Cisco Eases Path To Collaboration Market For Midmarket VARs

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Cisco Tuesday continued to quench its partners' thirst for a greater midmarket play, rolling out a number of updates to both its collaboration portfolio and partner certification programs aimed at making it easier for partners to target smaller- and mid-sized companies.

The midmarket -- which Cisco defines as organizations with 100 to 1,000 employees -- is brimming with opportunity just waiting to be seized by the networking giant and its partners, particularly when it comes to the collaboration and telepresence space, said Richard McLeod, senior director of Cisco's Worldwide Collaboration Channel Sales.

"[Getting into the midmarket] has been a very strong thrust for us over the last two years," McLeod told CRN, pointing to the midmarket-focused Partner-Led program Cisco launched last April. "We have invested tens of millions of dollars in tools and programs and support infrastructures to aggressively fuel our penetration into midmarket, and now we are layering on top this collaboration specialization and portfolio to support that."

One of several moves Cisco is making to help its partners cash in on the midmarket -- a space the company values at a whopping $7.1 billion -- is the launch of a revamped version of its Business Edition 6000 collaboration portfolio targeted specifically at smaller- and mid-size companies. In addition to touting built-in support for Cisco TelePresence Video Communication Server (VCS) and Singlewire InformaCast paging, Business Edition 6000 can now be sold with a 25-user licensing agreement, rather than requiring the 50 or more licenses it has in the past.

For solution providers like Tim Savage, principal and managing director at ENS Group, a Fort Wayne, Ind.-based Cisco partner, this means smaller- and mid-size companies -- not just the enterprise -- are potential Business Edition 6000 customers.

"I think this is a game changer for us," Savage said, explaining that SMBs and midmarket organizations make up the bulk of ENS Group's business. "We didn't really feel like there was a Cisco product for below 50 users, and this Business Edition 6000, which is, of course, their enterprise product, is now just licensed down for midmarket and lower. It's a perfect fit."

Savage said ENS Group had been asking Cisco for a collaboration solution tailored to the midmarket for "quite a long time," especially after noticing the untapped business potential for a tool like Business Edition 6000.

"The more we talked about it and talked about the business we were losing -- which was in the millions of dollars in this area -- [Cisco] listened," Savage said. "And I really respect them for listening."

Ryan McCoy, vice president at Springfield, Mo.-based solution provider and Cisco partner Layer 3 Technologies, felt the new 25-user licensing agreement for Business Edition 6000 underscores Cisco's dedication to its smaller partners targeting the SMB and midmarket space.

"It's huge news for us, dropping [Business Edition 6000 licensing] down to 25 users. It puts us on the same playing field as the bigger guys," McCoy said, continuing: "I have been asking for Cisco to be a better partner in the small and medium business space for years. And over the last couple of years they have done a really good job in the market, and this seems to take it to the next step."

NEXT: Cisco's Midmarket Partner Certifications

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