Cisco CEO: 'We've Begun Journey' To Morph Into Software Company

Cisco's 70,000 channel partners had better get ready to change their sales strategy, as the networking giant is embarking on a journey to create asoftware subscription modelwithin its core network infrastructure for the first time.

About to enter his second year as CEO, Chuck Robbins told CRN that within the next few quarters, Cisco will create a pilot program for customers and partners that delivers this new network software subscription model.

Robbins' goal is to convert thousands of Cisco partners from hardware experts into application specialists. Cisco channel chief Wendy Bahr told CRN that we are living in an application-based economy, and applications are what the line-of-business buyers are interested in. A network that is intelligent enough to sense the needs of applications and adjust accordingly is a huge differentiator, said Bahr -- one that will open up larger deals for solution providers.

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"We will disaggregate the control plane, much like Meraki, so that you'll still have a CPE [customer premise equipment] component running an operating system,"said Robbins. "But what we will do is give the customer the ability to drive automation, policy, security and extract analytics that also influence policy back into the network and give them a simple methodology to deploy policy across data center and the enterprise network."

Said Robbins: "That's the way we'll evolve, and we've begun that journey."

The sales vehicle for this software offensive is the Cisco One software license, which for the first time will be offered as a software subscription on a per-user basis or as a traditional enterprise licensing agreement (ELA). Also key to note is that Cisco's newDigital Network Architecture (DNA)will power that new generation of cloud-era Internet of Things applications as billions of new devices become connected every year.

Cisco is fundamentally changing under the new leadership of Robbins, and partners need to be ready to evolve too or they might get left in the dust.