Cisco Confirms Further Tandberg Integration, Channel Plans

Cisco on Monday announced major updates to both the technology roadmap and channel program related to its acquisition of Tandberg, providing more details on how it intends the Cisco and Tandberg channels to combine.

The announcements, which include greater interoperability between Cisco and former Tandberg products and host of new video endpoints, are being made in line with Cisco's Collaboration Summit, taking place this week in Phoenix.

The hope, according to Cisco, is that solution providers will be able to take advantage of a market in healthy growth mode. Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers described video on last week's Q1 earnings call as having reached a "tipping point" in the minds of CIOs, and Cisco also estimates video communications traffic growing 10-fold in the five year span between 2008 and 2013.

Tandberg's portfolio will play a key role, especially as competition for video and UC heats up all over the channel. Cisco announced its $3.3 billion acquisition of Tandberg more than a year ago, and completed it just before the Cisco Partner Summit this past April. Some of the big questions at the time included how Cisco would integrate Tandberg's video portfolio into its own, and also how Tandberg's channel program would be absorbed into Cisco's. Since April, the two channel programs have run in parallel, with existing Tandberg partners seeing the same program benefits and statuses as they did before.

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All that will change in the new calendar year. Cisco will continue to run the programs in parallel until January 31, 2011, at which time Tandberg partners will have been mapped into appropriate Cisco designations.

New to the overall program is the TelePresence Video Authorized Technology Provider (ATP) program, a new ATP with the Express, Advanced and Masters specialization tiers just like the ATPs that already exist for Converged Building Systems, Data Center Unified Computing, Mobile Internet Technology and other areas.

Next: How The ATP Works

According to Richard McLeod, senior director for Cisco's Worldwide Partner Collaboration Sales and Practice Management, Cisco began meeting with international Tandberg partners more than six months ago. The goal was to understand the existing Tandberg program, product availability, channel incentives and services offerings, and listen to what McLeod called "very frank and honest feedback" from those partners.

"We think we've got a program that gives every partner a place to land," he told CRN.

Within the Express, Advanced and Masters designations is also an Advanced Plus designation, for partners who are advanced on telepresence and video and want to make a quicker jump to Cisco's Unified Communications Manager and the broader Cisco UC portfolio, and need a stepping stone to the Masters level. The mapping of partners into Cisco tiers is often case-by-case, but in general, McLeod said, A/V-centric partners would map into Express, partners that are very strong in services in addition to the A/V side would land in Advanced or Advanced Plus.

Cisco is selectively inviting current Cisco video and telepresence partners and Tandberg enVision partners into the ATP first, and will also invite members of Cisco's broader UC partner community to join as well.

"This will be a whole new ATP program that will be of the same stature as our UC specialization," McLeod said. "It will have approximately the same number of partners participating in the [Advanced and Masters] UC program, and will be a substantial pillar of our UC program."

Within the ATP will come training and other to-be-announced partner offerings, he added, and Cisco's various incentive programs -- VIP, OIP, SIP and the new TIP -- will also apply.

The ordering and rewards administration processes from Tandberg have been integrated into Cisco's ordering structure as well, McLeod said.

There were plenty of partners who carried both Cisco and Tandberg before the acquisition, but McLeod said that Cisco has also not lost any of the major Tandberg partners that because of the acquisition, joined Cisco's channel community for the first time.

"There was some trepidation: big Cisco is now acquiring Tandberg," he admitted. "But they really got to know us and realize the power of Cisco, and realize the reach and scope of Cisco and the business opportunities that get opened up to them, and once they see the power of marketing and the support capabilities. We've had a very positive reception by the Tandberg partners."

"Knock on wood, our partners are growing with us. Many carry multiple product lines. We haven't lost market share with them. We seem to be growing share, and all things are pointing positive," McLeod added.

Next: New Endpoints and Product Updates

The goal on the technology side is to make the formerly disparate Cisco and Tandberg product lines as interoperable and as complementary as possible, McLeod explained. Cisco has preserved the entire existing Tandberg product portfolio, and according to McLeod, there are no end-of-lifes planned for the immediate future, though that may happen down the line as the products and feature sets evolve.

"There's such a strong demand for the entire portfolio," McLeod said. "We are now adding to each of those product lines."

All of Cisco's new enterprise collaboration endpoints are video-enabled, and all Cisco voice and video-enabled products are set up to interoperate with Cisco's Unified Communications Manager (UCM) call processing platform. The bigger news, however, is that the acquired Tandberg endpoints will start to interoperate with UCM as well, starting with the Cisco IP Video Phone E20 (formerly the Tandberg E20) now and others to follow, McLeod said.

"It's all part of the update process we're going through," he said.

Among the new products announced Monday are the Cisco TelePresence EX60 -- a smaller-footprint version of the TelePresence EX 90 -- and the Cisco TelePresence System 500 32-inch -- a smaller-footprint version of the TelePresence System 500 37-inch -- both intended as personal video telepresence units priced in the mid-range of the portfolio. The EX60's base price is about $6,600 and the 500 32-inch starts at $23,900. Both will be available this quarter.

Also new is Cisco WebEx Meeting Center with high quality video, an upgrade to the WebEx platform that sharpens the clarity of full-screen video, and will be made available for both Cisco's upcoming Cius tablet and other mobile devices like Apple's iPad.

Among other new features, the Meeting Center now offers connection to Cisco TelePresence meetings via WebEx One Touch, and also includes the former Tandberg ActivePresence, which shows all meeting participants in a strip at the bottom of the screen, and can put an active speaker in full-screen mode without breaking immersion, and switch speakers via voice activation. It works with all Cisco TelePresence endpoints, too.

"It's interoperability across all levels," McLeod said. "You tie together TelePresence with the desktop, with WebEx, with the Tandberg Movi PC-based product, and have all of those together in a fully interoperating telepresence experience, going so far as when someone on a WebEx is speaking, and you are sitting in a three-screen TelePresence room, suddenly that speaking person becomes full-screen visible."

Finally, for service providers and large systems integrators with managed and hosted services arms, Cisco has also unveiled the Cisco TelePresence Exchange Syste, which service providers can offer to customers as a hosted, turnkey platform for providing telepresence conferencing and collaboration.

More product and service updates will come in the new year, McLeod said.