Cisco Expands SMB Channel With New Partners, Products

Cisco Systems says it is adding 100 certified SMB-focused solution providers per week as it drives to bring on 10,000 over the next two years.

The SMB partner push is part of a broader effort by Cisco to press into the low end of the market, a strategy that was supplemented this week with the launch of new VoIP, wireless and networking products.

Cisco is adding SMB-focused solution providers to its Certified Partner Program via its recently launched Select certification.

Partners that have earned the new certification said it opens up to them a bevy of new tools, support and financial incentives.

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"It gives us access to resources within the Cisco organization such as support technicians, engineers and project planners that other resellers just wouldn't have access to," said Andrew Lehrfeld, director of business development at Flexible Business Systems, a solution provider in Hauppauge, NY.

Cisco Monday extended its recently launched Unified Communications (UC) 500 Series small business VoIP platform to support up to 48 users, up from initial support for eight to 16 users with the first release.

With the new 32- and 48- user models, Cisco is adding 19-inch stackable units to the UC 500 line. The existing 8- and 16-user versions come in desktop form factors, said Rick Moran, vice president of SMB solutions marketing at Cisco, San Jose, Calif.

Cisco also introduced four new Catalyst Express Ethernet Switches, offering versions with 24 Fast Ethernet access ports, 24 Fast Ethernet access ports including four with Power over Ethernet (PoE) support, 24 Fast Ethernet PoE access ports or 24 Gigabit Ethernet ports.

The vendor also revamped its 521 Wireless Express Access Point and 526 Wireless Express Mobility Controller, adding new guest access features, automatic policy configuration and simplified security settings.

NEXT: The march toward 10,000

On the channel front, Cisco has brought on approximately 1,000 Select Certified partners globally since unveiling the new SMB-focused certification in April and is on track to hit its goal of reaching 5,000 Select Certified partners this fiscal year, said Andrew Sage, senior director of worldwide channels market development for Cisco.

Cisco is looking to double that number to reach 10,000 Select Certified partners in the next fiscal year, Sage said, noting, however, that next year's target hasn't yet been finalized.

"It really is going to depend entirely on the sales success of the partners we get into the program," Sage said. "We don't want to get into a situation where we're over-distributed."

Currently, Cisco is adding Select partners at the rate of approximately 100 per week globally, he said.

The Select Certification is the new entry-level tier of the Cisco Certified Partner program. It was built for solution providers focusing on customers with fewer than 250 employees and is the first new certification added to the program in 10 years, where it joins the vendor's existing Premier, Silver and Gold badges.

It bridges the gap that previously existed between Premier and lower-end Registered partners, which have to do little more than sign up to begin working with Cisco.

All of the solution providers that have achieved the Select certification have come out of Cisco's Registered partner ranks, Sage said. To achieve the certification, solution providers have to first earn Cisco's SMB Specialization, which trains solution providers on Cisco's routing, switching, wireless and VoIP technologies. In exchange, they get access to the full breadth of Cisco's partner training, sales resources, rebates and incentives.

Cisco this week also launched new high-end switches, bringing virtualization to enterprise networks with a new module for its flagship Catalyst 6500 switches and rolling out the next generation of its Catalyst 4500 platform.