18 New Ways For Cisco Partners To Make Bank

Cisco On The Offensive

With two major conferences in six weeks, networking giant Cisco Systems unleashed a barrage of ways partners can make money through hardware, software, services and financing that have partners applauding.

The networking giant upheld April's Cisco Partner Summit theme of "Be Bold" by releasing services and incentives and giving out free collaboration tools for solution providers to capture recurring revenue. This week, Cisco pushed its Intercloud strategy at Cisco Live by releasing incentives, hardware and more services around cloud. A focus throughout both events was security and software.

Here, 18 new ways the vendor is making it more lucrative to be a Cisco partner.

Free Collaboration Tools For All

Rowan Trollope, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's Collaboration Technology Group, shocked the audience at the partner summit when he said, "We're going to offer to all of our partners, for free, all of Cisco's cloud collaboration portfolio."

For up to 250 users per company, Cisco is handing out WebEx, enterprise-grade Spark and collaboration meeting rooms with video bridging in the cloud that can be delivered as a service to customers.

"They haven't really ever done this before -- it's huge," said Chris Bottger, senior vice president of collaboration services at IVCi, a Hauppauge, N.Y.-based solution provider and Cisco partner. "We went through it, it costs us thousands of thousands of dollars to just run [WebEx] internally and now that's all going away."

$1 Million Up For Grabs

Cisco is pushing partners to become experts around the free collaboration tools they just received by offering $1 million of incentives for partners who sign up customers starting in the fourth quarter of the current fiscal year, according to Richard McLeod, senior director of worldwide collaboration channel sales.

"We're putting $1 million in the bank for partner resellers to go forward and be fruitful selling Spark and selling collaboration meeting rooms," said McLeod. "As they book those in Q4, those will accrue points to draw down out of that million-dollar bank account."

The $1 million is through the Cisco Rewards Program, where partners earn points for selling products and solutions, which can then be redeemed.

Network-as-a-Sensor Incentives

Cisco launched a new incentive promotion for Network-as-a-Sensor bundles, giving partners an additional 10 percent discount as part of the networking giant's new "security everywhere" approach unveiled at Cisco Live.

Cisco is embedding security throughout its extended network by adding more sensors, more control points and spreading advanced threat protection across the infrastructure. To increase visibility and control, Cisco is focusing on using the network as a "sensor and enforcer" and has embedded multiple security technologies into its network.

"We have a lot of focus here on bigger opportunities, higher profitability and incentives to help partners," said Al Jacobellis, director of worldwide partner strategy and security solutions at Cisco.

7 Service Solutions

Cisco launched a total of seven new professional services for partners to take to market. Partners were most excited about the new Cloud-Consumption-as-a-Service opportunity, through which partners can identify a customer's cloud consumption -- typically finding more cloud usage than a customer expects -- and then develop a cloud strategy the customer can implement.

Cisco executives said the software-only service can produce results in just two weeks.

The other services now available include UCS Director FastStart, Intercloud Fabric for Business FastStart, Cloud On-Boarding Solution, ServiceGrid Professional Services, Energy Management Discovery Service and Cloud Threat Defense Service.

The networking giant says even more professional services will be unveiled later this year.

Security Proof Of Concepts Incentive

To drive security, Cisco is giving incentives to partners to conduct proof of concept and security assessments.

Cisco conducts an annual survey on partner profitability and discovered that security architectures is the most profitable business because of the "rich" services that can be wrapped around it, according to Ken Trombetta, vice president of Cisco worldwide channels.

"We know that it's an extremely effective way to sell security if you can go in and do a proof of value or proof of concept," said Trombetta. "So we're providing our partners at no charge [the ability] to actually put those in a customer's network and then if they do the security assessment and provide the security assessment posture, we will actually pay our partners to do that."

Bye-Bye, Costly Audits

Partners enrolled in the Cloud and Managed Service Program weren't happy about having to go through a rigorous, costly audit on an annual basis. When Cisco unveiled a revamped CMSP 2.0 at the summit, partners were relieved to hear the program loosened the audit process to only once every three years.

"They were holding a renewal audit to the same standard of a new audit, so we complained about it because of the time and effort that it requires," said Bottger. "We said, 'You can't hold a renewal to the same standards because unless we did something really badly wrong, there's no reason why we shouldn't be able to get it again.' Cisco listened to that and made it for every three years."

Intercloud Marketplace

Opening this fall, Cisco's Intercloud Marketplace will play a huge channel role as Cisco transitions from hardware to software.

"Software is growing about twice as fast right now as hardware," said Bruce Klein, senior vice president of Cisco's worldwide partner organization, at the summit.

The marketplace will be a one-stop shop for applications and services running across partners' clouds that are part of Intercloud. Everything that runs on OpenStack will be available.

"It's allowing us to be able to verticalize and integrate into the other clouds," said Jeff Spalding, COO of Charlotte, N.C.-based Peak 10. "We get our front end … but we leverage the back end -- in this case the Cisco cloud -- which we would have never be able to build ourselves."

Application Developers Building New Software For Internet Of Everything

Application developers now have a stake in Cisco's Intercloud strategy, which means there are huge opportunities for solution providers down the line, said Nick Earle, senior vice president of global cloud and managed services sales.

With the introduction of a new program for application developers, channel partners will have the ability to resell the components to retain margins or work with end users to build solutions through the new Intercloud Marketplace.

At Cisco Live, the networking giant revealed the first wave of 35 "hand-picked" independent software vendors (ISVs) to lead the charge of creating cloud services for Intercloud geared around the emerging Internet-of-Everything market. The ISVs are focused on building "next generation" developer platforms, big data and analytics and IoE cloud services.

