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Cisco As-A-Service Strategy Is Taking ‘A Giant Leap Forward’: Partners

‘I’ve told Cisco: ‘you probably don’t hear this a lot, but you’ve just become the most agile solution in the market,’” one Cisco partner told CRN about Cisco Plus, the company’s consumption-based IT strategy.

Cisco in 2020 committed to delivering the majority of its portfolio “as a service” over time, and at Cisco Live virtual 2021, the vendor introduced its formal strategy to address the new ways of buying and consuming its hardware, software and services.

Cisco also on Tuesday introduced its first two new flexible consumption models for networking and hybrid cloud.

“Cisco is taking a giant leap forward by being incredible agile. They took their time, aligned with strategic partners, and they are saying: ‘partners, deliver this.’ And partners are intended to integrate it into what they already do -- that’s a pretty mature view for Cisco to take,” said Kent Christensen, practice director of virtualization and cloud for Cisco Master partner Insight.

Insight has been offering a flexible IT consumption model because demand has been growing from its enterprise customers. The Tempe, Ariz.-based solution provider has been working with Cisco’s technology partners, such as NetApp, to create Flexpod solutions delivered as a service.

“I’ve told Cisco: ‘you probably don’t hear this a lot, but you’ve just become the most agile solution in the market,’” Christensen said. That’s because partners can combine Cisco and vendors like NetApp in a consumption-based offering for customers right now, something competing vendors aren’t allowing, he added.

Cisco, led by CEO Chuck Robbins, has been talking about transitioning all pieces of the portfolio to as a service, but publicly talking about this shift and then rolling the directive to the sales team demonstrates how serious Cisco is about this transition, Christensen said.

The Cisco Plus strategy is “transformational” for partners like Insight, he said. “We‘re excited that Cisco is doing it and involving partners,” he said. “[Partners] are going to adopt this because I believe customers will be glad to know they don’t have to commit to something for four years. I think the market will accelerate as [customers] figure it out.”

[Related: Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins: COVID-19 Forcing As-A-Service Transition]

At its core, Cisco Plus is a financial model that will let more partners sell IT as a service, without cobbling together their own solutions and taking on added risk, partners told CRN.

Conscia Nederland, a systems integrator and Cisco partner based in Holland, has been involved in the pilot phase of Cisco Plus. Since its acquisition of Dutch cloud services provider Damecon, the firm had already been offering compute, VDI, and storage as a service to its customers.

“What we’re seeing with our customers is that IT is very important, but it’s not their core business,” said Jeffrey den Oudsten, solutions director, office of the CTO, for Conscia. “We’re seeing a lot of movement in customers saying they want to focus on their core businesses and they want predictable costs.”

Conscia has been working to build out its portfolio of as-a-service offerings, but the company has had to consider the risks associated with a new financial model and how to scale these environments, den Oudsten said. With Cisco Plus, he said, partners can have these conversations with Cisco: “Upfront, there’s already a lot of thinking done.”

The Cisco Plus networking-as-a-service (NaaS) model will let customers and partners operate and maintain their network, without owning, building and maintaining their own infrastructure. Cisco is rolling out a limited release of NaaS solutions year that will bring together networking, security and visibility services across access, WAN and cloud domains, in a pay-as-you-go fashion, said James Mobley, senior vice president of Cisco’s Network Services business unit.

The NaaS rollout will first include an as-a-service offering for secure access service edge (SASE), which will be available later this year, Mobley said.

The Cisco Plus Hybrid Cloud solution as-a-service includes Cisco’s entire data center compute, networking and storage portfolio, as well as third-party storage and software, which will bring together on-premise, edge and public cloud environments in a flexible consumption model.

Cisco Plus Hybrid Cloud will be available mid-year as a limited release in Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, UK and the U.S., Mobley said.

“This is a new business model that really brings the best of both worlds of Cisco, by integrating our hardware, software and services, which provides limitless opportunities for the different partners,” Alexandra Zagury, vice president of Partner Managed Services and as-a-service sales, told CRN.

The real value in the Cisco Plus strategy is in giving partners the option to build on these financially flexible solutions and include their own services, such as migration services, said Raphael Meyerowitz, engineering vice president, Office of the CTO, for New York-based Presidio.

Cisco Plus gives partners a “different angle” with their customers, Meyerowitz said. “[Partners] can wrap our own services around this.” he said. “It’s not just about landing the infrastructure on the floor -- we need to make sure customers are adopting the technology as well.”

Cisco Master ATP Partner Presidio has been offering up some infrastructure solutions and capacity on demand on a consumption-based model for customers for the past five years through Presidio Technology Capital, the company’s financial solutions group.

“What the past year has taught is that customers don’t necessarily want to part with all of their cash right away,” said. “Many customers want to pay for what they use.”

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