CRN Exclusive: Cisco, Avant Promote Cisco Powered Cloud To Telecom Channel

Cloud broker and master agent Avant Communications on Wednesday teamed up with Cisco to tout the power of providers of Cisco Powered cloud services to solution provider partners.

Chicago-based master agent Avant -- which aggregates cloud solutions from more than 70 global cloud service providers, including providers of Cisco Powered cloud services -- wants to help traditional telecom agent partners make the transition to the cloud. This week, Cisco is recognizing Avant as the largest aggregator of Cisco Powered cloud solutions.

"We are taking names that aren't necessarily household names, and really helping drive that name and [those] solutions to some of the world's largest VARs and the most successful trusted advisers -- the solution providers," said Avant President Drew Lydecker.

[Related: The Role Of The Cloud Broker: Solution Providers Have The Inside Track]

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Of Avant's large portfolio of providers, the master agent is seeing success and growth within its group of Cisco Powered cloud service providers, including NTT/Dimension Data, Peak 10, Quest and West IP Communications.

Peak 10, a Cisco Powered cloud data center provider and Avant partner based in Charlotte, N.C., introduced Avant to the concept of Cisco Powered cloud solutions, said Steve Harris, senior vice president for Peak 10's National Partner Alliance.

"We played matchmaker at first because we thought it would be a perfect fit for them as [Avant] continued to move forward into the cloud space," Harris said.

Cisco has built its business on selling hardware, but as the IT industry rapidly evolves in favor of software and cloud, the IT behemoth has had to transform its business, too, he said.

Cisco's channel has consisted of traditional hardware VARs. Avant, on the other hand, has had a channel full of telecom agent partners and smaller solution providers that have primarily made a living from selling networking services. But now, the telecom agent channel has begun dabbling in cloud services.

"The value for Cisco in partnering with Avant is they are going into a whole new set of [partners] that can resell Cisco services that they never attacked before," Harris said.

Peak 10 sees tremendous value in working with the telecom agent channel, too.

"I don't have the resources to manage hundreds of small agents, but that's where Avant provides that value. Avant is giving Peak 10 and Cisco the ability to engage in this new opportunity with [telecom partners]," he said.

As customers are aggressively moving to cloud, the reseller community wants to know which kind of these services to offer -- and how to offer them, said Steve Benvenuto, senior director of sales and business development for Cisco’s cloud group.

"This is where Avant comes in," he said. "They can work with our [Cisco Powered] cloud providers, aggregate these services, and help the resellers understand how to prospect and ultimately how to sell into their customer base."

Via the relationship between Avant and Cisco, Avant offers resources to help solution provider partners understand what a Cisco Powered cloud service provider can bring to the table, compared with competing cloud service providers.

"We are helping large VARs and trusted [solution] providers not only understand Cisco Powered cloud providers, but [to] go to market confidently with them. … It's all about training everyone that wants to get into this game and giving them every tool possible so they are educated when they talk to their customers," Avant's Lydecker said.

Cisco Powered cloud services go through a stringent technical auditing process, including validating architecture and assessing operations, according to the company. Cisco Powered cloud solutions include several kinds of cloud offerings, such as Infrastructure-as-a-Service, disaster recovery as a service, hosted collaboration and desktop as a service. There are about 250 Cisco Powered cloud certified service providers, according to Cisco's Benvenuto.

Cisco is working on expanding its partner ecosystem and facilitating a partner-to-partner approach, he said.

"This is another unique relationship with a partner that allows us to expand our ecosystem," Benvenuto said.