Cisco Mounts Cloud Computing Channel Blitz

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Cisco is putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to helping its partners monetize the cloud computing solutions opportunity.

The networking market leader gave partners something to celebrate Tuesday at its annual Partner Summit in New Orleans by using the first day of the show to unveil what may well be the most ambitious and comprehensive channel offerings yet aimed at helping partners build profitable practices selling cloud infrastructure and services.

"We are putting our partner community at the heart of Cisco's cloud go-to-market strategy," said Ralph Nimergood, vice president of data center and virtualization for Cisco's Worldwide Partner Organization, during a press conference. "We wanted to make sure that the program was inclusive, one that virtually all of our partners could participate in. We think we've hit the mark."

Cisco is placing its tens of thousands of partners at the center of its cloud go-to-market strategy with a new Cloud Partner Program with three tracks: Cisco Cloud Builders, Cisco Cloud Providers and Cisco Cloud Services Resellers. Partners will be able to participate in any or all three of those tracks as of August 1.

Cisco, which has used the channel as it primary route to market for the last 15 years, says the programs open the door for virtually every Cisco partner to play in the cloud. The company is backing up its big partner cloud bet by giving partners that play in any or all of those Cisco tracks access to a wide range of new traditional channel rebates and incentives, including a new cloud rebate under Cisco's market based Solutions Incentive Program (SIP) and a cloud accelerator rebate under Cisco's deal registration Opportunity Incentive Program (OIP).

Cisco is also rolling out innovative new programs designed to offset the high capital costs associated with entering the cloud solutions game along with professional services training and tools designed to allow partners to quickly build a highly scalable and profitable cloud practice.

Cisco is promising all those that play in the Cisco Cloud Partner Program preferred teaming with the Cisco sales force on cloud solutions opportunities. That's no small matter given that about 80 percent of Cisco's $40 billion in business goes through channel partners. Cisco is also for the first time compensating the Cisco sales force for selling Cisco-powered services from Cisco Cloud Providers. That move is aimed at establishing public/private cloud sales neutrality as customers make decisions on whether to rely on cloud builders or simply move to a public cloud.

One of the more innovative Cisco cloud initiatives is a Cisco Capital Jumpstart financing program. Under the program, partners that make a $1 million minimum investment to build out a Cisco-powered cloud infrastructure can get one-year interest-free, payment-free financing under a four-year lease. Cisco is, in effect, subsidizing the cost of a Cisco Powered Cloud Provider service with a year of zero-interest and no payments due.

"Cisco gets it," said Mont Phelps, CEO of NWN, Waltham, Mass., one of Cisco's fastest growing national partners with a Cisco data center business that grew a whopping 601 percent last year. "Cisco understands that a good cloud strategy involves not only technology but channel programs that have an impact on [cloud] investment and working capital, especially the heavy front-end costs associated with a cloud model. They are looking at more than just the technical aspects to succeed. They are looking at the business aspects. If there is a program as broad or deep as this from another vendor, I haven't seen it."

Cisco's Cloud Partner Program comes as many solution providers are shifting their business models to take advantage of the new cloud computing paradigm.

"Cisco deserves a lot of credit for its leadership in driving the channel to adopt the skills necessary to compete in the cloud computing economy," said Ron Dupler, the CEO of Green Pages, Kittery, Maine, which recently won VMware's US solution provider of the year and CEO MVP award. "But you don't have a choice. If you don't make the investments to compete in the cloud computing market then you are writing your own epitaph."


NEXT: Professional Services Enablement Pushes Partners Toward The Cloud

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