Cisco To Partners: Invest In Apps, Services Skills

“[We&'re taking] a lot of the functions that used to exist in the applications or exist in middleware or the operating system and moving them into the network,” said John Chambers, president and CEO of San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco, describing the vendor&'s Integrated Information Network (IIN) strategy during a keynote address. “In essence, [the network] has become the platform that will deliver the applications and services to the users,” he said.

The shift from an IT architecture that supports individual application silos with dedicated resources to a paradigm where the network acts as a platform to tie applications to virtualized server and storage resources and communicate between them will create productivity gains and operational savings for customers, Cisco executives said. But, they added, this also means partners must choose between one of two business models: the broadly focused “integrated infrastructure provider” that can provide services across a range of technologies, or a deep-dive technology specialist.

Ahead of its next Cisco Partner Summit, slated for March, the vendor is considering how to modify its broader certification requirements to support a shift to the IIN strategy, said Keith Goodwin, Cisco&'s senior vice president of worldwide channels.

The majority of partners will need to adjust their strategies and make training investments—moves Cisco supports via partner incentives and plans for a revamped specialization curriculum, said Edison Peres, vice president of worldwide channel programs. “About 70 percent of our partners are currently sitting in the middle of the two [business models], which is a dangerous place to be,” Peres said. Of those 70 percent, about 20 percent will either be bought or go out of business because the investments required in sales, technical and services skills will be too high, he said.

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Some partners are already on the path toward building applications-focused solutions. NetXperts, San Ramon, Calif., derives upward of 60 percent of its revenue from consulting services, said Gary Nordine, president and CEO. “Applications work is what drives our consulting,” he said.