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Sundaram, who is Cisco's channel chief for services, said a priority for Cisco is to grow its Integrated Architectures Specialization (IAS), a newer Cisco specialization focused on larger Cisco partners that have the resources to be strategic with Cisco around services delivered to large customers at country-based or multinational levels.
IAS launched earlier this year and Cisco has nine partners that have signed up, including large global partners like IBM and Dimension Data. In order to qualify for IAS, partners need to be Gold-certified in all of the countries they wish to participate, and have a combination of Master or Advanced specializations -- as resellers or as managed services providers -- in the UC, security, data center or cloud categories. The requirements vary depending on whether partners are seeking local, multinational or global IAS certifications.
More partners, however, are cottoning to Collaborative Professional Services (CPS), a Cisco program that officially debuted at this year's Cisco Partner Summit in New Orleans, following about two years in development and the input from more than 200 Cisco solution providers.
Functionally, CPS is a series of SKU'ed professional services offerings that partners can leverage for customers using Cisco's engineers, design tools and software as back-end support. It's the partner's engineers and technical support staff that lead how those services are provided to customers, however, which is a big difference from, say, Cisco's Advanced Services offering, in which Cisco engineers are essentially sub-contracted and brought in to deliver the services for customers.
The idea of CPS is that partners use Cisco's expertise as a resource for customizing a professional services package for customers that keeps the partner front-and-center in the engagement but has Cisco's engineering and intellectual capital as a backstop. Partners want to add professional services as a way to expand their margins, but with so many Cisco products and architectures to learn, they're often hard-pressed to do everything themselves, said Bob Dimicco, senior director of Cisco Services.
"That puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the professional services organizations of the partners, because they have to come up to speed on new technologies, and also how to create new technology and business outcomes for customers," Dimicco said.
CPS applies to all of Cisco's architectures, including cloud computing. CPS use by partners is restricted, however, to those solution providers that have specializations in particular Cisco technology. For example, if a partner wanted to use a CPS-covered professional service for a unified communications engagement, that partner would need an advanced Cisco specialization in UC.
According to Dimicco, partners requested that requirement.
"They told us very specifically that they make an investment to become specialized and that we needed to create a set of offers that go beyond the baseline," Dimicco said. "They don't want these made available to partners that haven't invested."
CPS covers everything from analytics to planning and design guidance, and the services are grouped into the categories of assessment services, guidance and development services and practice accelerators.
The individual services -- more than 30 in all -- are offered as SKUs, ranging in price from about $1,000 to $40,000. Cisco developed the pricing structure based on input from partners, Dimicco said.
"We've worked with a wide variety of partners to understand the economical price points that allow us to cover costs and also ensure this is a high-value program," Dimicco explained.
About of the partner demand for professional services in CPS so far has been in designing UC and collaboration solutions, Dimicco said, with the rest a fairly even split between Borderless Networks architecture and data center integration. Among the individual services, by far the most popular -- at least by volume -- as been the basic assessment service for routing and switching, which Dimicco noted is valuable to UC and data center customers, too, because those customers often need network upgrades.
Partners are also able to keep the infrastructure and network designs they've created using CPS, and make reference architectures for use with other customers if they so choose. That's a way for partners to "amortize" their investment in Cisco's engineering resources, Dimicco said.
Next: Partners Applaud CPS Growth