Cisco Partner Summit: Bold Visions, No Mention Of HP

"Write the rules. Own the game," was the message for Cisco partners on Tuesday, day one of Cisco's annual Partner Summit in San Francisco.

If you were a Cisco partner coming to hear about Cisco's market vision and a raft of new services opportunities, you came away inspired -- Cisco announced a number of new services and certifications opportunities its executives say will drive bigger and better deals for partners.

But if you came away hoping for a fresh round of competitive sabre rattling against Cisco rival HP, you were disappointed. While Cisco's 2009 Partner Summit in Boston essentially saw the networking titan declare war on its new rival, HP wasn't mentioned by name once during the morning keynotes Tuesday from Cisco's top channel executives.

"We know you had a choice," said Keith Goodwin, Cisco's senior vice president of worldwide channels, in his sole allusion to HP's Americas Partner Conference, also happening this week. "You obviously made the right choice. We thank you personally for your investment and ongoing loyalty to Cisco."

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Goodwin and other top Cisco channel brass unveiled a number of new promotions and services opportunities during their opening session. They also directly addressed a number of problems in the Cisco channel that according to Goodwin had come up on numerous occasions in his discussions with Cisco partners.

Chief among those, Goodwin said, was Cisco's ongoing supply chain woes, through which product backorders and supply chain stop-up had earned Cisco plenty of partner frustration in the past year. Goodwin apologized for the "impact it's having on business," and deferred to Randy Pond, executive vice president of operations, processes and systems, who blamed components shortages, a shift in the Chinese labor force thanks to China's economic stimulus, and, most of all, the sheer magnitude of the business drop-off during 2009.

From there, Goodwin set about describing how Cisco would seek to "write the rules" -- not an arrogant vision, he said, but a bold one.

"It's about us writing the rules together around the significant market transitions happening as we speak," he said.

Those major market transitions, Goodwin explained, include collaboration, video, the virtualized data center and cloud services. He alluded to Cisco's entering the voice market a decade ago, and after being met with initial criticism that it was too new and unfamiliar a market to Cisco, proceeded to conquer it and gain the No. 1 worldwide market share in the space.

Next: Network At The Center

The most important thing to remember about each of the new transitions, Goodwin argued, is that the network is at the center.

Goodwin touted Cisco collaboration products like WebEx and the recently released Intercompany Media Engine, which he said overall accounted for 100,000 new collaboration customers and $8 billion worth of business in the past two years.

The importance of video -- "the killer app," he reiterated, is that it makes the deal bigger. Cisco's recent acquisition of Tandberg was a direct response to partner urgings that Cisco make a major buy in the video space, Goodwin said.

"Video makes the deal bigger," he said, emphasizing that even partners who don't sell video hardware or video services can make deals around the networks and infrastructure needed to support video solutions.

For the data center -- in which Cisco intends to be a market disrupter thanks to the Unified Computing System (UCS) and its strategic alliances with EMC and VMware for Vblock packages -- Goodwin said the market opportunity is $85 billion, including services. Cisco now boats more than 500 Data Center Network Infrastructure (DCNI) partners, more than 300 Data Center Networking Solutions (DCNS) partners, and about 480 UCS customers.

Its data center play, said Goodwin, is what will enable Cisco to be a key player in cloud-based services, which represent one of the biggest opportunities of all.

"The borderless network is the platform." Goodwin said. "We are all about the network."

Next: New Services, New Marketing, New Specializations

Rob Lloyd, Cisco executive vice president of worldwide operations, used his portion of the keynote to emphasize how Cisco had tried to get partners ready during the downturn, not retrench or cut back.

"It feels like this market is about ready to accelerate," Lloyd said. "If you feel that, then by us continuing to be together we can develop huge opportunities for growth."

In a subtle allusion to HP and other competitors, Lloyd added that Cisco doesn't fear competition.

"We love it. It makes us better," he emphasized. "Now is the time for bold moves. We're going to take a step back and see what we can focus on that will change the growth profile."

Other programs will come to the fore for Cisco partners this year, said Goodwin.

One is a slate of new services offerings that will see Cisco add a Teaming Incentive Program (TIP) to the collection of partner incentive programs that already include VIP (Value Incentive Program), OIP (Opportunity Incentive Program) and SIP (Solution Incentive Program). Another is the Cisco Global Partner Network, which Goodwin and Cisco's Edison Peres, senior vice president of worldwide channels, go-to-market, described as a way to minimize difficulty on how partners collaborate for sales, both with Cisco and each other, across borders.

Cisco also emphasized additions to what it can offer for marketing. Luanne Tierney, vice president of worldwide channels marketing, joined Goodwin to tout new marketing programs like Partner Marketing Central, Cisco's recently debuted online hub of free marketing resources and social networking tools.

Tierney further said that Cisco's once-a-year Partner Velocity event will expand to once-monthly online seminars. The Velocity event itself will also continue to take place in the fall; this year's, dates to-be-announced, is in Barcelona.

Finally, said Goodwin, Cisco would be changing its various partner specializations to reflect architectures -- specifically collaboration, virtualization/data center and Borderless Networks -- and no longer focus on individual technologies such as routing and switching.

To incent partners to become business architects, Goodwin added, Cisco is launching a promotion through which it will fund business architecture specialization training for partners. Premier, gold and silver Cisco partners can, over the next 45 days, receive learning credits toward the new specializations from Cisco, and Cisco will pick up 75 percent of the training fees.

In a parting message, Goodwin urged partners to prioritize their own strategic investments in three areas: enabling VAR teams to deliver architectures, not sell products, continuing to build solutions that target vertical markets, and prep for cloud-based services as a future business model.

"I know all of you have some of our competitors knocking on your door every day," Goodwin said. "We are more committed than ever to earning your investment and your loyalty every day."