CRN Exclusive: Cisco Network Leader Says Partners Need To Change Service Offerings For 'Massive' DNA Opportunities

Cisco's New DNA

Cisco's network leader says channel partners will need to adjust the type of services they offer in order to cash in on the "massive" services opportunities around its new Digital Network Architecture (DNA).

"We're creating the ability to operate at the speed of software," said Jeff Reed, senior vice president of Network Infrastructure and Solutions at Cisco, in an interview with CRN at Cisco Live in Las Vegas this week. "To me it’s a little bit of a change in what type of services [partners offer] … There's actually more areas to build on top of, but some of them will be different from what they did in the past."

Reed dives into the details with CRN about the services partners should be building around DNA and why the channel shouldn't fear software monetization.

How will channel partners be able to differentiate themselves from other Cisco partners as you monetize software?

In terms of what partners can add above and beyond what Cisco is adding, to me it’s a little bit of a change in what type of services [partners offer]. There's a set of things they've done to-date that are going to be automated through this capability. Quality of Service (QoS) implementation -- we're looking at how to extract that, how to make that simpler, but on top of that there's a ton of opportunity.

[Partners] should invest in software assets and software developers that can start building capabilities on top of the network and that's the type of stuff that was essentially impossible to do in the past. You couldn't have built that because of the complexity, the number of devices – it was almost impossible. But now the partners will be able to come in and customize the network. And not customize it on the configuration level necessarily, but customize it at the policy and integration level in a way that's never been done before. To me that's really where there's a big opportunity.

Is there a percentage increase figure you can give to show just how much more service opportunities revenue you're opening up with DNA? Is it 100 percent more?

I don’t know if it's 100 percent out of the gate, but over time, that’s the type of addressable market we're looking at.

If you look at the network and the spending in the network, it's dwarfed by all the other spend[ing] around it. if you look at the network equipment versus 'what's all the cost in terms of implementing and operating networks'. We're a fraction of that overall network expense. I don't want to really put a number on it right now, but if I look at the potential -- it's huge. Many times over quite frankly.

Why is this new addressable market opportunity for partners so large?

The network has never been more important. You think about the opportunities for us to add value -- I'm a geeky-networking engineer guy -- the opportunities for me and my brethren out there to add value to the line of businesses have never been greater.

We think there's a massive opportunity for us to help customers. And as we help customers, we're doing that lock-step with partners and looking to grow the overall addressable market between the two of us.

Plus, there's just a big opportunity around DNA services. If you think about these types of capabilities in DNA, it's going to have implications [for] your network design – partners are perfectly suited to helping with that transition.

How are you enabling partners to better sell DNA?

So we have this DNA Readiness Model where we want to work with partners on how they help customers move to the cloud. There's five steps and six things we're looking at in each step – automation, analytics, etc. So it becomes a great place for partners to come in and help do an assessment of the customers' environments and what do they need to do in each one of those areas to get to the next level of a more and more digital-ready network. There's actually more areas to build on top of, but some of them will be different from what [partners] did in the past.

How fast should partners get their own staff updated on the new CCIE and Cisco DNA-focused certifications?

I don’t want to say as fast as possible, but it would be great if the partners look at it like, 'Who are the set of folks that are going to be on the forefront of this within their own organization? Who are the technology leaders?' Invest in those people quickly.

And then as they learn, they can bring that back into their broader organization.

So they should identify the Cisco certified leaders as soon as possible to get them trained?

It would be great if they identified [that] set of resources, the Cisco certified [staffers] that are interested in 'how do I push this forward' and get the training to help drive the partner vision around the technical adoption.

How is Cisco making this transition so fast?

We're creating the ability to operate at the speed of software. We're changing it from manual to automated. We're making the network become proactive around issues that [the network] sees -- security vulnerabilities, performance issues, etc. – this is where we need to get the network to be able to truly be able to respond to the needs of the business.

Seventy percent of the errors that we see in networks are due to human errors because we haven't automated … These are things we want to change.