales, manufacturing and engineering for Cisco's pursuit of the sub-100 employee market. The council is led by Sue Bostrom, chief marketing officer and executive vice president; Keith Goodwin, senior vice president of worldwide channels; and Ian Pennell, senior vice president of Cisco's Small Business Technology Group (SBTG).