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Thanks to Cisco's intellectual capital and the information it offers through its underlying software, partners can develop services for customers that offer things such as competitive benchmarking -- how a customer's network stacks up, for example, to other customers in its market segment and of its size.
At a more strategic level, qualified Cisco partners can leverage a new offering, Partner Support Service, in which they can not only provide installed base and contract management services to customers but also use Cisco APIs to create their own apps and workflow integration software.
Partners using that program can realize incremental rebates as high as 25 percent depending on how in-depth they go with the programs and how sophisticated their services offerings.
"We're already automating 88 percent of all service activity that we have with our customers," Earle said. "The software recognizes patterns on the network -- common configuration patterns by device. There's just no way a human being can do that."
The backbone of the services program is Cisco's underlying services software -- a powerful platform developed both in-house with several hundred dedicated engineers, and using technology Cisco gained through acquisitions of companies such as Pari Networks and NewScale.
Cisco can only offer in-depth benchmarking on its own products and infrastructure, but the software itself can see all the devices on a network.
"We can discover everything," Earle said. "We can discover Avaya devices, for example. If that partner is supporting multiple vendors in the end customer environment, they can build their own multivendor smart service with the APIs t take to the market."
Cisco partners enter the Services Partner Program based on their current status with Cisco, receiving the same base discounts within the program that they do in Cisco's broader channel program for their Gold, Silver or Premier status. Partners using existing Cisco services programs will be phased into the new program over the next year, with all of their existing statuses and designations preserved automatically.
"We wanted to move away from an upfront discount to more of an investment-based discount and performance-based rebates," said Raja Sundaram, vice president of services for Cisco's Worldwide Partner Organization (WWPO). "We are able to differentiate the partner for the investments they've already made."
As of December, Cisco had about 13,000 services employees, including in maintenance services, and of that about 2,000 in-house CCIEs, 3,800 technical services employees and 5,600 advanced services employees.