Cisco Gets Last Laugh In Cisco-HP Partner Conference Showdown

Chuck Robbins, Cisco Systems' top sales executive, got the last word and the last laugh Thursday in this week's dueling partner conference battle between Cisco and Hewlett-Packard.

Robbins closed out the Cisco Partner Summit with his own David Letterman Top Ten-like list of the big moments at the HP Partner Conference, ending with the No. 1 thing that happened: "Absolutely nothing."

The Robbins' punch line was punctuated with a rimshot drum hit. But there was nothing funny about the final appeal that Robbins made to partners to team with Cisco on the huge InterCloud public cloud opportunity.

[Related: Cisco Public Cloud Push Piques Partner Interest, But Questions Remain ]

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Robbins called on partners to take the advice that a Fortune 25 CIO customer has given to Cisco: "You have permission to do even more for me. Think Big. Be bold."

That's exactly what Cisco did this week, stunning the industry by unveiling a massive public cloud initiative that will see it invest $1 billion into building out a network of connected public, private and hybrid clouds around the globe.

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Mont Phelps, CEO of NWN, the national solution provider that is No. 88 on the CRN SP500 with $266 million in annual sales, said NWN already has a substantial hosted VoIP/collaboration Cisco business and he is excited about embracing the Cisco InterCloud public cloud opportunity.

"Any one that doubts Cisco's ability to have a big impact in the public cloud market would be wise to look at how successful the company has been in the x86 server market since entering the server market five years ago. I thought, 'What are they, nuts? All we need in the industry is another server manufacturer,' " Phelps said. "But look at what they accomplished. It is really amazing. I don't see why they can't do the same thing with InterCloud."

Cisco's public cloud entry is going to cut into the public cloud business of Amazon Web Services and other players, said Phelps. "I believe Cisco is going to be a real factor," he said. "We have invested millions into the Cisco business, and we are going to continue to invest to support that business. Cisco gets it. They understand that partner profitability is essential to a healthy ecosystem."

HP, meanwhile, used its partner conference as a stage for introducing a new PartnerOne program for cloud, aimed at getting more partners to make the transition to selling cloud solutions. What's more, HP CEO Meg Whitman appealed to partners to pick HP as its primary vendor in the new style of IT era.

One Cisco and HP partner, who asked not to be named, said he sees HP making big investments in partners and that his organization is now looking at partnering more closely with HP.

"We feel that the technology is very good coming out of HP and that we are getting great access to the top [executives] of their organization," said the partner.

The CEO for another Cisco and HP partner, who shuttled between the two partner conferences this week, said he views Cisco CEO John Chambers' long-standing commitment to the channel as a big advantage over HP. "Cisco has built the whole business over the last 20 years on partners," said the CEO. "What HP does is talk about what they are going to do. They talk about the commitment but they haven't demonstrated the level of commitment that Cisco has over the last 20 years."