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Cisco is even offering formal professional services enablement focused on helping partners build a cloud practice. That Cisco Cloud Practice Accelerator gives partners a competitive advantage with proven tools and solutions methodology to build and scale a cloud business, Cisco executives said. The Cisco Cloud Practice Accelerator, also available as of August 1, is priced at $27,000.
Partners said Cisco's all-out cloud computing channel blitz could go a long way toward helping them succeed in the cloud computing market. Many solution providers have struggled with making the big investments and business model changes necessary to play in the cloud market.
A number of vendors with their own large services organizations have also struggled with cloud computing channel strategies. Cisco's cloud computing go-to-market strategy, for example, is in sharp contrast to networking competitor HP, which has its own $36 billion services outfit that is selling cloud solutions. What's more, HP offers its own private cloud as a service that is delivered from HP's own data centers.
"The Cisco cloud programs are a real partnership rather than just another sales route to market," said Phelps. "The channel is at the center of Cisco's cloud thought process. It should be clear to everyone that there is a high barrier to entry in the cloud market. It requires huge investments that not everybody can make. Those that do make those investments are going to have a huge advantage over everyone else."
Phelps said he sees 2011 as a pivotal year in the cloud computing solutions explosion. "The heyday of hardware is behind us," he said. "2011 will be the year we really start seeing the impact of the cloud. You've got to understand the big bets that have to be made. The business component necessary to be successful in the channel is now at another level."
Cisco, for its, part is cautioning that there are still plenty of opportunities for partner to build cloud ready data center infrastructures. The company's channel leaders are advising partners not to ignore the cloud-ready infrastructure opportunity, especially since by all accounts more than 50 percent of traditional data centers are still not virtualized or cloud-ready.
Cisco sees the cloud computing opportunity as "intertwined" with the massive Cisco data center offensive which the company estimates is a $45 billion opportunity. Cisco sees cloud computing separately as at least another $10 billion opportunity.
The Cisco Cloud program requirements are based for the first time not only on Cisco specializations like data center or unified communications, but also partner investments in certifications from third-party vendors including VMware, BMC, Citrix, EMC, Hitachi, NetApp, and RedHat.
Cisco is defining cloud builders as traditional system integrator solution providers that are building private and public cloud for clients like NWN; cloud providers as providing infrastructure as a services like Terremark and cloud services resellers which include tens of thousands of small medium business (SMB) focused partners acting as a sales commission agent reselling cloud services
The Cisco Cloud Builder program includes two levels: a basic cloud infrastructure designation and a more rigid cloud management and services designation.
The Cloud Builder infrastructure track is based on cloud networking, system competency based on certifications from Cisco itself like its data center architecture (Cisco Unified Compute System) and borderless network specialization, plus one of certification from a key partner in each of several select disciplines like virtualization (VMware) and storage (EMC, Hitachi Data Systems). Cisco estimates that by time of launch about 500 partners worldwide will qualify for Cloud Builder Infrastructure track with more joining over time.