Partners And Priorities: Cisco's Channel Chief Talks Exclusively To CRN


CRN: What I've heard from partners in the past few months especially is a level of comfort that they didn't have 18 months ago when a lot of the restructuring effort was getting under way. They see a lot of consistency in Cisco again especially compared with companies that have seen a lot of turmoil this year, such as HP and Juniper. Is that what they're telling you?

Klein:That's very true. What I'm hearing is that we've done a good job being open with our partners, and that's an extension of our sales force. We've got more than 17,000 field sales and technical people inside Cisco, and 280,000 partner employees. We want them to feel like they're treated as an extension of our team and that we're very transparent and open. We don't hide anything. We're global and consistent with our partners. When we say we're going to do something, we do it.

What's important to them is the profitability piece -- how are we going to drive that with them. Services are always a hot topic, and they also talk about architecture and Smart Solutions, along with the competition and how to better compete with them.

CRN: How often is software-defined networking coming up, and what are partners asking you specifically?

Klein:It is starting to come up in conversation. Is it their No. 1? No. But does it always come up? Yes. What they want to know is what Cisco is doing around SDN and what will that mean to them as partners. They want more education.

It's so new; it's in the early stages and a lot is being talked about. The strategy Cisco is building goes beyond SDN and is looking at the application, and application-oriented networking, and putting programming down into the network and opening up APIs and exploring a number of areas where we have a strong story. What our job is right now is education: Here's what Cisco's strategy is going to be. This is probably not going to really take hold for another four to five years, though it's starting in the data center in a smaller way. But it is in its infancy and there's a lot of hype right now. We're in a perfect position to offer up something differentiated to the market. This is coming up, and we haven't really educated our partners yet.

CRN: So we can expect to see a lot more emphasis from the WWPO on SDN?

Klein:Yes, and from a company perspective, there's a big focus on our strategy there so, for me, from a transparency perspective, it's about making sure partners know what we're doing.

NEXT: Klein's WWPO Ascent