Cisco Relies On Partners For Solutions Strategy

application developers, distributors and service providers,among others,to support its solutions agenda.

"It's not just about you and us anymore," Cisco Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer James Richardson told attendees last week at the Cisco Partner Summit in Honolulu.

"I like to say Cisco is part of the solution,

the partner is part of the solution, the application is part of the solution," said Mark Hilz, president and CEO of InterNetwork Experts, a Cisco Gold partner in Addison, Texas, that has an extensive practice in IP telephony.

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Next week, for example, Cisco will emerge as one of the vendors at the center of a new Ingram Micro initiative under which the Santa Ana, Calif.-based distributor intends to link its traditional VAR and reseller customers with ISVs creating software for vertical markets and advanced technology platforms, including Cisco's IP telephony product line.

At the conference last week, Cisco disclosed several other alliances aimed specifically at the SMB space, including a pact with Microsoft, Redmond, Wash., under which the companies will collaborate on solutions development.

Among other things, the two companies are developing reference architectures, available to qualified partners of both companies in April 2004, that will ease the joint installation of their products.

In addition, Cisco

and Microsoft are

integrating Cisco's IP Communications line with Microsoft CRM and developing a product bundle that joins the Cisco 831 Broadband Router and Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 Standard Edition.

"We're trying to lower the threshold at which smaller companies will start to use high-value technology from both companies," said Peter Alexander, vice president of the worldwide commercial market segment at San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco.

Also in the SMB space, Cisco is hoping

to foster relationships under which VARs and systems integrators

will resell managed services that ride atop Cisco technology, particularly in security, IP telephony and storage, said Nigel Williams, vice president of Cisco's worldwide service provider channels.

"I have no interest in developing those sorts of offerings under my own brand," said John Freres, president of Meridian IT Solutions, a Schaumburg, Ill.-based solution provider. "[Service providers] have the size, breadth and depth to deliver them."

To facilitate the

strategy, Cisco is sifting through a variety of data sources, including its own regional planning efforts, to identify SMB opportunities and match them with the appropriate partners, Williams said. Early last year, Cisco launched marketing partnerships with several service providers.

Also, IBM, Armonk, N.Y., and Cisco said they will collaborate to address ineffective and inefficient network security resulting from piecing together multiple, disparate security products and services. The plans include new integration between the Cisco Secure Access Control Server and IBM Tivoli Identity Manager software.

Finally, Cisco is moving to facilitate more alliance opportunities for storage VARs,even though it doesn't technically sell storage products through its channel. VARs that use Cisco's MDS 9000 series storage switches get them from OEM

storage manufacturers, which then resell the switches through their own channels.

,Heather Clancy and Jennifer Hagendorf Follett