The early years of this decade were a period of significant change and challenge for businesses across all sectors. Traditional market definitions and sales strategies have become obsolete, and the IT channel has faced unique difficulties. Amidst changing business models, declining product margins, and the necessity to establish profitable service practices, channel members have had to devise strategies to adapt to shifts in customer base, buying and selling models, and solution composition.
These changes have put immense pressure on the channel, prompting the exploration of new business models, product mixes, and configurations of marketing, selling, and partner relationships. Despite these challenges, it remains the age of the partner, a theme echoed at Cisco’s Partner Summit. According to Techaisle’s global partner survey, 87% of SMBs and midmarket customers and 69% of enterprise sales involve one or more partners. Cisco leads the way, with 90% of its revenue from partners. This underscores the enduring importance of partnerships in the IT channel.
Techaisle’s end-customer survey reveals that 76% of businesses work with partners who are responsive to business points and provide helpful advice. The partner’s most significant opportunity is meeting buyer needs, which requires IT suppliers to plot a path that is attuned to the partners’ buyers. This is what Cisco is addressing.
Cisco, a pioneer in this transformation, unveiled a suite of products, programs, platforms, and tools at the Cisco Partner Summit 2023. This strategic development of solutions aims to bolster its partners, reinforcing Cisco’s commitment to retain its leadership in AI, observability, and security.
The launch of Cisco Validated Designs (CVDs) for AI, the growth of Cisco’s Full Stack Observability Platform, and the debut of new security suites underscore Cisco’s dedication to technological supremacy. More importantly, these initiatives emphasize Cisco’s commitment to empowering its partners and customers as they navigate the dynamic business landscape.
Cisco’s CVDs: Simplifying AI Deployments for Partners and Customers
Businesses across the globe are increasingly adopting AI. However, to fully leverage this technology, businesses need the right infrastructure that can scale. IT teams often grapple with the complexities of managing and supporting the necessary applications and infrastructure for AI initiatives. Cisco has launched new CVDs designed explicitly for AI use cases to address this. These aim to provide partners with efficient, scalable solutions to prepare their customers’ infrastructure for AI deployments.
These designs, developed in collaboration with industry leaders like NVIDIA, Intel, AMD, NetApp, Nutanix, Pure Storage, and Red Hat, facilitate the integration of AI workloads. They minimize risks and eliminate operational silos. Cisco’s primary objective with these CVDs is to accelerate the transformation of IT infrastructure into an AI-ready state, offering simplified solutions that benefit both partners and customers.
Cisco’s Expanded Observability Platform: New Modules for Enhanced Full-Stack Ecosystem
Cisco has expanded its Observability Platform through seven new modules developed in collaboration with partners to enhance the full-stack observability ecosystem. These modules address specific observability needs, allowing customers to extract greater value from observable telemetry data.
Initially announced in February 2023 and made available for general use in June 2023, the Cisco Observability platform enables customers to extract meaningful insights from observable telemetry data, providing organizations with actionable insights and strengthening their ability to make informed decisions.
The new partner modules focus on five key areas– Business insights, SAP visibility, Networking, MLOps and service level objectives (SLOs), and sustainability. Among these, business insights aim to correlate telemetry data with business performance, providing a comprehensive understanding of the interaction between business operations and IT. SAP visibility ensures visibility across dynamic and complex SAP landscapes and ecosystems. Networking where Cisco's networking expertise helps correlate network telemetry with business metrics and the application stack. As businesses adopt generative AI and modern applications, the Observability Platform monitors these applications and their SLOs and integrates large language models (LLMs) and MLOps models for comprehensive application observability. Meanwhile, sustainability modules help organizations achieve their goals by providing actionable data regarding their carbon footprint across IT domains and optimizing energy consumption.
These seven modules include:
In addition to the existing seven modules, Cisco is set to introduce two new modules soon: Cisco CX – Sustainability Insights and Aporia – MLOps.
