The New P2P Wave

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Looking for growth in a tumultuous economy, Cisco Systems is turning to a familiar tactic to keep its numbers on the upswing: partnering. But this time the San Jose, Calif., company is pushing its partners to partner with each other.

Cisco channel chief Keith Goodwin says that he is banking on this partner-to-partner collaboration to keep the company in growth mode. With a growth target of 12 percent to 17 percent over the next three to five years, Cisco needs to add $15 billion to $20 billion in channel capacity, Goodwin said at the 2008 Cisco Partner Summit, held in Honolulu last week.

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"There are two ways we could do that," said Goodwin, senior vice president of worldwide channels. "We could recruit thousands of new partners, but that's not our strategy. Our strategy is to build it through each and every one of you in this room by continuing to invest in you."

To that end, the company is rolling out tools to help its partners find each other and laid out the case to solution providers that what's good for Cisco is also good for them.

Already, some 31 percent of Cisco solution providers' revenue comes from partnering, according to a survey the company conducted of its partners. Of the partners that did work with other Cisco partners, 78 percent of the respondents said they win larger projects as a result; 75 percent said they have found new customers.

Solution providers at the conference were mixed on whether working with other partners is the way to grow.

Gary Berzack, COO of eTribeca, a wireless specialist based in New York City, said that partnering with other solution providers with less wireless expertise has been key to his company's growth.

But not everyone is convinced.

"I've tried it. Three out of four times, it hasn't worked," said Daniel Holt, CEO of HEIT, a Fort Collins, Colo., solution provider that focuses on banks and credit unions. Culture clash is usually the downfall, he said.

Goodwin argues that as technology becomes more complex and solution providers become more specialized, they will have to partner with each other more and more to provide complete solutions.

Yet several solution providers said they will never feel comfortable with inviting another Cisco solution provider into their own customers.

Where do you stand? Are you ready for the partner-to-partner wave? Let me know at

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