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New Cisco Wi-Fi 6 Technology Will Help Partners Push 'Next-Gen, Wireless' World

‘This isn't just another speeds and feeds upgrade. There's a lot of opportunities to talk to our customers about the nature of Wi-Fi 6, the implications for their infrastructure, and map that journey from the legacy infrastructure they have to the future,’ according to one Cisco partner.

Cisco Systems has revealed a new line of products and partnerships to help partners and customers grasp "connected everything" opportunities through Wi-Fi 6 technology.

But Cisco is encouraging the channel to not just look at its new wireless offerings as a hardware refresh opportunity. Instead, partners can use the new offerings to help their business clients move into the next-gen wireless world that will include AI, IoT, and virtual reality, while keeping an eye on customer experience and the entire lifecycle, said Nirav Sheth, vice president of Cisco's Global Partner Organization.

"The journey for customers doesn’t begin when the product is bought. It's when they activate and drive value from the software capabilities," Sheth said. "Customers are looking to embrace technology opportunities and they are looking to their partners for help … We want to make sure partners are monetizing the lifecycle opportunity."

[Related: Cisco CEO: ‘People Didn't Think We Could Do' Network Subscriptions ]  

Cisco on Monday unveiled two new Wi-Fi 6-capable access points for both its Catalyst and Meraki portfolios; the Catalyst 9100 and the Meraki MR 45/55. The newest access points contain baked-in security and can communication with popular IoT protocols, such as BLE Zigbee and Thread, according to Cisco. The access points have been built on programmable chipsets that lets partners take advantage of deeper analytics and build their own solutions on top of the product, Cisco said. The latest access points series will make it easy for users to toggle between WiFi and 5G.

Customers are already starting to recognize the potential impact that 5G will have on their businesses. It's not like in the early days of 4G where customers had to be "dragged kicking and screaming" in wireless, said Gordon Thomson, vice president of worldwide sales, enterprise networking, for Cisco.

"It's now about Wi-Fi first as a way to drive business innovation," he said. "Once people see the endgame – getting businesses closer to their customers or making the employee experience more seamless – they become very interested."

Today's current wireless technology standard -- 802.11ac -- and 4G haven't been integrated together in the same way that 802.11ax – also known as Wi-Fi 6 – will be integrated with 5G, Thomson said. Cisco's latest wireless products, however, will be tightly coupled with 5G.

Solution provider Denali Advanced Integration was recently brought on to Cisco's exclusive Advanced lifecycle Advisor Program because of the company's focus on the entire customer experience. Denali is excited about the opportunities that Wi-Fi 6 will bring because it will open the door for more value-added services, like project management, said Clayton Daffron - director of solution architecture for Denali.

"This isn't just another speeds and feeds upgrade. There's a lot of opportunities to talk to our customers about the nature of Wi-Fi 6, the implications for their infrastructure, and map that journey from the legacy infrastructure they have to the future," he said. "We want to make it a meaningful transition."

Alongside the new access points, Cisco revealed a brand-new core switch to unite wired and wireless environments, the Catalyst 9600. The latest switch to join the Catalyst portfolio will help ready customers for a multi-gig world, said Greg Dorai, vice president of wireless product management and strategy for Cisco.

Both of the company's new access points and the Catalyst 9600 core switch are available today through the channel, Cisco said.

Cisco also unveiled OpenRoaming, a new concept that creates an identify federation that connectivity providers, device makers, and venue owners can share to make joining a network as seamless as possible for end users, Dorai said.

Samuel Clements, mobility practice manager for Cisco partner Presidio, said that OpenRoaming presents a host of brand-new connectivity opportunities for partners.  

"Technologies like that will really help us bridge the gap between Wi-Fi 6 and 5G," he said. "It's really resonating well with customers because there tends to be a lot of confusion in the enterprise space today. Everyone wants to make sure they are securely and easily connected, and the start and stop between Wi-Fi 6 and 5G is incredibly topical."

The access points, core switch, and OpenRoaming technology rounds out the next-generation connectivity story for partners and businesses, Dorai said.

"This is the next-gen stack, and it’s a huge opportunity for partners," he said. "The entire network must be ready for new applications. It's a huge opportunity [for partners] to take a holistic network view."

Cisco said that partners can realize a pull-through sale on the size of a deal to increase by about six times when access points and switches are sold together. The company is offering incentive and rebate opportunities to partners selling multiple solutions, including the Account Breakaway Program, a deal registration program, the Migration Incentive Program to reward partners helping customers modernize their environments, and the Value Incentive Program, which includes all pieces of Cisco's intent-based networking portfolio, including the latest wireless offerings.

4G drove societal change a decade ago because it spurred the creation of smartphones, which in turn, drove business transformation with the Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend. 5G and Wi-Fi 6 will have the chance to drive the same kind of change that the iPhone had on society, Thomson said.

"It's a really big statement to make, but I really believe we are at the precipice of the biggest opportunity for enterprises to drive business transformation that we've ever had," he said.

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