Core networking, security and multi-cloud are the three areas of greatest opportunity right now for Cisco and its partners, particularly when it comes to the profitable, high-level services the channel can provide around those technologies, according to Wendy Bahr, senior vice president of Cisco's global partner organization.
"When you couple in that lifecycle value and services revenue, these are the three big tickets," Bahr said during a keynote at the networking giant's Partner Connection Week conference in Nassau, the Bahamas Tuesday.
Faisal Bhutto, senior vice president at CompuTex Technology Solutions, a Houston, Texas, solution provider that works with Cisco, said despite the fact that Cisco struggled to develop a cohesive cloud strategy early on, those efforts have developed considerably. That strategy now includes relationships with major public cloud players like Google, Microsoft, AWS and IBM.
"The top places where customers are investing are security, cloud, hybrid cloud, digitization strategy and IoT," Bhutto said. "Her message is on-point, and I think Cisco's cloud story is coming together really well. Security, for sure, is not going away. It is top-of-mind."
Tony Coleman, vice president of sales and strategy at Computer Solutions, a San Antonio, Texas, solution provider that works with Cisco, also praised the company's cloud progress and security portfolio. "Cisco has a really good cloud strategy going right now," he said. "They're partnering with the right companies, and their security strategy is better than it's ever been. The way all the security products complement each other, there's nobody else in the market that's got security pulled together like that."
The key to growth and profitability with security, cloud and core networking is services, Bahr said.
In Cisco's intent-based networking strategy, partners stand to benefit from offering digital services that make them a so-called "trusted advisor," Bahr said, and put themselves in a position to set customer expectations.
"It means we have to transform from manual services close to the box to digital services," she said. "Modernizing, deployment services, installation; it's your choice how fast you want to take this expectation to our customers. These digital services are where the money is. It's what you can differentiate with. It's what customers are telling us they need to enact their digital strategies."
Cisco's security portfolio "gets stronger every day," Bahr said, and partners have an opportunity to make virtually any customer conversation a conversation about security. "Security is complex, and there's fragmentation in the industry," she said. "Customers are overwhelmed. From the edge to the cloud, our opportunity is to advise, to implement and to manage. Set the expectation that anytime we're talking to anyone about anything in the Cisco portfolio that we're having a security conversation."
This week, Cisco expanded its relationship with ConnectWise to offer the ConnectWise Advance Security Dashboard, a solution that gives MSPs a single dashboard for the management of Cisco's entire portfolio of security solutions. The cloud-managed solution is expected to be piloted with partners in May.
Lucrative opportunities exist for partners that offer cloud advisory services, professional services around cloud deployment, as well as adoption and operations services around cloud, Bahr said. Citing statistics from research firm IDC, Bahr said, "85 percent of our customers are evaluating public cloud, and of them, 87 percent are taking steps toward a hybrid strategy. Ninety-four percent are planning to use multiple clouds."
"We've rationalized our strategy," Bahr said of Cisco's multi-cloud efforts. "We've bucketized our solutions and innovations into easier-to-consume, easier-to-explain ways to get our customers to understand how we can collectively help them on this multi-cloud journey."