In an aggressive global push to bring collaboration solutions to midmarket customers, Cisco Systems Inc. has unleashed a comprehensive effort that includes new and enhanced products, a new certification specialization for channel partners, simplification of its TelePresence Advanced Technology Provider program, an updated midmarket collaboration program and a new marketing enablement campaign.
Centered on an enhanced Cisco Business Edition 6000 midmarket collaboration platform, Cisco is looking to attract both new and existing partners to reach a midmarket it estimates to be worth $7.1 billion globally. The solution is being sold only through Cisco channel partners.
Citing the growing needs of midmarket companies -- defined as 100 to 1,000 employees -- to be more agile, responsive and able to differentiate their businesses in an era of anywhere, anytime, any device collaboration, Richard McLeod, senior director of worldwide collaboration channel sales at Cisco, said the services opportunity for partners to work with these companies is big.
Robert Arnold, senior analyst at Frost & Sullivan, agreed. As collaboration technology matures, media-rich enterprise collaboration solutions are now within the financial reach of midsize organizations in effective platforms that retain the advanced features of collaboration, such as video, voice, Web conferencing, instant messaging and presence, and unified messaging, to name a handful.
Arnold noted that there is a growing crop of collaboration solutions built on software-centric architectures that allow for multiple applications in a single box, making it easier for channel partners to resell turnkey systems that simplify installation, configuration and support.
Some vendors in this space include Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya Inc., Mitel Networks Corp., NEC Corp. and Toshiba America Information Systems, for example.
"All top- tier vendors in this space are moving to virtualization because of the benefits with vendors offering different flavors of products," he said.
Cisco's Business Edition 6000 collaboration platform consists of virtualized applications on a single server constrained to 1,000 users and capable of supporting as many as 50 geographical locations. The scalable product delivers enterprise-class voice, messaging, instant messaging, and presence and TelePresence capabilities.
The vendor introduced a new 25-user starter package with enhanced application options and simplified administration and management tools.
For new or existing partners interested in getting onboard with Cisco's midmarket collaboration initiative, the vendor is offering a new Cisco Express Collaboration Specialization with 50% lower partner training and investment requirements.
The premier specialization also opens the door to advanced technical support and presales support, as well as enhanced partner profitability with Cisco's Value Incentive Program (VIP), according to Marc Inderhees, Cisco's senior manager of worldwide collaboration channel sales.
Cisco also simplified its Advanced Technology Provider (ATP) requirements for partners who want to stay focused on TelePresence for the midmarket, and added an entry point offering in the Express Collaboration Specialization to ease the move into selling a broader product portfolio for ATP partners that wish to take that route.
Through July 31, Cisco is offering product pricing and financing incentives and one-step deal registration for the Cisco Business Edition 6000.
And, last but not least, Cisco put together a demand generation kit for the Business Edition 6000 that includes email campaigning, a partner marketing guide and competitive battle cards, among other components.
Cisco's global distributors will play a major role with the product rollout and support, offering partner boot camps, as will the vendor's training partners.