Shock and Awe at Cisco's Channel Partner Summit
At its Partner Summit last week in San Diego, Cisco Systems Inc. announced
a major restructuring of its Channel Partner Program.
Cisco says its revamped channel partner program will reward partners who invest
time and effort to develop technology depth sufficient to deploy advanced security
services, Unified Communications applications, and other specialized solutions.
Cisco isn't telling tales out of school about rewards, real or imagined, either:
The networking giant announced what it claims is the industry's first "offer-based"
channel strategy, which comprises three new channel partner programs designed
to assist and reward partners who deliver global resale, outsourcing and managed
network service offerings to customers.
Cisco positions the new remunerative programs as complements to its existing
Channel Partner Program, which (officials claim) is structured primarily to
encourage local resale offerings. "While the overall framework and structure
of the Cisco channel partner program is not changing, we are adding new requirements
to our current partner program and adding new categories of support for the
growing diversity of channel partner business models. The changes focus on three
areas we believe will be crucial to the mutual success of Cisco and its channel
partners," said Keith Goodwin, Cisco senior vice president for Worldwide
Channels, in an in-house interview published on Cisco's Web site. "We want
to help partners build the breath of their skills for integrating multiple Cisco
technologies, develop greater depth of expertise in advanced technologies and
applications, and create more sophisticated services capabilities for helping
customers design and manage increasingly complex networks."
Cisco officials say the revamped program will focus on helping channel partners
meet customer demands for technology skills breadth, technology skills depth,
and lifecycle services capabilities.
With respect to the former, Cisco says Silver and Premier Certified Partners
must be able to deliver networking solutions with integrated security; WLAN;
routing; LAN switching; and, optionally, Unified Communications. Cisco says
next-gen Gold Certified Partners must have the capacity to deliver "the
highest level of integrated infrastructure capability" in all five segments.
As for delivering advanced technology skills depth, Cisco says its specializations
will now reflect a partner's depth of expertise in a particular technology.
To that end, it's offering three tiered specialization levels in which partners
must demonstrate superior sales, technical and service capabilities for each
respective level: Express, Advanced and Master. The new Master Specialization
brand recognizes partners with the highest-qualified practice in a given technology
and helps partners further differentiate their businesses. Cisco says it will
launch its first master specializations (the Master Unified Communications Specialization
and the Master Security Specialization) over the next year. Initially, it plans
to make six core specializations available: Express Foundation (Security, Wireless
LAN, and Routing and Switching), Express Unified Communications, Advanced Unified
Communications, Advanced Security, Advanced Wireless LAN, and Advanced Routing
Finally, the new Channel Partner program incorporates Cisco's Lifecycle Services
approach to help partners successfully deploy, operate and optimize Cisco solutions.
Cisco says channel partners will have until March 2008 to complete the transition
to the enhanced program requirements.
Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.