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INX's Reese agrees with McLeod's assertion that the differentiated partners that can sell the architecture are not only the ones that will thrive, but the ones that will survive with Cisco and in the channel.
The solution provider model of tomorrow will separate VARs from next-generation solution integrators, Reese said. Companies like INX -- whose VocalMash business unit integrates business applications with customers' Cisco-based voice and communication networks -- will form the vanguard of those integrators.
"VARs are dead -- they just don't know it yet," Reese said. "If I'm selling IT to IT and IT no longer has budgets and you have managers who want a compute platform that can live in a cloud and they pay per consumption, what are you really doing? I think you're going to see the whole new concept of solution integrator partner come forward."
Those software integration-savvy, integration-centric partners, Reese contends, will be a lot more attractive to Cisco than the hardware- and maintenance-focused resellers will.
"It's not just, do you have a CCIE or a router guy and a voice guy and if you have those guys, you can do this," he said. "The collision is happening between the data center and the whole collaboration experience and the right guys aren't just the traditional Cisco partners anymore."
Cisco's challenge is to adequately enable those partners with differentiated channel programs and incentives, Reese said -- in other words, reward partners that can build something like a VocalMash on their own, have line-of-business discussions with customers, and wrap services around those integration sales to fatten their margins.
Partners who have that should be rewarded differently than partners who achieve Cisco's highest partnership tiers and discount levels based on hardware volume sales and other "traditional" means of partner compensation, Reese said.
The perception that Cisco products don't integrate well with other vendors' products is legitimate, Reese acknowledged. But he agreed with Force 3's Parry that Cisco's holistic approach is more in line with many customers' spending priorities.
"What's made Cisco continually successful in this space is that they have never neglected any layer of the stack to execute on their strategy," he said. "John Chambers came out and said, we can't lose focus on the core, because without a solid core, the rest of the stuff doesn't work. That's what makes Cisco more attractive that other players out there."
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