Cisco Takes Aim At Midmarket With New Business Edition 6000S Collaboration Platform

To help partners seize what it called a massive opportunity in the midmarket, Cisco on Tuesday launched the Business Edition 6000S, a new communications platform targeted specifically at smaller organizations.

"When you think about the early days of IP telephony, much of our success started in the enterprise. We did really, really well there," said Pat Romzek, vice president of Collaboration Sales at Cisco, at the 2014 Cisco Collaboration Summit in Los Angeles. "We sold into the midmarket, but we essentially sold the same products into the midmarket as we did into enterprise."

With the Business Edition 6000S -- which was designed specifically for organizations with between 25 and 150 users -- that's all changed, said Romzek.

[Related: Chambers: When It Comes To Collaboration, We're A Different Cisco ]

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The idea is that the Business Edition 6000S offers the same robust collaboration and unified communications (UC) applications as the Business Edition 6000, a similar Cisco platform that's designed for organizations with up to 1,000 users but in a package that's more affordable and easier to deploy.

Overall, Romzek said the Business Edition 6000S is roughly 22 percent less expensive to deploy than the Business Edition 6000.

While these savings, in part, come from the Business Edition 6000S having a lower price-per-user than other Cisco Business Edition platforms, they are more a result of the Business Edition 6000S taking significantly less time to deploy, Romzek said.

This, he continued, is because solution providers tend to charge customers less for a platform when the deployment services aren't as lengthy or complex. Romzek said the Business Edition 6000S platform typically takes between two and three days to deploy, compared to the six days it generally takes for other, larger-scale Business Edition platforms.

"[Customers] buy this as a package from a partner, which includes the hardware, software and deployment," Romzek said.

What's making the Business Edition 6000S so quick to deploy, Romzek continued, is Cisco's new "Config to Order Portal," a web-based tool that lets partners preconfigure and customize the platform, and then share those configurations with authorized Cisco distributors, including ComStor and Ingram Micro. That way, Romzek said, distributors can customize the Business Edition 6000S before handing it off to a solution provider, cutting down significantly on the time it takes the partner to configure and install the platform at a customer site.

Like the Business Edition 6000 and the even larger-scale Business Edition 7000, the Business Edition 6000S bundles multiple Cisco collaboration applications, such as voice, video, instant messaging and paging, into a single Cisco Integrated Services Router (ISR).

In the case of the Business Edition 6000S, that router is the ISR 2921, which, in addition to the collaboration tools, delivers Cisco's routing, security and wireless services.

Romzek said Cisco's midmarket attack, underpinned by products like the Business Edition 6000S, is being driven entirely by partners. He said Cisco has recruited more than 400 midmarket-focused partners over the last year, and also is working on enabling and training its existing enterprise partners to move down market.

"We educated 4,000 partners over the last year or so in workshops in 35 countries and 100 different cities," Romzek said.

Tina Jennings, director of business development at CompuNet, a Salt Lake City-based Cisco partner, said her company has a solid track record selling the Business Edition 6000 platform, but was having a hard time positioning the product -- largely because of cost -- to companies with 150 or fewer users.

The new Business Edition 6000S, she said, solves that problem.

"We could price [the Business Edition 6000] very competitively, but our biggest problem was we were consistently charging 20 percent to 25 percent more on the professional services side," Jennings said. "[The Business Edition 6000S] enables us to really go in and, from the very beginning, talk to the simplicity ... and show that it's not going to cost [customers] an arm and a leg."

Cisco has rolled out a number of other collaboration products this year targeted at the SMB or midmarket space. In March, the San Jose, Calif.-based networking giant introduced its TelePresence SX10 Quick Set, a plug-and-play TelePresence system that lets smaller organizations leverage the hardware they already have in place to launch new videoconferencing services.

Cisco said the new Business Edition 6000S will be available in the first half of 2015.