Cisco Ready To Launch Program For MSPs


Partners laud vendor’s new managed services initiative


Cisco Systems is staking a claim in the MSP market with the launch later this month of a pilot channel program tailored to partners selling managed services.

A group of about half-a-dozen partners worldwide will begin piloting the forthcoming program, slated to debut in November, said Keith Goodwin, senior vice president of worldwide channels at Cisco, last week at the Cisco Partner Summit in San Diego.

Several channel partners attending the conference said managed services already play a significant role in their businesses and lauded Cisco’s plans to build the new program.

“Cisco is trying to ensure that partners get the right kind of support,” said Jim Teter, COO of Calence, a solution provider based in Tempe, Ariz.
Cisco’s product strategy also supports the ramp up of managed services offerings the San Jose, Calif.-based vendor is seeing among its partner base, said Chuck Robbins, vice president of U.S. channels at Cisco.

“Many of the technologies we’re bringing out lend themselves to managed offerings. They are, by definition, complex, and customers are looking for expertise from our partners,” Robbins said.

The new managed services channel program is one of three new “offer-based” channel programs the vendor is rolling out to supplement its standard local resale program, including a global resale program launched last week and an outsourcing program scheduled to launch in its second fiscal quarter.

Up to this point, Cisco’s partners have been forced to go to market with managed services through the vendor’s traditional resale program, which doesn’t always meet their needs, Goodwin said.

As Cisco works through details of the new program, which is still in the early planning stages, the vendor is looking for ways to build in rewards that support managed services sales and remove traditional program requirements that don’t make sense in the MSP world, he said.

“The assumption [in our local resale program] is that partners are installing on premise, so they need local systems engineering resources on-site. For partners delivering services to a remote geography, to require them to have local CCIEs [Cisco Certified Internetwork Experts] doesn’t fit,” Goodwin said. “It’s really about having a NOC.”

The measurement of customer satisfaction ratings is another pillar of Cisco’s resale program likely not to make the cut for the managed services program, Robbins said.

“In managed services, the customer is making a decision that the MSP is someone to trust and is paying monthly for that service, so there’s inherent customer satisfaction,” Robbins said. “It might be a duplicate effort to make customers take surveys.”

Tim Hebert, COO of Atrion Networking, a solution provider based in Warwick, R.I., that offers managed services, said the vendor will need to offer MSPs aggressive pricing on equipment.

The new program should also include specialized support via its Technical Assistance Centers (TACs), he said.

“They have to have a different support structure for us through TAC so that I’m getting supported at a higher level and my resolution is quick,” Hebert said.

Calence’s Teter said Cisco also will need to educate its field organization to make sure they understand partners’ managed services offerings.

Cisco executives said the company is soliciting feedback from its partners as it puts details of the new program together.