Cisco Pushes Partners Toward Business Practices

The move toward developing such practices will require a fundamental shift in solution providers' business models away from fulfillment--a model dominated by product sales--and toward professional services and applications, said Edison Peres, vice president of advanced technologies for worldwide channels at Cisco, during a keynote address Wednesday.

Peres identified several high-growth technology areas--including IP telephony, wireless, security and storage--around which partners could build vertical-market solutions. "These markets are all growing at 30-plus percent, and they're all really large," he said. "The challenge is to figure out how we can make it a profitable business."

Cisco has identified several vertical markets around which partners could build practices, and those include banking, education, health care and retail, Peres said in an interview with CRN after the keynote.

The vendor plans to develop blueprints and technology bundles to help partners build and sell the solutions, which will require partners to integrate technology and applications from multiple vendors, he said.

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Cisco also offers Partner Business Consultation, a service that provides an audit of a solution provider's services business and offers recommendations for improvements, Peres said.

Solution provider IntelliMark is already heeding Cisco's advice and is planning to develop a services portfolio for local banks, said Jeremiah Ginn, director of network engineering at the Little Rock, Ark.-based company.

With 78 independent banks in Arkansas, the opportunity could be huge, Ginn said. "Cisco wants us to provide a total solution because one solution begets another one, and that will drive hardware sales indirectly," he said.

During the keynote, Peres demonstrated "the branch of the future," a solution for the banking industry that combines several technologies--including IP telephony and video, wireless and content management--with Cisco's 3700 series branch routers, which have advanced security capabilities.

One feature of the solution includes a video surveillance system that police officers could tap into and view in their cars or on handheld devices in the event of a robbery.

The solution could also help banks deliver higher levels of customer service and improve customer retention, Peres said.