Cisco will require all top level partners to become trained and certified in selling new Cisco architecture specializations that focus on Borderless Networks, collaboration and data center technologies.
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As of today partners will be have 16 to 28 months, depending on their certification anniversary, to obtain the new training. Gold partners are required to get all three specializations, while silver partners must have either two architecture specializations or one architecture and one technology specialization. Premier partners must get either an architecture or a Cisco Express Foundation specialization.
The message to partners is to move away from selling commoditized point products and begin selling support services around ecosystems of technology. Cisco partners have had to contend with the fact that competitors like Hewlett-Packard Networking are selling components, such as access switches, for cheaper and with higher margins for partners than Cisco is offering.
Taking the architecture approach, Cisco partners focusing on Borderless Networks, for example, would sell a combination of LAN, WAN, edge design, security and mobility support, alongside consulting services. The idea is that partners sell a solution relying on many families of products and then wrap in implementation, assessment and consulting services so that this technology meets specific business needs for the customer.
“When you talk architectures, you're talking about bringing things together with a level of expertise so you are able to drive larger than if you are simply selling technologies,” said Ricardo Moreno, senior director of strategy, planning and programs for Cisco's Worldwide Channels. “You are elevating the level of conversation with your customers … then you have the opportunity for professional services.”
Partners: Get ready to study for Cisco architecture specialization
Partners will spend anywhere between 12 and 150 hours in training depending on how much experience they already have with the technology in the architecture speciality. A partner who is already trained to sell Cisco Unified Computing Systems UCS) will not have as many hours in acquiring the data center architecture specialization, for example.
Cisco claims the new architecture certifications will cost $50,000 less than the current price of attaining a gold certification, and the company will offer $5,000 learning credits for the first 500 partners who sign up for training.
New Cisco learning partner requirements
Cisco is also retraining and reclassifying its learning partners – the organizations able to provide Cisco certification training and testing. These learning partners will now be broken into two categories – one that focuses on technology specializations and another that focuses on new Cisco architecture specializations.
“Before we had three levels of [learning] business partners. Now we are bringing that down to two,” said Andres Sintes, global director of Cisco worldwide learning channels. This way partners will be clear on which learning organizations are prepared to offer architecture training.