Software Partner Program

Solution providers are going to start seeing better rewards and benefits tied to partners' software investments through Cisco's new Software Partner Program.

The program, which falls under the umbrella of the Cisco Partner Program, includes market development funds, incentives and Cisco's Value Incentive Program (VIP) rebates. It introduces three software-focused roles a partner can play within the Cisco partner ecosystem -- software life-cycle adviser, software integrator and consultant.

Specifics on the program have yet to be revealed, with the program set to launch at the beginning of 2016.

Firepower 9300 Integrated Security Platform

Cisco unleashed a new Firepower 9300 Integrated Security Platform "purpose-built for service providers" for partners to take to market.

"It gives you that carrier-grade platform for delivering service provider security services," said Brian Korn, senior marketing manager of product and solutions at Cisco.

The high-performance, scalable and modular multi-services platform can scale security for increased data flows to help businesses deal with accelerated service demands and carrier class requirements, according to Korn.

Expanded Nexus 3000 Switch Portfolio

The networking giant unveiled two new Nexus 3000 top rack switches for partners that will be available in the third quarter of the current fiscal year. The switches support 10/25/40/50/100 Gb port speeds for "next generation" cloud data centers, according to a Cisco release.

The spine switches are Nexus 3232C which delivers 32-port 100 Gb, while the Nexus 3264Q is a 64-port 40 Gb.

OpenStack Bundle

Cisco is pushing its private cloud initiative by launching a new OpenStack-based managed services bundle to jump-start partners' ability to make money selling private cloud and hybrid solutions.

Through the bundle, partners can sell offerings that provide the hardware and subscription service necessary to run Cisco's OpenStack-based private cloud.

"The partners get the opportunity to resell the hardware, resell the bundle, help the customers get that started, and they also get that ongoing revenue stream from the subscription," Scott Sanchez, director of OpenStack strategy at Cisco, told CRN during the launch.

Cisco also recently acquired OpenStack specialist Piston Cloud Computing to enhance its capabilities around cloud automation, availability and scale to complement its Intercloud strategy and OpenStack Private Cloud.

Cisco's Making Changes To Sales Team's Compensation

Incoming CEO Chuck Robbins says he's changing Cisco's internal sales compensation to increase earnings for direct reps who push more consumption of partner-provided services. Sales reps will have an incentive to sell partner services built on Cisco products.

Robert Keblusek, senior vice president of business development at Downers Grove, Ill.-based Sentinel Technologies, who is a certified Cisco Powered Cloud and Managed Services provider, said the change was needed because he feels there can be "disincentives" for the Cisco sales force if they're not on the same page with his own sales team.

"It's very intelligent for Cisco to make sure a mechanism is in place that if a customer goes to a Cisco-powered cloud like ours, that [Cisco's] sales people have compensation neutrality," said Keblusek.

New Sales Playbook

Cisco is rolling out a new sales playbook for partners to push a "security-driven network refresh," said Rob Soderbery, senior vice president of enterprise products and solutions, while on stage at the partner summit.

The playbook gives partners tools and resources along with a step-by-step path of how to win sales, starting with basic training, and then practice development, according to Soderbery. Cisco gave no time frame of when the playbook will be released.

ACI Opportunities

Over the seven-week period from Cisco Partner Summit to Cisco Live, Cisco made significant strides in security, including fully integrating its ACI software-defined networking technology with its FirePower next-generation intrusion prevention system, which it says will give partners opportunities in the data center by allowing customers to build secure infrastructures.

"When you lead a conversation by showing the value that ACI can provide and talking about how the security challenge is now solved with Firepower integration, you increase your chances of solving real customer challenges or pain points," said Josh Jones, senior architect of network security at solution provider Insight Enterprises. "No other vendors in the market can offer a complete end-to-end solution … without tapping into third-party ecosystems."

Hosted Identity Services

A new cloud-delivered service became available for channel partners to resell called Hosted Identity Services for Cisco's Identity Services Engine (ISE), a security policy management platform that unifies and automates secure network access control. The hosted service speeds up time to deployment and streamlines enterprise mobility experiences, said Cisco's Korn.

"Hosted Identity Services provides rich context that can be used for the policies deployed on your network, and it lets you get to the identity behind the device and user," said Korn. "We're taking it to the cloud, running it as a service. You'll now have the choice of running ISE on-premise or delivering ISE in the cloud as a service."

The service is available to partners enrolled in the Cisco Services Partner Program.

New IoT And Cloud Certifications

Cisco wants its partner community ready to pounce on the projected $19 trillion Internet of Things opportunities beginning to emerge around the world.

To win new customers and projects, Cisco launched IoT and cloud training programs to give partners the skills needed to capture revenues opportunities that were nonexistent before on the operational technology side of the market, such as with industrial companies.

The new Cisco Certified Network Associate Industrial IoT certification is a lab-based training program for solution providers to learn how to build, manage and operate converged industrial networking.

The Cisco Certified Network Associate Cloud and Cisco Certified Network Professional Cloud certifications aim at helping partners build private and hybrid cloud-based Infrastructure-as-a-Service solutions.

Igniting Security

Trombetta said partners who register security-focused deals through Cisco's Security Ignite Respiration Program stand to gain the biggest discounts across the board.

"That program actually now provides the deepest discounts across all the architecture across any other program," said Trombetta. "We enhanced our training rebates because we certainly want to get out there with all the ASA install base that we have."

Robert Keblusek, senior vice president of business development at Downers Grove, Ill.-based Sentinel Technologies, said his Cisco security business is seeing double-digit growth year over year.

"For a while, Cisco had great security products but not a whole lot of sizzle. … Cisco today seems to have a whole lot of sizzle behind their security offerings for partners," said Keblusek.