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Stimulus bill money fuels solid projects for Cisco partners

Attendees at a Cisco partner roundtable report that stimulus bill funding is sparking new projects.

Cisco channel partners are beginning to see stimulus bill money trickle down, and they are positioning themselves to be ready to catch more of it as it becomes available.

During a virtual interactive roundtable on Tuesday, a small group of Cisco solution providers said that they don't see immediate opportunities for Cisco's Unified Computing data center strategy, which was launched earlier this month and pushed by the company as the ultimate game changer. Yet two of the four partners hold out hopes that the new technology will offer opportunities in six months or so.

Denny Trevett, Cisco's director of advanced technology sales for U.S. Channels, hosted the panel, which included Chris Knotts, director of technology and solutions at Force 3; Philip Stone, president of Boardwalk Communications; Gary Nordine, CEO and president of NetXperts; and Daniel W. Holt, CEO of HEIT.

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The panel is apparently part of Cisco's ongoing attempts to help partners navigate the troubled economy. All of the companies invited had businesses built around vertical markets or specific technologies, and all have remained stable during these challenging macroeconomic times.

It's no surprise that the partner which focused on government as a vertical market was the first to see stimulus money turn into solid projects.

Knotts, of Force 3, which has a strong government customer base, said he was recently on an Air Force base when members of the IT organization approached him "saying they had stimulus money, and they had deadlines to put it into action."

For another organization, Force 3 implemented a wireless mesh network with video and data access, also using stimulus package funding.

"We found a hook in terms of accountability," Knotts said. "All the agencies have to show where money is going." Force 3 enabled the organization to use video feeds from the site to show the new technology and how it was functioning.

Force 3 prepared early to be in the right place to take a piece of the stimulus bill pie.

"We looked at the stimulus package with an analyst firm in terms of [where money was appropriated] and where we had customers," Knotts said, adding that the first target is the existing customer,

NetXperts, which focuses on the healthcare industry, hasn't seen solid deals funded by the stimulus package but has prepared to sell projects where it knows there will be money. Nordine said the company began training its employees on how to use software programs that track where government grants and other funding will be spent. A number of programs exist that can track the money by agency and technology.

And NetXperts is readying its existing clients to capture funding from the bill. Nordine said the company is helping them look closely at the industry standards that they will have to meet for technologies, including security and mobility. The company has helped customers come up with a three- to five-year plan.

"We help plan out an applications roadmap," Nordine said.

Two of the partners at the roundtable listed data center practices as part of their business, but neither will be signing on to Cisco's recently released Unified Computing technology for the data center.

Both Nordine and Knotts do not yet have Unified Computing projects in the pipeline, though Knotts expects to see some projects in the works in about six months.

"Federal is a good place to test the waters with Unified Computing," Knotts said. "There are a number of good green-field opportunities with base openings and closures."

Knotts called green-field accounts "low-hanging fruit," but he also said there is potential for the technology in consolidating organizations and data centers.

"We like the story so far," he said. "We're looking for the details to be worked out in the next couple of months."

Cisco has developed extensive training and two certifications around data center and Unified Computing, but so far the company has fully trained only about 30 partners.

NetXperts went through parts of the certification process and is optimistic, Nordine said. But the company doesn't yet have projects in the pipeline.

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