Cisco Beats Software Drum With New Partner Program, Incentives

Cisco Systems continued to ramp up its software push Tuesday at the 2015 Cisco Partner Summit with a new Software Partner Program, which has rewards and benefits tied to partners' software investments.

The program is designed to introduce new roles around software and reward partners for building their own software practices in hopes of leading them down the path to success in the Internet of Everything, Cisco executives said.

"As we think about delivering business outcomes, as we think about delivering them into verticals around Internet of Everything, it really is software on the front end of that," said Steve Benvenuto, senior director of business development for Cisco's Worldwide Partner Programs. "Supporting that with incentives, driving it with enablement, that's really what this is all about when we talk about the future journey that we're moving on as we continue to move forward to be more of a software company."

[Related: Cisco's Bruce Klein Talks HP, Software Push And What's Coming At Cisco Partner Summit ]

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Cisco's Software Partner Program, which falls under the umbrella of the Cisco Partner Program, will launch in the beginning of 2016 and include market development funds, incentives and be included in Cisco's Value Incentive Program (VIP) rebates, although specific details were not disclosed.

Partners said the program emphasizes the networking giant's push to have partners adopt software practices and start capturing recurring revenue streams if they haven't already.

"The channel program is very much built to reward and recognize partners who drive the consumption and adoption of their investment with Cisco software," said Kent MacDonald, vice president of converged infrastructure and network services at Calgary, Alberta-based Long View Systems, a Cisco Gold partner. "The program really drives rewards for the partners for the management and adoption to make sure the customer not only bought the software, but they're actually enabling it and adopting it into their infrastructure."

The program introduces three software-focused roles a partner can play within the Cisco partner ecosystem -- a software life-cycle adviser, software integrator and consultant.

"As we really think about how to sell software and how to deliver outcomes around software, it really comes in the form of these three new roles," said Benvenuto. "The program helps partners grow competencies and monetize their software business with Cisco."

As Cisco partners move to adopt a broader focus on software, they will need to add a bevy of new software life-cycle skills to their portfolios, said Bruce Klein, senior vice president of Cisco's Worldwide Partner Organization.

"It's all about land [the software selling opportunity], adopt, expand and renew -- you'll see more and more programs come out from us to get our partners to invest in that type of selling motion," said Klein.

Cisco's software push comes on the heels of several acquisitions that were aimed at helping the partner ecosystem, including software-defined networking company Embrane and data virtualization company Composite, according to Benvenuto. In addition, current offerings such as Cisco ONE Software and Cisco ONE Enterprise Cloud Suite as well as software collaborations such as Cisco Spark and WebEx are ways the company is enabling partners to start creating Software as-a-Service offerings, he said.

San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco Tuesday also unveiled a revamped version of its Cloud and Managed Services Program (CMSP), created in 2012 for cloud providers, builders and resellers.

CMSP 2.0 adds Cisco Intercloud, the public/private cloud offering launched last year, to the mix with new roles geared toward cloud providers. CMSP 2.0 also is giving partners more choices of Cisco cloud architectures, new hybrid IT opportunities around Intercloud technologies like Intercloud Fabric and ACI, and a new Cisco Powered Virtual Managed Services category, said Benvenuto.

Eligibility requirements for partners to enter the program have been simplified as well, he said, and the three current levels -- Master, Advanced and Express -- will be eliminated, leaving only one level that is untitled at this point. Partners in the program also will only need to be audited once every three years compared with annually under the current version of the program, which several partners said will save their company money.

"If you're going to be an Intercloud provider where you're going to buy the equipment and have your own data center and sell services, this is the program that would govern the relationship between you and Cisco," said Edison Peres, senior vice president of the Cloud and Managed Services Partner Organization at Cisco, in an interview with CRN.

Specific requirements and the services needed to join CMSP 2.0 will be revealed in the first quarter of 2016.

Robert Keblusek, senior vice president of business development at Sentinel Technologies, a Downers Grove, Ill.-based Cisco partner that is enrolled in the current CMSP program, said Sentinel’s integrated cloud technologies and services platform, Sentinel CloudSelect, can be an Intercloud-enabled platform through CMSP 2.0.

"Customers will have the option of Intercloud enabling workloads for mobility between our cloud and their premise virtual infrastructure. That's a pretty powerful tool," said Keblusek. "People are going to start to realize the power of what they can do with it that they're not even thinking of today."