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Cisco reveals Cisco ONE Software channel strategy

Cisco has outlined its strategy for Cisco ONE Software, highlighting opportunities for partners. The company also announced plans to build its Cisco Meraki Cloud-Managed IT business.

Today at Cisco Live in Milan, Italy, Cisco Systems Inc. announced a clear strategic move to get more of its software into customer businesses with Cisco ONE Software and Cisco Meraki Cloud-Managed IT. The announcement is also a call to Cisco channel partners looking for business growth around new consumption models by offering customers more choices in the way they purchase and deploy IT.

Cisco ONE Software offers businesses a new way to purchase and consume Cisco's networking and infrastructure software across three IT areas: data center; WAN; and access, i.e., switching and wireless. Within this framework, each domain offers three layers, or solutions -- foundation, advanced, and advanced security -- each of which maps to a particular customer's needs.

Cisco also announced the Cisco ONE Enterprise Cloud Suite, integrated private cloud software that leverages the Cisco ONE for Data Center bundles to deliver hybrid-ready private cloud to customers.

"We're giving customers more choice and more value in how they consume their software from Cisco," said Dan Lohmeyer, senior director of product management for Cisco ONE Software. "Cisco ONE Enterprise Cloud Suite is designed to bring a lot of the benefits that Cisco customers enjoy today from a public cloud service to a private cloud service," he added.

So, what's in it for partners?

According to Lohmeyer, today's announcement offers several opportunities for partners:

  • Because partners can offer customers a broad solution, they can expect to increase deal size by 10% to 20%.
  • It also gives partners a different avenue to have customer conversations. So, for example, instead of having conversations around individual features, they can talk about a broader solution, which may also help them reach different individuals within a customer's business.
  • Traditional Cisco incentives and rebates are also available with Cisco ONE. However, Cisco has raised the bar on VIP incentives, so that those partners will get incentives that are 10% to 20% higher for advocating for Cisco ONE instead of business as usual.

"After a partner sells the initial capabilities to a customer, many customers will ask for help to adopt the new solution, which will lead to opportunities for the partner, who can come in with value-add services that can generate new recurring revenue streams," Lohmeyer said.

Cisco is bringing Cisco ONE to market by offering flexible purchasing models: either a perpetual license or traditional transaction model where customers can purchase software features a la carte. This offers partners already familiar with Cisco technology the ability to leverage their software and licensing selling knowledge. At a future time, Cisco will also offer subscription licenses and enterprise license agreements, according to the company.

"There's also an opportunity for partners to offer access to lifecycle and professional management services. Additionally, the way the new software offer is packaged, there's a faster hardware refresh potential," said Jason Gallo, global director with the worldwide partner organization go-to-market group at Cisco. He added, "It's a better way to sell the technology that they already know."

The Cisco ONE Software suites target existing Cisco enterprise networking and data center partners who understand the technology. It gives them the option of offering their customers a more flexible way to consume technology via logical suites of software or bundles.

Cisco has mapped existing certifications -- in data center, WAN and access -- to the three new Cisco ONE Software domains, according to the vendor. Partners aren't required to have knowledge of all the domains to sell Cisco ONE Software. Expertise in one domain enables partners to sell the new offering in that domain, according to Gallo.

To get partners up to speed on the Cisco ONE Software, the vendor is taking its message on a 20- to 30-city road show. Cisco has also done some deep briefings with partners, and there's online training for the new products with corresponding use cases.

Ron Jackson, data center network practice manager at Forsythe, a Cisco partner 2012 award winner for architectural excellence in the data center, said that Forsythe was one of the partner companies that Cisco briefed on Cisco ONE about a month ago. "We're getting familiar with the Cisco ONE strategy and think it's an interesting strategy that Cisco is taking," he said.

Cisco was adamant that they're not decoupling their hardware from the software.

Ron Jackson,
Data center network practice manager, Forsythe

While noting that it's very early in the game and that Forsythe is still getting in tune with Cisco ONE, the data center pro believes that selling Cisco ONE will be mean adjustments for his company but is intrigued by the new opportunity.

Jackson said that the first thing that many people will think when they hear about Cisco ONE is that Cisco software will run on other vendors' hardware. "Cisco was adamant that they're not decoupling their hardware from the software."

Cisco Meraki Cloud-Managed IT

The Cisco Meraki Cloud-Managed IT piece of today's announcement is the vendor's way of relaunching the Meraki brand based on the evolution of Meraki over the two years since Cisco bought it. Meraki now represents a portfolio that includes wireless access points, Ethernet switches, security appliances and enterprise mobility management technology suitable for companies of all sizes.

"This is the first time that we're announcing our intentions to push Meraki into the enterprise, midmarket and small accounts as well as expanding Meraki beyond networking and into cloud-managed IT," said Todd Nightingale, vice president and general manager with the Cisco cloud networking group.

Meraki has always been 100% partner-focused, sold through the channel and managed services providers (MSPs), and will continue to operate though an indirect channel model, according to Nightingale.

According to Cisco, there are three opportunities for partners around Meraki:

Cisco is also offering partner enablement and expects to train about 1,000 partners per quarter targeting system engineers specifically in full-day training sessions. There will also be road shows and webinars to get partners and their customers familiar with the technology, according to Peter Atkin, vice president for Meraki channel sales at Cisco.

Rolf Versluis, founder and CTO of IT solution provider Adcap Network Systems Inc., of Alpharetta, Ga., is quite excited by what Cisco has done with Meraki since the acquisition. "By being able to have all devices managed from one high-availability cloud controller panel, it really helps distributed enterprises," he said.

Versluis explained that many of the company's customers with remote locations have hybrid deployments, which means that their headquarters still have traditional Cisco infrastructure, switches, wireless and management, and at their small remote offices they have Cisco Meraki firewalls, switches and wireless access points that they manage from one cloud.

"So with this announcement it means that customers will be able to manage more devices and there's more interoperability with the traditional Cisco infrastructure management tools and that will be very helpful," Versluis said.

The partner offers managed networking services and said that Cisco Meraki Cloud-Managed IT is a comprehensive offering that Cisco continues to expand and grow.

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While it is outstanding development, it is easy to feel that most of it is overdue, particularly aspects like a la carte.
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