Cisco Unveils Incentives, Resources To Help Partners Embrace Cloud

Making the shift to selling cloud services is a top priority for solution providers today, but it's a move that's easier said than done. It requires new training, upfront investments and, in some cases, a complete overhaul of a solution provider's existing sales model.

That's where Cisco wants to help. The networking giant used its annual Cisco Partner Summit event, taking place June 3-6 in Boston, to announce Tuesday a revamping of its Cloud Partner Program that will pump more resources and incentive opportunities behind solution providers evaluating or in the early stages of rolling out a cloud services practice.

Specifically, Cisco is wrapping new incentive offers around its Cloud Services Reseller partner designation, one of three included in Cisco's formal Cloud Partner Program launched in 2011. The Cloud Services Reseller designation is targeted at solution providers that resell Cisco Powered Services on behalf of Cisco Cloud Providers.

[Related: Cisco Partner Summit Preview: 10 Things Partners Hope To Learn ]

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According to Cisco, Cloud Services Resellers -- compared to Cloud Builders and Cloud Providers, the other two partner types in the program -- targets partners that don't always have the bandwidth needed to build out their own cloud practices, or to transition their businesses to the recurring revenue models that come with selling cloud services.

Cisco, in hopes of lowering these barriers to entry and nudging more of its partners toward the cloud, is bulking up the Cloud Services Reseller program with new benefits and rewards programs. The first of these benefits, Cisco said, is receiving Cisco's Value Incentive Program (VIP) rebates on sales of Cisco-Powered Services. Cisco Powered Services include Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), hosted collaboration, and TelePresence-as-a-Service (TPaaS) and are offered at a wide range of monthly subscription prices from Cisco partners.

Gary Berzack, chief technology officer and chief operating officer for eTribeca LLC, a New York-based Cisco Premier partner, said the new VIP rebate for Cloud Services Resellers is going to require a big investment from Cisco regarding how partners "market and position these new Cisco Cloud Powered Services in parallel to what we are already doing."

"It is no small feat," said Berzack of the challenges of positioning the new Cloud Powered Services. "My question is what is the offer and price of these new Cisco Cloud powered services that will qualify for VIP and what is the exact VIP rebate?"

Berzack, for his part, would like to see Cisco VIP rebate incentives for cloud solutions around the full suite of Cisco products that companies like eTribeca uses to build out a full cloud solution over multiple years. Under that kind of scenario, a $250,000 wireless solution could be extended to $400,000 over a three-year cloud offering with a wide range of cloud services and lifecycle management, he said.

Cisco also said it's rolling out a rewards point system based on the volume Cloud Services Resellers sell. The system works by awarding points to resellers as they sell, and then letting those resellers spend those points on select Cisco products or learning credits to put toward training initiatives.

In addition, Cloud Services Resellers will now have access to Cisco Powered Branding, which they can use on their own white-label offers. The Cisco Powered brand will essentially flow down from Cisco, to the Cisco Cloud Provider, down the Cloud Services Reseller.

To curb channel conflict, Cisco stressed that both its own internal sales force and the Cloud Provider will be compensated when a Cisco Powered Services sales is made through a Cloud Services Reseller.

In order to tap into these new incentives, a Cisco Cloud Services Reseller must already be a Cisco registered partner, demonstrate a valid contract with a Cisco Cloud Provider, have a dedicated cloud customer relationship manager in-house, and apply for the partner designation online. Cisco said it currently has more than 600 Cloud Services Reseller applications in process.

NEXT: New Resources For Cloud Services Resellers

Like it is with incentives, Cisco is bulking up its training resources for Cloud Services Resellers in hopes of kick-starting their cloud services practice.

Among them is a new Cloud Go-To-Market (GTM) Resource Center, a Web-based and self-service portal Cisco Cloud Services Resellers can tap into to gain access to all of Cisco's go-to-markets tools. One of the new tools included is Cisco's Cloud Connections service, a virtual match-making tool for Cloud Providers and Cloud Services Resellers. Resellers can use the tool to see a complete list of available Cisco Cloud Providers, compare different resale options, and reach out to any that seem like a good fit.

Cisco also unveiled the Cisco Business Transformation Playbook, a set of training materials aimed at helping solution providers move from a pure reseller model to a cloud and managed services model. The Playbook covers six different topics: an overview of the cloud market and the opportunities there; how selling cloud services changes a reseller's business model; how selling cloud services impacts a reseller's sales model; tips for marketing cloud services; how to build a cloud services portfolio; and a list of Cisco resources for transitioning to the cloud.

Lastly, Cisco said the Business Transformation Playbook will be supplemented by a Business Transformation Workshop partners can attend in-person or by webinar to learn best practices for these business model transformations, along with a Partner Business Transformation Video-on-Demand series.

Cisco's efforts to push partners toward cloud opportunities come at a time when cloud adoption is expected to soar. According to Gartner, half of all CIOs expect to operate the majority of their applications and infrastructures in the cloud by 2015, while global spending on public cloud services is projected to reach $200 billion by 2016.

Cisco said it has already issued 1,700 cloud-related specializations across its partner community and has more than 100 Cisco Powered cloud offers on the market through those partners.