Cisco Exec Bangs Cloud Computing, Video Conferencing Drum

Cloud computing and video collaboration have both reached the point where they're ready to start driving business for channel partners, according to Jim Sheriff, senior vice president of Cisco Systems' U.S. and Canada partner group.

In a Tuesday address at Ingram Micro's North American VentureTech Network (VTN) Fall 2010 Invitational in San Francisco, Sheriff endeavored to show roughly 700 solution providers that these technologies have moved beyond the realm of breathless hype and into a position of real world utility.

In cloud computing, the virtualized data center is generating opportunities for Cisco partners at every layer of the stack, Sherriff explained. For example, solution providers with the necessary level of cloud expertise can build clouds for MSPs and private clouds for end customers.

"Solution providers have several areas in which they can place their bets; they can sell components and parts of the infrastructure to enable the environments of their customers, or they can sell cloud-enabling infrastructure and augment that with white label cloud and MSP services," Sherrriff said.

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Another option for the channel is to become an operator of public or private clouds, although this is disruptive and requires a significant amount of adaptation, said Sherriff.

Video Collaboration Also Coming Of Age

"This will bring the biggest change to your business models. It's a different financing and capital structure than you may have today," Sheriff said. "But if you execute well and actually have a differentiated offering, you can be very successful."

Cisco's $3.3 billion acquisition of Tandberg earlier this year has given the networking giant a commanding position in the video conferencing market, and Sherriff said Cisco expects the small and medium segment to embrace the technology. "Tandberg also changes the game for us in a big way because it makes business video not just for the elite," he said.

Video collaboration is just the latest step on a path Cisco started down a decade ago with VoIP, and later with IP telephony and unified communication. Video collaboration is creating combination of different business models as well as new technologies, Sherriff noted.

"We need to think of video as the new voice," Sherriff said. Within the next 3 to 5 years, you will be surprised by someone who isn’t video enabled."

Sheriff, a nine-year Cisco veteran, took over his current role in August after a stint as chairman and CEO of Cisco China.

Next: What Partners Like About Cisco's Channel Program

Cisco pays a great deal of attention to partner profitability, margin protection, and providing access to working capital, but Sheriff said Cisco's deliberate approach to its channel program is just as important.

"One thing partners tell us they like most is that we are predictable," he said. "That doesn’t mean you'll like everything we do, but we do signal far in advance when making changes."