Cisco adds TelePresence, partner incentives to VIP

Cisco tweaks its Value Incentive Program to add the TelePresence product, new certifications and enhanced data center tracks to the mix.

Cisco's Value Incentive Program (VIP) will include more benefits for certified Cisco partners with the launch of VIP 14 this August.

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The existing Cisco VIP program organizes products into four major technology tracks -- unified communications, security, wireless and data center. The new VIP 14 combines these technologies into broader architectural plays: collaboration, virtualization and borderless network. VIP 14 also will extend the data center track to focus on virtualization, add routing and switching technologies to the roster and combine the security and wireless track to become the borderless network architecture. The reorganization also includes rewards for channel partners selling storage networking and wide area networking optimization technologies.

Cisco awards rebates to partners selling technologies in each track and revamps VIP every six months to add new technologies. VIP 14 is the next cycle.

Partners must still complete training on the technologies they plan to sell in order for Cisco to grant a specialization certification. Most partners that have already achieved specializations in a majority of the technology tracks will be able to keep them, despite program changes. Partners coming on board with technologies new to VIP 14 will need to gain a specialization if they have not previously done so.

Surinder Brar, senior director of channels programs and strategy at Cisco, said VIP 14, announced at Cisco's Partner Summit in Boston last month, allows the company to reward channel partners for a wider scope of technologies.

Organizing technologies into tracks

"Instead of rewarding just individual technologies, we are going to reward multiple technologies that contribute to architecture," Brar said. He explained that the program aims to reward partners for upgrading and organizing their technologies into similar architectures.

Another goal is to award rebates for the sale of emerging technologies, such as Cisco TelePresence and the Unified Computing System (UCS). Cisco TelePresence is a business communication tool that boasts face-to-face networking capabilities. UCS is a blade server system available in blade or C-Series rack-mount server versions. "Focusing on architectures gives more opportunity for services," said Brar. "We've expanded the product line incredibly to include the UCS."

Cisco has also announced an Authorized Partner Program to support the new UCS C-Series rack-mount servers.

Channel partners like the addition of fresh products. Mark Hilz, president of INX Inc., a Houston-based Cisco gold certified partner is particularly interested in new UCS, TelePresence and Nexus data center switching products.

Partners had complained that TelePresence was not on the technology roster in the former VIP iteration.

Some partners, including Hilz, said the new program should help them make more money. "Adding the core incentive rebate to VIP, plus adding TelePresence as well as UCS and other new server products, will clearly assist us in not only focusing on Cisco core products more but also in making investments in these newer, advanced technology areas," Hilz said.

More money for some with new VIP 14

Because INX had already grouped technologies, the architectural organization of VIP 14 could help it reap more rebate money, said Hilz. But, partners that have not already organized technologies into tracks may find it difficult to follow the program, he said.

Adrian Liddiard, chief operating officer of BlueWater Communications Group, a Cisco Gold partner in New York, was also bullish since his company has already invested heavily in Nexus products.

Data center products -- such as the Nexus family -- are big additions to VIP 14. Because IT increasingly focuses on virtualization, Cisco revamped the original data center track to emphasize virtualization tools. "I expected Cisco to add the data center [virtualization track] because it's a new hot area of interest," Hilz said.

Cisco enhanced the data center track to push new virtualization products and offer more of an end-to-end incentive for partners selling data center technologies, said Brar.

Hilz said the new virtualization focus could help partners make more money. Cisco competitors' virtualization tools have generated fewer sales for partners such as INX.

"We are selling some Dell servers as part of our virtualization practice but the margin is low and it is not as well adapted for virtualized environments as the Cisco platform," Hilz said.

Cisco's UCS is compelling because it's tailored for virtualized and cloud computing environments. "As a Cisco partner, we have a very rewarding set of financial incentives that makes it worthwhile for us to present this technology to our customers," Hilz said.

Cisco's fastest-growing specialization is the data center track. Some 300 partners now carry the Data Center Network Infrastructure (DCNI) certification. With the extension of data center with virtualization, Cisco expects to have 500 partners with DCNI specialization by the end of this year, said John Growdon, director of marketing for Cisco's Worldwide Channels Go-To-Market group.

At the partner summit, Cisco also announced more channel incentives, including a Data Center Channel Solutions program and two new IT career certifications. The certifications for Cisco Data Center Unified Computing Design Specialist and Cisco Data Center Unified Computing Support Specialist reward data center networking skills, including virtualization.

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