Cisco continued its software emphasis at its annual partner meeting, providing greater structure and incentives around customer experience initiatives that have been in place for a couple of years.
Software has become increasingly important to the networking company, which has been seeking to grow subscription-based, recurring revenue versus hardware-centric sales. Encouraging partners to move in that direction has been a key theme at Cisco's partner conference since at least 2016. The Cisco CX and Lifecycle Advisor initiatives are a related thrust that aims to help partners transition from traditional reseller models to those that focus on software adoption and renewal.
At Cisco Partner Summit 2019, the company unveiled a Lifecycle Advisor incentive program that offers rewards for partners that succeed in software activation and adoption among customers. In addition, Cisco introduced a reward for partners that activate more Cisco DNA Center uses cases. Also under the CX umbrella, Cisco rolled out "Operate Offers," packaged managed services that partners can resell. The three current offers are managed detection and response, managed secure SD-WAN and unified communications.
Cisco CX emerges as key summit theme
Ben Niernberg, senior vice president of sales and services at MNJ Technologies, a technology services provider based in Buffalo Grove, Ill., noted the importance of customer experience at the partner summit.
"The biggest theme is around Lifecycle Advisors and CX -- and the need to build a practice around that," he said.
Niernberg said MNJ had started down the CX path prior to Cisco's latest round of announcements. The company passed its CX certification, a program Cisco revealed at the 2018 partner summit, and completed its first CX engagement. "Those of us who are embracing CX and lifecycle are being incentivized," Niernberg noted. "What Cisco has done is really formalize that process."
He pointed to the Cisco CX program requirements as beneficial for his company. "We love the fact we have to present and build a business case for what we are doing with that [CX] customer," he said. "It helps differentiate us and weed out those who are just going through the motions versus those who really understand the program."
Jason Parry, vice president of client solutions at Force3, a networking and security solutions provider based in Crofton, Md., said the discussion around Cisco CX, lifecycle and software at the conference "aligns directly to where they've been heading for the last few years. They've made a lot of investments in the software area, certainly in lifecycle and their CX team."
DevNet specialization debuts
In another bid to formalize a partner initiative, Cisco rolled out a specialization around its DevNet developer community. Cisco's developer allies already include not only independent software vendors, but systems integrators and network automation consultants. Traditional reseller partners have also been participating in DevNet, with some dramatically retooling their businesses to lead with software.
Cisco's DevNet Specialization, what the company calls a "mainstreaming" of DevNet for partners, aims to recognize channel companies with software development skills and business practices encompassing network automation, DevOps and digital transformation. Cisco's DevNet Career Certifications, meanwhile, will count toward Gold Certification eligibility and the DevNet Specialization, according to Cisco.
Parry said Cisco's DevNet specialization can help partners differentiate themselves from competitors that may not have invested in software expertise. That's a prerequisite for taking advantage of software-defined offerings and accessible APIs.
"In order to leverage that capability, you need the understanding and the talent," Parry said. He added thatForce3 is investing in software skills, providing employees with opportunities for formal or self-paced training.
HPE refreshes Partner Ready Program
Hewlett Packard Enterprise has updated the HPE Partner Ready Program to better position its GreenLake offerings.
HPE GreenLake is the company's consumption-based IT model spanning on-premises, edge and the cloud. HPE identifies the SMB market as a primary target for GreenLake and has been encouraging the channel to play a key role in expanding into that area.
"As HPE evolves toward 'everything as a service' as an offering, in addition to traditional resell for on-premises Capex models, we really think that GreenLake is the underpinnings behind a lot of this," said Eric Loe, senior director of HPE Partner Ready Program and strategy.
The revised HPE Partner Ready Program provides access to enhanced demo capabilities, pricing tools and increased financial benefits, as well as a streamlined partner onboarding process. HPE said that partners can also tap into new training resources, competency programs and technical certifications.
Specific to GreenLake, the vendor said it added resources and specialists to support partners in the sales process. A new GreenLake Quick Quote tool lets partners customize workloads based on customers' cost and performance requirements, HPE said. Additionally, partners can pursue a new HPE Master Accredited Solutions Expert Hybrid IT Solution Architect certification for designing and deploying hybrid IT infrastructure.
According to HPE, more than 740 customers globally use GreenLake today, with upwards of 500 HPE partners actively selling the offering.
Jesse Chavez, vice president of worldwide partner programs and operations at HPE, said partners' uptake of GreenLake is driven in part because it an alternative to AWS or Azure. "Partners have been reluctant to [provide AWS and Azure] because they think that at some point they are going to get disintermediated," he said.
Chavez added that GreenLake was designed to let partners own the customer relationship, do the invoicing and add their services on top of it.
