Cisco Giving Partners More Firepower To Win Deals, Launches UCS Promotion Against HPE Servers

Cisco is taking a more aggressive stance against rivals, including Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Cisco channel partners stand to benefit. The networking giant's new HPE Competitive Promo is aimed at boosting Cisco's Unified Computing System server wins by enabling channel partners to win business in tightly competitive deals.

The HPE program gives Cisco partners competitive UCS pricing, deal protection and higher partner gross margins when competing head-to-head against HPE, according to Cisco. The deal must be registered with Cisco's Opportunity Incentive Program (OIP) – Hunting or the Teaming Incentive Program (TIP).

At the same time, Cisco global channel chief Wendy Bahr said Cisco has enhanced its Value Incentive Program rebates to help make UCS deals more profitable, and encouraged channel partners to seek pricing help if they find themselves in a battle with any competitor's solution in the field.

"We know that this is a tough market right now to sell into, and we want increase growth and profitability, so we simplified VIP around UCS and we added a two percent bonus for eligible partners on new account breakaway, but also migration. Or if it’s a super-competitive offer, I don't know, say against somebody like HPE – you've got to contact us about the upfront discounts you can use instead to ensure we win that business together.’

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[Related: Cisco Pledges Cheaper On-Premise Storage Compared To AWS Cloud With New UCS S-Series Server]

"We had heard from a few partners, 'Well, we don’t think you're going to go there in terms of the discount.' And we said, 'Bring us the deal. We fight hard,'" Bahr further clarified in an interview with CRN. "It's basically an acknowledgment [that] when you're in a hard-fought space like the server space that you need to be aggressive to win the business. I didn’t want partners to think if they're in a competitive bout that we didn’t have a promotion that would offer them the best opportunity to win the business … If you've got a competitive situation, we've got a promotion we can apply."

HPE declined to comment.

Kent MacDonald, vice president of business development at Long View Systems, Calgary, Alberta, a Cisco Gold Partner, said Cisco is taking a hard-edge approach to help accelerate partner sales around specific technology in order to be, "disruptive to the install base of the HPEs of the world and the Dells of the world."

"It's a little more aggressive approach than what we've seen from Cisco historically to really be targeting a competitor," said MacDonald. "There's nothing wrong with it, it's just [got more intent] than we've seen from them historically targeting new logos or displacing competitors."

Through promotions like Cisco's SmartPlay bundles – which are limited time, special-priced promotional offers – Cisco is striving to pull partners deals across the goal line against the competition. Bahr said partners can still use Cisco's popular Value Incentive Program (VIP) along with the special pricing offers.

At Partner Summit 2016 in San Francisco last week, Cisco unveiled its new HPE Competitive Promo for channel partners to take to market when vying for UCS deals. The new promo is a global deal registration program to help Cisco partners win competitive UCS deals against HPE servers.

Robert Keblusek, CTO of Sentinel Technologies, Downers Grove, Ill., a Cisco Gold partner ranked No. 131 on the 2016 CRN Solution Provider 500, said the HPE promotion would "help tremendously" in competitive situations.

"Cisco servers are a premium product on the market; they are proven and offer a number of technical advantages. Upfront and recurring cost is a consideration in nearly every situation. By helping keep the costs competitive, customers can look at the merits of the platform as a primary decision point. When that happens, we see customers choose Cisco in nearly every situation," said Keblusek.

The goal of the promotion is to drive UCS growth in the channel as Cisco launches its new storage-optimized S-Series server. On Nov. 1, Cisco revealed its new UCS S-Series designed to address the needs of data-intensive workloads, touting that it can lower total cost of ownership by more than 50 percent compared to storing active data in the AWS public cloud.

Cisco executives said the UCS S3260 has a long-term total cost of ownership (TCO) savings of 56 percent over AWS' Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) when looking at active data in a three-year analysis of the S-Series versus the AWS S3. To house 420 TB of cloud storage for three years on Amazon S3 costs around $550,000, compared with about $250,000 to house the data on the on-premises S-Series, according to Cisco.

"A lot of customers really end up being surprised by the cost of active data in the cloud, and it’s something we're trying to draw attention to. There's a perception that the cloud is not only faster, but also a lower cost versus on-premise and that's just not the case," said Todd Brannon, director of product marketing at Cisco, in an interview with CRN.

The UCS S3260 is second-generation technology based on Cisco's C3160 rack server, which was released in 2014. The UCS S3260 has up to 600 TB of storage capacity, 90 TB of solid state drive flash, cache-acceleration capabilities and provides scaling with Cisco's UCS Manager software and unified input/output (I/O) connectivity for any storage type.

The company will expand the S-Series portfolio sometime in 2017, according to Mohr, with the UCS S3260 being the anchor.