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Cisco pieces together platform strategy for partners

In her Cisco Partner Summit 2013 keynote address, Padmasree Warrior spoke of how the company's open platform strategy could benefit provider partners.

BOSTON -- While the first day of Cisco Systems' 17th annual Cisco Partner Summit revolved around the broader concept of a "hybrid IT" business model, Cisco's Padmasree Warrior zeroed in on the company's platform strategy during her Day 2 keynote address, highlighting several technology areas where open platforms could benefit service provider partners.

For a company whose channel strategy traditionally focused on hardware-centric sales along with implementation and support services, it might seem strange to see Cisco push platforms and applications so heavily. But this is changing, now that software plays a bigger role in the network and data center -- and as traditional partners morph into cloud service providers and resellers.

"Services will be served up in a unique way from a platform level that'll be based [on] and measured [by] outcomes, rather than support," said Warrior, the company's chief technology and strategy officer, on Wednesday. "Our value proposition from Cisco is to provide a platform with APIs [application programming interfaces] that [partners] can then [use to] create and customize services for our customers."

Whereas middleware architectures of the past were often proprietary, next-generation software platforms must embrace open source, support analytics, have better affinity with applications and be consumed as a cloud service, Warrior said. The applications built on them must be "cloud-based and mobile-first," and Cisco is looking to attract an ecosystem of like-minded partners and independent software vendors (ISVs) to fulfil that, she added.

Warrior briefly touched on OpenStack -- the open source platform used for building cloud computing environments, highlighting how Cisco is partnering with Red Hat and using OpenStack's code to create "distribution packages" that enable Cisco to configure OpenStack elements within its server platform and "operationalize it" in its servers. She asked for a show of hands from those in the audience of several hundred partners who have received inquiries about it from customers. Only a small number of hands went up, but she said she expects it to play a bigger role in partners' platform strategy as demand for cloud services grows. "OpenStack will continue to become much more important as we go toward the Infrastructure as a Service model in the future," she added.

Talk of platforms segued into Cisco's vision for network programmability and Cisco ONE, which Warrior identified as the second of "three pillars" of Cisco's strategy for its partner community. Its platform strategy in the network comprises three layers: infrastructure; orchestration, analytics and management; and service delivery, which includes systems platforms and systems applications.

Cisco also is extending its platform strategy to network security, Warrior said. The company is working on creating a platform that enables the network to apply content and context awareness to traditional firewall technology, with the goal of achieving "threat awareness," she said. Cisco plans to enable this by building a security platform with APIs upon which partners could develop their security services and applications. The company also plans to integrate cloud-based data analytics into the platform that would transmit new threat information through the API.

"Security has to be more of a platform approach than a best-of-breed approach," Warrior said. "We have to be able to create a platform so we can integrate and insert new technology into this platform as threats become more advanced."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Jessica Scarpati, site editor, and follow @jscarpati on Twitter.

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