Azure and RPA developments at Microsoft Ignite
News of channel interest coming out of this week's Microsoft Ignite conference included Azure developments and a new robotic process automation (RPA) tool.
Microsoft rolled out Azure Arc, available in preview, a hybrid cloud technology that the company said lets customers run Azure services across on-premises, edge and multi-cloud settings, while extending Azure management "to any infrastructure."
Chris Smith, vice president of cloud architecture at Unitas Global, a cloud consulting firm in Los Angeles, said Azure Arc is on track with Microsoft's effort to develop Azure as a platform that permits a central management approach. With Azure Arc, the ability to manage strategies encompassing multi-cloud, on-premises and edge technologies "becomes even easier," he said.
In addition, Microsoft has made its Azure Cost Management (ACM) tool available to its Cloud Solution Provider partners. Partners must onboard customers through a Microsoft Customer Agreement in order to use ACM.
Microsoft, meanwhile, took the wraps off UI flows, an RPA capability within its Power Automate offering. The company describes UI flows, available in preview, as a low-code technology that lets users recast manual tasks into automated workflows. Satya Nadella, Microsoft's CEO, cited the need to "empower citizen developers" when discussing RPA at the Ignite conference.
VMworld Barcelona showcases channel developments
At VMworld Barcelona, VMware expanded its MSP offering with VMware vCloud Director service, a multi-tenancy service for VMware Cloud on AWS. The service will eventually expand beyond VMware Cloud on AWS to other VMware-based clouds, the vendor said.
VMware also revealed Project Path, an initiative that the company said will enable cloud providers and MSPs to unify service delivery and operations for VMware-based clouds running in their own data centers and in public clouds.
Other VMworld announcements included multi-cloud developments:
- An update to VMware vCloud Availability, which delivers disaster recovery as a service. The vendor said version 3.5 includes additional data protection at scale, streamlined enterprise application mobility and more rapid recovery with VMware grouping and intelligence.
- VMware Cloud Provider Hub now features VMware vRealize Automation Cloud for offering application and developer services.
- Integration of vCloud Director and Bitnami Community Catalog.
- A VMware Cloud Provider Pod on Dell EMC.
Additionally, IBM said it will introduce a beta of IBM Cloud for VMware Solutions Shared, a multi-tenant product on the IBM public cloud that uses VMware vCloud Director.
- D&H Distributing expanded its cloud strategy with the addition of Microsoft Azure cloud management software from CloudCheckr and Nerdio. In addition, D&H is offering Azure assessment, migration and management services from MSP consulting firm ReadyNetworks. In September, D&H unveiled cloud alliances with ConnectWise and SkyKick as part of its cloud cluster approach.
- IGEL and Citrix have collaborated on a desktop-as-a-service bundle, which channel partners may source through distributor Ingram Micro. The bundle includes Citrix Workspace and IGEL's Workspace Edition and Universal Management Suite. The offering aims to make it easier for channel partners to help customers adopt Windows Virtual Desktops via Microsoft Azure.
- Lifeboat Distribution, based in Eatontown, N.J., has entered a distribution agreement with cybersecurity vendor VIPRE.
- Blancco Technology Group, a data erasure and mobile device diagnostics company based in Austin, Texas, has inked a channel partner agreement with SHI International Corp., an IT solutions provider. Blancco's SHI relationship will initially focus on the U.S. market, but the company plans to expand into other regions.
- LucidLink, a cloud-native file services company based in San Francisco, launched a managed service provider program. The company said its file streaming offering can assist MSPs with use cases such as cloud backup and network-attached storage as a service.
- NetEnrich, an IT operations services and platform provider, is merging with ThreatLandscape, a cybersecurity software firm. NetEnrich, based in San Jose, Calif., has more than 100 North American channel partners. The combined company will operate under the NetEnrich banner.
- Distributor Telecom Brokerage Inc. (TBI) added security vendor NuTech Logix to its product portfolio. TBI said it will offer NuTech Logix penetration testing and remediation services to its partners.
- Security vendor Webroot integrated with SyncroMSP's suite of remote monitoring and management, professional services automation and remote access tools. The integration adds Webroot Business Endpoint Protection to SyncroMSP's platform.
- Sparkhound, a digital solutions firm based in Houston, is partnering with Snowflake, a company that offers a SQL data warehouse that runs in the cloud.
- IT management software vendor SolarWinds said it aims to grow its Asia-Pacific market presence through an expanded its distributor relationship with Ingram Micro.
- Anexinet Corp., a digital business solutions provider based in Philadelphia, has appointed Christopher Vain as chief strategy officer. Vain was a director at ARC ICS Ltd., prior to joining Anexinet.
- OpsRamp, an AIOps platform provider based in San Jose, Calif., has appointed Brian Hartwell as vice president of worldwide channel sales. Hartwell was previously vice president of alliances for Rubrik.
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