Cisco, Xerox Ally On Managed Print, Outsourced Cloud Services

Xerox and Cisco Systems have formed a joint alliance to bring more managed print, mobile print and cloud IT outsourcing services to solution providers.

The companies hope the alliance can bring new opportunities to their respective partner bases, particularly to Cisco solution providers who haven't delved into the managed print arena, said executives.

"Xerox and Cisco think networking and print managed services are [a great combination]. They're like peanut butter and jelly," said Rick Dastin, president of Xerox Enterprise Business Group. "And it tastes good too."

Specifically, the alliance allows VARs to offer Xerox managed print services over Cisco Borderless Networks, a term Cisco coined relating to its networking architecture that promises to deliver a workplace experience anywhere at any time using any device to any resource. With Xerox, VARs can consolidate IT and print management leveraging Cisco's embedded security, WAN optimization, and Internetwork Operating System (IOS) software to reduce operating costs and protect data from any location.

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In addition, Xerox will deliver its Cloud ITO services built on Cisco UCS and Vblock infrastructure through ACS to VARs. The services include Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), cloud consulting services, and private cloud deployments, according to Xerox.

Finally, the alliance brings Xerox's mobile print solution to Cisco virtual desktops and the Cisco Cius tablet, letting customers print from any e-mail-capable device to any Xerox mobile-print enabled device.

Xerox was already on the hunt to expand its managed print services business. The company announced a new eConcierge offering at its Fusion 2011 partner event last month and the Cisco alliance brings potentially tens of thousands of new VARs to enter that space.

The alliance positions both companies nicely against their top competitor, Hewlett-Packard, the only other vendor active in both print and networking. It's a notion not lost on Xerox and Cisco executives, though Dastin would only say the two companies have a "unique offering."

"The thing we bring here is integrating [both companies] together. Cisco owns most of the wiring closets and networking. That fact that we can come with integration, full transparency of networking including print, which [customers] couldn't get before, particularlyfor SMB customers, fully automated, and now it's offered through channel, is unique," Dastin said. "This is a captive solution that the channel can sell. It is reseller ready and we are enabling them to be ready."

In fact, Cisco and Xerox have an opportunity to be more aggressive than HP in print services because their print install base is much smaller than HP, said Rob Whiteley, vice president and research director at Forrester.

"Cisco and Xerox can go after individual branch lines of business and say, 'Get our service as a way of getting up and running quickly.' It very much uses that cloud model of pay-as-you-go and being able to target the departmental level," Whiteley said. "HP can't do that as much without disrupting its existing install base."

Next: 'Building a Document Highway

' Xerox and Cisco executives told CRN the alliance is their first step toward "building a document highway together," an initiative that will include more services and offerings down the road.

"Today's print is not really part of the IT infrastructure. We want to remove print as an impediment. If we do that, customer success and channel success will grow over time," Dastin said. "We want to modernize print. The thing that goes on as we become more mobile is the borderless printer becomes part of the borderless network."

Wenceslao Lada, vice president of Borderless Network architecture for Cisco's Worldwide Partner Organization, expects Cisco's VARs to look to add print managed services to their portfolio.

"They're bringing a different perspective to the customer. You're going to bring the integration and also manage another service that typically hasn't been part of the network. With that, you're going to deliver better opportunities in terms of provisioning, mobility, security, how you manage printing devices," Lada said. "You're going to expand into a mobile printing environment that is secure because it's being provided by the network environment."

Managed print may not be a sexy area for many IT organizations, but the Xerox-Cisco alliance provides a solution that can solve a lot of critical problems, Forrester's Whiteley said.

"There are a lot of different transforrmations under way -- a move to more mobile, more personal, more virtual devices," Whiteley said. "Printing in general is something that's not been thought of in all these new architrecures. But a lot of customers are looking to transform a branch office or try to moderntize their mobile device strategy. Only when they push into production that the problem occurs and they can't print from that device or printing works but it's impacting productivity. What's most interseting about the Cisco-Xerox solution is it's specifically targeting a way of adding print back to all those intiativies and doing so in a cost-effective and easy way."

Cisco VARs interested in selling the Xerox print managed services will need to complete one of two Xerox curriculums, either the three-day PagePack package or the five-day Xerox Partner Print Services program.

Lada said he wasn't sure how many current Cisco VARs sell managed print services, but regular discussions with numerous partners led him to believe the interest is there. "We believe we're creating revenue generation for the next three years with them, he said.

"We really think this is good news for the industry and customers. We think the world is converging, particularly in the IT space. As the workforce changes in its mobile [needs], Xerox and Cisco come together for this alliance will lead the way, Dastin said. "The world has gone mobile. Office workers are gone. Bringing our mobile print solution with Cisco router technology is something that belongs together."