Chambers: Nobody Has An 'Attitude Toward Partnering' Like Cisco

The complexion of Cisco may be changing with the rise of the cloud and the Internet of Things, but CEO John Chambers said Tuesday that partners still, and will always, come first.

"At the heart of what I want to communicate is that it's a partner ecosystem that we are not only deeply committed to, but it's the way we are going to win together," Chambers said during his keynote address Tuesday at Cisco's global Partner Summit in Las Vegas.

Chambers argued that Cisco's focus on partner engagement and partner profitability, despite the company's pivot to a greater cloud and services play, is unrelenting -- even compared to rivals with big channel footprints like Hewlett-Packard, who also hosted its global partner conference this week in Las Vegas.

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"How many of you attended the HP partner conference yesterday? How was it? How many of you liked it?" Chambers asked partners, prompting a few solution providers to raise their hands. "The point that I am [making] is that deeply embedded in our peers -- and they are great companies -- is not an attitude toward partnering like you see at Cisco."

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Chambers' keynote came the day after the company unveiled its new global cloud strategy, which involves a mix of public, private and hybrid clouds being hosted within a network of Cisco- and partner-owned data centers around the world. Through the initiative, Cisco will be offering a range of cloud services including Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service and existing Cisco cloud services, such as its Hosted Collaboration Solution and Meraki cloud-based WiFi.

Chambers touted cloud as a growth opportunity Cisco and its partners can jump on immediately.

"We recently got ranked by [market research firm] Synergy as the number one hybrid cloud player," Chambers said. "Now, think back five years ago when we entered this market and we asked CTO [Padmasree Warrior] to lead us there. People thought we wouldn’t even have the staying power, and now we are the fastest growing player [in cloud] infrastructure."

NEXT: Partners Key To Cisco's Cloud Vision

Upon the launch of its new cloud strategy, Cisco stressed that partners will play a key role in bringing Cisco cloud services to market, many of which the company said can be white-labeled and sold as partners' own. To complement its cloud push, Cisco Monday also rolled out a revamped partner program that requires Gold level partners to be selling both Cisco cloud and managed services offerings.

Sean Finnegan, director of sales at Wachter, a Lenexa, Kan.-based Cisco Gold partner, applauded Cisco's entry into the public cloud arena, and said he had been waiting for Cisco to make that very move.

"We have been seeing more and more opportunities around cloud, and everyone has their own definition behind it, but we really think the market is going to go more toward the Cisco offering and we are happy to be a part of that," said Finnegan, who added that his Cisco business grew 128 percent in Wachter's fourth fiscal quarter.

Chambers also said he sees major opportunities for the Cisco channel within the emerging Internet of Everything, a trend which Cisco has pegged as a whopping $19 trillion opportunity, public and private sectors combined. Chambers said the Internet of Everything -- which refers to connecting sensors on everyday objects, such as cars and refrigerators, to the Internet -- is hitting an "inflection point" this year, moving from a buzzword to a reality.

"This is what we can do together," Chambers told partners. "We can bring this to life."

Immediate Internet of Everything opportunities for partners, according to Cisco, include selling ruggedized switches, routers and access points, along with vertical solutions and applications for markets such as manufacturing and retail. Cisco demonstrated a new Internet of Everything application for the waste management industry, for instance, that would leverage sensors in trash cans to let collectors know whether or not the cans are full, monitor truck maintenance issues and optimize truck routs. The idea, Cisco said, is to dramatically cut down on costs and improve customer service.

"The market moved rapidly, and we have to change. And you know where I'm headed -- anytime you change, it makes you uncomfortable," Chambers said. "But we have to change together so we do not get left behind. We have to change together, and not by viewing market transition as bad things, but embrace Software-as-a-Service, embrace architectures, embrace clouds and do it in a way that no other company can do."