Ingram Micro Speeds Up Cisco Spark Provisioning With Its Cloud Marketplace

Ingram Micro has been tapped as the first distributor to automate ordering, provisioning and billing around the Cisco Spark business collaboration service through Ingram Micro's Cloud Marketplace.

The new arrangement will make it possible for small and midsized channel partners to get instant pricing and same-day service for Cisco Spark, according to Julie Hens, Cisco's vice president of global distribution. Spark is currently available through distribution, but Hens said the process had required phone calls and the manual submission of process orders.

The Cloud Marketplace allows solution providers to provision and place Spark without having to contact Ingram Micro or Cisco, according to Renee Bergeron, Ingram's senior vice president of global cloud. Bergeron said this required collaboration between the Ingram Micro and Cisco engineering teams so that the two systems could talk to one another.

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"They were ready to add a Cisco offering, and we were ready with our API technology to support it," Hens told CRN. "Because of our relationship, it made sense to start with Ingram."

Other distribution partners continue to have access to Spark through traditional procurement methods, Hens said, and will be authorized to offer it through their cloud portals in the future.

Adding Spark to the Cloud Marketplace has shortened the typical ordering and provisioning process from a week to just four hours, according to Travis Williams, vice president of sales and customer service for Boise, Idaho-based Stability Networks. Roughly three-quarters of the process have been automated, Williams said, including the registration, quoting and submission process.

Price transparency is another key benefit of adding Spark to the Cloud Marketplace since quotes are available directly through the portal, Williams said. Before the marketplace, Williams said solution providers making a Spark purchase worth less than $10,000 were subject to higher prices.

"You didn't know what prices you were going to get until you completed the deal registration," Williams told CRN. "Now, we don't have to worry about what our pricing to going to be every time."

The partnership will make it possible for salespeople to provision Spark directly from their mobile devices while visiting a customer location, Bergeron said, delivering near-instantaneous results and value. It will also drive up-sell and cross-sell opportunities around devices and security, Hens said.

Bergeron said appearing on the Cloud Marketplace will allow Cisco to get Spark in front of different types of channel partners since more than a third of telecom providers provision their offerings through Odin software, which was acquired by Ingram Micro last year.

Ingram Micro has been working with its go-to-market team to develop programs around Cisco Spark that address the needs of different types of channel partners such as managed service providers, telecom agents, and cloud hosters, Bergeron said.

Cisco also plans to expand its portfolio available through Ingram Micro's Cloud Marketplace over the next year to address areas such as and data protection offerings, Hens said. Products added to the marketplace need to be compatible with low-touch, automated environments, she said.

"Once you build the first API connector, it gets a lot easier," Hens said.

The WebEx online meeting and videoconferencing system was Cisco's first product on Ingram Micro's Cloud Marketplace, Hens said, and one of the first products from any vendor to appear on the marketplace.

Getting Spark onto the Cloud Marketplace will also provide solution providers with better visibility into subscription renewals and existing orders in the system. Williams said every Spark order would appear on a single screen so channel partners can easily see when all the annual subscriptions come due.

Stability Networks previously operated an internal system designed to automate the renewal process, but Williams said new employees had to go through training exercises before being ready to use the system. Integrating the renewal piece into the Cloud Marketplace will make renewals far easier for the company, Williams said.

Stability Networks also plans to turn its billboard-style informational website on Cisco Spark into a true e-commerce platform, Williams said, so that end customers can place orders online. Williams said the company plans to consider adding Office 365 or other Cloud Marketplace offerings to its own e-commerce portal to help shorten the time-to-delivery for customers.

"We're making a big push to simplify the procurement process for our customers," Williams said. "This is going to open up opportunities we may not have looked into before."