Cisco Systems Monday rolled out a massive public cloud offensive that the networking giant said will return it to its roots as an IT market disrupter and offer partners greater opportunity and richer profitability models than they can get selling Amazon Web Services or Hewlett-Packard public cloud.
"We've gone through a period where perhaps we weren’t leading the disruption, and it felt like we were being disrupted," said Nick Earle, senior vice president, cloud sales and go to market at Cisco. "And I think [with this announcement] people are saying we're back. We're back doing what Cisco always did which is to take the lead and to disrupt -- and it just feels great."
Cisco's new cloud strategy, unveiled at Cisco Partner Summit 2014 in Las Vegas, involves a mix of public, private and hybrid clouds hosted within a network of Cisco and partner-owned data centers built on end-to-end Cisco gear around the globe. Cisco will be offering cloud services direct, and also through a network of cloud services partners. Out of the gate, Cisco cloud services partners include Telstra, Ingram Micro, Logicalis, European cloud company Canopy, Canadian service provider Allstream, and data center and IT solutions provider OnX Managed Services.
Earle said Cisco partners have been clamoring for Cisco to get into the public cloud space. "Partners have been saying to us, 'Cisco, when are you going to do this because I'm having to offer public cloud, and today you are telling me to go to AWS or go to Google or whatever. Give me some options,'" he said.
Michael Strople, president of Allstream, one of the initial Cisco cloud services partners, said he has noticed Cisco's cloud strategy "bubbling to the surface" for a while now, and that it's great to finally see it fully come to light.
"The word 'inflection point' is probably the right one. Maybe 10 or 15 years ago you thought of Cisco as a box supplier, and they probably measured themselves by units shipped," said Strople. "But today, they are a very different company for us. We do still buy boxes from Cisco, but a lot more of the business we do with Cisco isn't around boxes, but around solutions."
Earle said solution providers will play a major role in reselling Cisco cloud services, whether they purchase them through service provider partners or Cisco directly. There will also be white-label opportunities, allowing partners to rebrand many of the Cisco cloud services as their own, he said.
"Our culture is partner-centric," Earle told CRN. "We are not announcing a Microsoft strategy where we do it all or a Google or Amazon strategy where we do it all."
Earle said Cisco intends to bring all of its partner might and muscle to the cloud game, including partner rebates, channel enablement programs, co-marketing funds and certifications. "We are going to bring the full monty, the full power of the Cisco channel machine to this world," he said.
Earle declined to give specifics around how partners will be incented and rewarded through Cisco programs such as VIP when selling public cloud, but said more details will come. He did say, though, that the profit potential for Cisco partners will be significant.
"We will provide versions of our existing partner programs -- both from the product point of view and the services point of view, because in cloud it's not just one or the other -- that will drive partner profitability and we believe industry-leading partner profitability in regard to cloud," Earle said.
"We are not announcing a me-too AWS me-too strategy," Earle continued. "Frankly, we don’t think that's great for channel partners, we don’t think it was designed for channel partners, and we think channel partners want a choice."