Chuck Robbins: Cisco SMB Portfolio No Longer An 'Enterprise Mini-Me Strategy'

‘We used to joke that we had an enterprise mini-me strategy. We would take enterprise products and paint them a different color. In this case, we have purpose-built solutions,’ Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins tells CRN at the 2019 Partner Summit.


Cisco on Wednesday unveiled its new brand to help channel partners go after more small to midsized business customers: Cisco Designed for Business.

Cisco Designed for Business is a curated portfolio that includes traditional products, such as Meraki and WebEx, and other offerings that have been specifically created and priced for small business customers, Marc Monday, global head of small business at Cisco, said at the tech giant's 2019 Partner Summit in Las Vegas.

Cisco purchased Linksys in 2003 for $500 million as a networking option for the SMB market but sold the assets to Belkin in 2013. After selling Linksys, Cisco's SMB offerings consisted of a class of switches and routers that were a different color than the enterprise portfolio, said Faisal Bhutto, executive vice president of enterprise networking, cloud and cybersecurity for Computex, a Cisco Gold Quad Master-level partner.

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Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins told CRN at this year's partner summit that the company's efforts around targeting SMB customers is different than its previous efforts because the company has developed a "holistic" strategy as opposed to taking what it already had and trying to retro-fit those solutions for SMBs.

"We used to joke that we had an enterprise mini-me strategy. We would take enterprise products and paint them a different color," Robbins said. "In this case, we have purpose-built solutions and our team has done a great job of segmenting our customers and working with our partners to define programs, sales strategies, and incentives that all line up with what's needed in that segment. We have a huge opportunity for share there, and we are going to need to drive our programs very effectively with our partners."

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Houston-based Computex thinks that the Meraki portfolio will be the best fit for small business customers. The firm is having a lot of success selling Meraki solutions to its own base of small business clients, said Worth Davis, CTO for Computex.

"Meraki fits very well into the S in SMB, but it's been moving up into the midmarket," Bhutto said. "I think this time around, if Cisco can just take [Meraki] and focus on the down-market, it will play well since they started out competing with Ubiquiti and others."

Cisco Designed for Business brand includes Webex for Collaboration; Firepower, Umbrella and DUO for Security; UCS and Hyperflex Edge for small-scale application compute; Cisco Business for on-prem networking; Meraki Go for easy, app-managed cloud Wi-Fi. New product developments include Cisco Business Wireless Access Points and a new Meraki Go offering. Cisco is also making the Catalyst 1K switch affordable for small businesses, the company said.

SMB customers can purchase Cisco Designed For Business solutions through their trusted partner, whether that's a VAR, a distributor, or if they prefer to buy digitally through a partner via a marketplace, Monday said.

"It's important for us to meet them where they are, and then meet them with the channel partners they prefer to work with," he said.

Partners should expect Cisco to drive customer awareness for the new portfolio, as well a dedicated partner-focused sales force for small business.

"We need to de-mystify the idea that we are too expensive and too complex. It's just not true," Monday said. "For partners, there's virtue in the bigness and support of Cisco."

Cisco has "barely scratched the surface" on the SMB opportunity, Jim Walsh, Cisco's senior vice president of growth marketing, told partners during his keynote on Wednesday. Cisco Designed for Business was designed to make it easier to buy, manage, and support IT and the effort includes new marketing tools and resources for partners, he said.

"Small businesses don't wake up thinking about technology, they are thinking about how they are going to drive business," Walsh said. "We need to make it easy for them to connect, compute, and collaborate securely."