Cisco Touts Partner Opportunities With SmartNet

Gone are the days of Cisco SmartNet being just a technical support and hardware maintenance service. In fact, according to Raja Sundaram, vice president of worldwide partners and alliances for Cisco's services organization, SmartNet, along with related offerings like SmartNet Total Care, have grown to represent a significant -- and very lucrative -- opportunity for Cisco's some 68,000 channel partners.

In a recent interview with CRN, Sundaram said Cisco -- cognizant of the fact that nearly 70 percent of its partners' revenue today come from services -- has taken several steps to ensure that the services opportunities it lays out before its partners are rich ones.

And chief among those opportunities, he said, is SmartNet Total Care, a sort of sister service to SmartNet that elevates the basic maintenance and support services Cisco provides. With SmartNet Total Care, customers' networks are equipped with a network collector that gathers information, such as memory details or any potential security vulnerabilities, about the various devices running on that network. Those device diagnostics are then fed into a Cisco portal, which is used to give customers better insight into their network and, ultimately, the ability to make better decisions.

[Related: New Lease On Life? Curvature Pits Its NetSure Tech Support Service Against Cisco's SmartNet]

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When it comes to the partner opportunity with Total Care, there are several, Sundaram said. Cisco solution providers can either resell Total Care on behalf of Cisco, or they can rebrand the service as their own and wrap their own professional services around the Total Care offering -- a model Cisco has dubbed Partner Support Services.

Either model, Sundaram said, affords partners an opportunity to bolster their own services practice, and to provide customers with deeper insight into the state of the devices running on their networks.

"Partners have access to those insights, and have the opportunity to deliver professional services and to go to the customer to say, 'Hey, in the past six months you have had three security vulnerabilities. Let me do a security posture assessment for you,' " Sundaram said. "The client wins and the partner wins."

Jamie O'Brien, director of licensing at MCPc, a Cleveland-based solution provider and Cisco Gold partner, said Smart Net Total Care has been a major catalyst for growth within MCPc's overall services business.

"We will take SmartNet Total Care components, add MCPc's support services within that specific environment and, on top of that, also offer SmartNet assessment services," O'Brien said. "So you get a real blend of all these layers of value-add around SmartNet, both on the post- and the pre-sales side."

O'Brien said MCPc will sometimes leverage the data it receives through the Total Care program to offer its customers quarterly business reviews and other items that shed light on the inner workings of their infrastructure.

In addition, MCPc has created its own spin-off service to Smart Net. Called SmartNet assessments, MCPc will help customers determine which types of Smart Net agreement -- i.e., a multiyear or otherwise -- and which specific devices should be covered by the service.

"The complexity of some customers' environments really leads to an environment where it can be complex to manage SmartNet," O'Brien said. "So we will provide different coverage recommendations, we will provide recommendations on standard coverage levels and we might even recommend no coverage at all for certain devices."

O'Brien said these additional services from MCPc allow customers to feel like they are squeezing more value out of their SmartNet agreement, overall. He said MCPc over the past 12 months has seen a "significant" increase in the number of customers consuming either its SmartNet Total Care or its SmartNet assessments service.

"It's not that [customers] think they are paying too much for SmartNet," O'Brien said. "They just want make their dollar stretch further."

This article originally appeared as an exclusive on the CRN Tech News App for iOS and Windows 8.