Cisco Partners: InterCloud Strategy Still Fuzzy, But Peres Could Turn Things Around

Nearly two months have passed since Cisco's formal entry into the public cloud arena, but some Cisco partners say the details of the networking giant's InterCloud strategy are still fuzzy at best.

Solution providers, however, also tell CRN that the recent appointment of longtime Cisco channel chief Edison Peres to head up Cisco's new partner-focused cloud organization suggests answers are coming soon.

"When Cisco normally announces something, they immediately have a conference call the next day [with partners] and say 'here's the program, here's what the certifications look like and here's what you need to do to get this designation,'" said an executive at one Cisco Gold partner, who asked not to be named. "But with [InterCloud], there's been crickets."

[Related: Cisco Channel Kingpin Peres Tapped To Fast-Track InterCloud Initiative ]

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At its Global Partner Summit in March, Cisco committed $1 billion to rolling out InterCloud, a global network of connected public, private and hybrid clouds. Cisco itself is building a network of data centers to host cloud services including Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and will also host these services in partner-owned data centers – or what it calls InterCloud "nodes" -- that use Cisco gear.

Out of the gate, Cisco hosting partners include Telstra, Ingram Micro, Logicalis, European cloud company Canopy, Canadian service provider Allstream, and data center and IT solutions provider OnX Managed Services. Cisco said solution providers will be able to resell these services, under a white-label model, both from Cisco directly and its hosting partners.

But some solution providers – specifically those who have already invested in their own branded or Cisco Powered cloud offerings – are still concerned that InterCloud will pit them against a network of cloud providers of greater size and scale, including both Cisco itself and its InterCloud hosting partners.

The executive of the Cisco Gold partner said InterCloud could especially deal a blow to Cisco partners, like his company, who fall "in the middle" of the cloud services transformation, meaning that, unlike some partners, they've invested in building their own cloud services, but don't necessarily have the scale that Cisco InterCloud partners like Ingram Micro have.

"For people like us, who have been listening to [Cisco] all these years and have been moving to build our own cloud infrastructures ourselves – I feel like we did what everyone asked us to, and for those partners who didn't, [InterCloud] is a free pass to catch up," the partner said.

Other Cisco partners told CRN this week that questions remain around Cisco's InterCloud strategy.

"It was the first [Cisco] Partner Summit we went to where we felt like they didn’t have a very crisp message," said an executive of another Cisco Gold partner, who also requested anonymity. "They announced InterCloud, but partners were left asking 'well, what do we do with it and how do we position it? What's the talk track here?'"

The partner said the InterCloud announcement suggested that, more than anything, Cisco had recognized the need to stake its claim in the fast-moving public cloud services market.

"There is this race to project to the market 'hey we are in this game, we are investing in cloud in the billions,'" he said. "That's important, as people seem to be moving to Amazon or Google [public clouds] at a clip that I think is faster than companies like Cisco or HP thought."

When reached for comment, Cisco said further details regarding InterCloud will come to light at the Cisco Live event next week in San Francisco.

Meanwhile, Chuck Robbins, Cisco's senior vice presdient, Worldwide Field Operations, told CRN at Cisco Partner Summit that the company has begun "detailed planning sessions" with solution providers to ensure Cisco moves forward with InterCloud in a way that "doesn't create some competitive challenge" for partners.

NEXT: Peres' New Role Offers Partners A Sigh Of Relief

While questions around InterCloud remain, partners say the recent appointment of Cisco worldwide channel chief Edison Peres to head up the networking giant's new partner-focused cloud organization signals clarity is coming soon.

"We think it's a good sign," said David Powell, vice president of Managed and Cloud Services at TekLinks, a Birmingham, Ala.-based Cisco partner. "If partners were worried about the threat of being disintermediated or left out through a potentially a non-channel friendly approach, putting Edison in charge is a great step to eliminating those concerns."

Cisco last week said Peres, who's headed up Cisco's worldwide channel efforts for more than decade and in 2013 was named CRN's Top Channel Sales Leader of the year, is taking on a new role as senior vice president of Cloud and Managed Services.

In his new role, Peres will drive Cisco's partner recruitment and enablement efforts around InterCloud. In addition to onboarding new service providers to build out Cisco's InterCloud partner network, Peres told CRN last week that he will also dedicate time to helping existing Cisco partners transition to the cloud model and overcome the cash flow and other financial challenges that come with that shift.

Peres will report into Nick Earle, Cisco's senior vice president, Cloud Sales and Go To Market, which is a new cloud-focused unit within Cisco's broader services organization. Peres is specifically leading a subdivision of Earle's unit called the Cisco Cloud and Managed Services Organization (CMSO).

Powell said he expects Peres to apply the same level of channel advocacy in his new role, as he has for the past decade within Cisco's core partner organization.

"Almost all of the Cisco partner programs you can think of came from Edison," Powell said. "There is a track record there. You can look and say that there are many points in [Peres'] tenure where he was confronted to do either what's more partner-friendly or less partner-friendly. At every turn, he took the more partner-friendly choice."

Kent MacDonald, vice president of Converged Infrastructure at Cisco partner Long View Systems, said when Peres personally told partners about his move at the Cisco Partner Executive Exchange forum last week, solution providers were on the "verge of a standing ovation."

"For all of us who see InterCloud as part of our future, to know that [Peres] will have the channel stewardship in that program – I think we all breathed a bit of a collective sigh, knowing that we have such strong advocate taking on that role, because there was a gap there formally, in terms of seeing the channel role within the InterCloud messaging to-date," MacDonald said.

"[Peres' move] was very much reassuring to me that InterCloud is going to be enabler and a complement to where we are going, and not what I maybe feared at first, which is challenge and conflict, even thought that hasn't been Cisco's character historically," MacDonald continued.

"With Edison going over there, it further validates that partners are, as they always have been, a priority for Cisco."

Bob Cagnazzi, CEO of Presidio, a New York-based Cisco partner, agreed, telling CRN after Peres' move that it sends "a very strong message that InterCloud, true to Cisco's heritage, is going to be a very channel-led offering."

Edison told CRN last week that, in his new role, he will continue to work closely with Cisco's core channel organization.

"It's a lot of what I do today," Peres said of the new role. "But I am going to make a more concentrated effort in the spirit of where Cisco is trying to go."

Cisco said that Bruce Klein, senior vice president of Cisco's Worldwide Partner Organization, will take over Peres' former responsibilities moving forward.