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Will Partners Follow?
For the most part, Cisco’s top partners are willing to go down the architectural path.
Long View Systems, Calgary, a Cisco Gold partner, has invested heavily in Cisco’s data center and virtualization side and its collaboration and video side, and expects to see its Cisco business grow significantly in those areas this year. “It’s been a mutual investment. They’ve been driving advanced selling through their internal organization and also through our sales team,” said Kent MacDonald, vice president of business development.
Long View, for example, recently folded its UC, video, TelePresence, Show and Share Webcasting and Cisco Quad collaboration platform businesses into a new practice it’s calling Collaboration. It’s also taken advantage of training opportunities Cisco offers via consultants and Cisco learning partners like Atlanta-based Firefly, MacDonald said.
There will be continued pressure from competitive vendors on Cisco’s core product lines, MacDonald said (Long View’s HP practice, notably, is also growing). But Cisco has proven its worth to partners behind the portfolio play.
“It’s a drive to that architectural sale vs. a siloed technology play,” he said. “Cisco’s tack is to change the game and make it a data center play vs. a price-per-port comparison. The ecosystem [around Cisco] is very active.”
Troubadour Ltd., a Houston-based Cisco partner, also has invested heavily in Cisco’s data center vision, and the solution provider added EMC and NetApp to its line card in the past year to take advantage of UCS-led data center deployments with each. Troubador’s services business with Cisco is also expected to double this year, according to Jay Kirby, executive vice president of sales and marketing.
“We’re investing in the data center space because it’s a relevant place where a lot of things are changing,” Kirby said. “People are really doing virtualization, and Cisco comes along and offers a UCS platform that extends the value and the connectivity. It’s become a reality. We believe in it. I think the customers believe in it too.”
The complexity of UCS is a hurdle for some customers, Kirby noted. But UCS and Cisco’s data center architecture presents a compelling endgame for customers. It lets solution providers sell behind a road map, he said, not just product speeds and feeds.
“Without a doubt our discussions have gone quickly up the food chain at customers,” Kirby said. “We hear from the top guys, ‘I want to fully understand what you’re talking about here because it’s different than in the past.’ ”
Solution providers that don’t make the leap to architecture selling have limited room to grow, Kirby reasoned.
“Integrators who don’t change will not win in this game,” he said. “Cisco wants everyone to change, but in this case, I don’t believe Cisco is going to wait. This is the first time we’ve seen architectural changes and consumption models change at the same time. It’s a lot to swallow.”
IVCi, a Hauppauge, N.Y., Cisco partner and video and A/V specialist, signed on with Cisco for video a few months before Cisco acquired Tandberg. IVCi had been one of Tandberg’s largest U.S. VARs, and Robert Swing, IVCi’s CEO, applauded the work Cisco has done to map IVCi into its new Authorized Technology Provider program for TelePresence Video.
IVCi has sizable practices behind both Cisco/Tandberg and Polycom, which Swing said were both needed. But he agreed that Cisco’s program -- and its collaboration architectural vision -- is well suited to the convergence of video and A/V solution providers with the broader UC channel.
“I don’t know how many enterprises are getting into it now, but three, four, five years from now, it’s going to be, ‘Can you deploy my videoconferencing, my VoIP, my messaging?’ It’s a move toward a total UC play,” Swing said. “We’re looking at acquiring or investing in bringing those complementary technologies on board.”
All three partners were united on one thing in particular: Cisco’s channel program will need to continue to adapt along with the move from products to architectures, and if partners specialize they need safeguards to protect their margins and reward them for their architecture focuses, be they data center, or video, or another.
“The old way of differentiating partners -- Gold, Silver -- is so ancient and irrelevant,” Kirby said. “Their portfolio is big enough that they need to start looking at the areas of their business and building around the partners that invest in those areas. I want them to look at Troubadour and say, ‘Hey, Cisco field sales, if you’ve got [a customer] looking to redesign the data center with these requirements in mind, here’s a company that focuses on that.’ Not, ‘Here’s a Cisco Gold reseller who can sell you every product in the book and might have one guy trained on data center.’ ”
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