Cisco’s Security Suites: Enhancing Cybersecurity and Partner Profitability
Cisco is addressing the escalating prevalence and complexity of cybersecurity threats by introducing Security Suites. This comprehensive solution is designed to offer simple, outcome-driven security solutions to partners and customers focused on user protection, cloud protection, and breach protection.
The Security Suites are engineered for seamless operation across diverse clouds and private infrastructures, prioritizing compatibility with various tools and systems. This strategy ensures a unified and effective security plan for businesses traversing different threat environments. Beyond bolstering security, the suites also enhance partner profitability by offering up to 30% in blended margins through upfront deal registration incentives.
Like other Cisco software suites, these will be sold as individual units and offered in a three-tier structure, including the Essentials and Advantage licenses. Each tier will feature a single price point and a common meter in the initial phase, simplifying the purchasing process and making it more user-friendly for partners and customers.
The primary objective of this solution is to offer an integrated, predictable, and cost-effective method for purchasing and utilizing its extensive range of security products. Through this approach, Cisco strives to improve security effectiveness, enrich user experiences, and optimize return on investment.
Cisco Unifies Partner Incentives and Enhances Platform with AI and ML
Techaisle’s partner research shows that two incentives, “customer lifecycle funds” and “outcome-based funds,” drive home the extent to which changes in customer buying types and selling models are prompting a re-think of strategy within the channel and changes in behavior within the vendor community that relies on the channel to engage and support buy-side organizations. Cisco is introducing initiatives to revamp the partner incentive landscape. It has restructured its partner incentives, simplifying and unifying the existing incentive structures — VIP, Lifecycle Incentives, and Cisco Services Partner Program (CSPP) — into a single Cisco Partner Incentive. This unified approach is designed to reward partners for promoting Cisco’s hardware, software, and as-a-service solutions throughout the customer lifecycle, thereby enhancing their experience. The Cisco Partner Incentive will be implemented in phases, starting in the second half of 2024, allowing partners a smooth transition to the new incentive framework.
In addition to incentive restructuring, Cisco is enhancing the Partner Experience Platform (PXP), a personalized online portal for partners, by integrating AI and machine learning capabilities. This upgrade aims to equip partners with actionable insights, enabling them to identify growth opportunities and adapt to the changing business landscape. Partners now have a comprehensive dashboard, negating the need for expensive third-party tools. The Growth Finder module provides strategic insights, such as opportunities for refreshes, renewals, and new prospects.
Cisco has also launched a Sustainability Estimator in PXP, exclusively for Environmental Sustainability Specialized partners. Available from November 20, 2023, partners can assess potential energy savings, emission reductions, and cost savings achievable through IT infrastructure updates.
For Managed Services Providers (MSPs), Cisco has introduced Partner Advanced Support, offering quick access to Cisco’s Technical Assistance Center (TAC) to minimize service disruptions and expedite issue resolution. It has also launched Managed Extended Detection and Response (XDR) and Managed Firewall services, reinforcing its commitment to assisting MSPs in delivering robust cybersecurity solutions and addressing the evolving challenges in the current threat landscape.
Cisco’s Shift to Solution Specializations: A Strategic Move for Future Growth
According to Techaisle’s survey, 56% of businesses view a partner’s solution specialization as a key differentiator when selecting and purchasing. Cisco is strategically transitioning from Architecture Specializations to Solution Specializations. The phase-out of Data Center Architectures is in progress and is slated for completion by July 2024. Simultaneously, Cisco is broadening its Solution Specialization portfolio, highlighted by the recent launch of the revamped SMB Specialization. This focus centers on Cisco’s extensive SMB solutions, including Smart SMB, Hybrid SMB, Secure SMB, and Remote SMB, aiming to enable partners to create new business outcomes and recurring revenue in the burgeoning SMB sector.
Cisco has also unveiled five new Solution Specializations encompassing key areas like Secure Networking, Internet of Things (IoT) for industrial and non-industrial use cases, Zero Trust, and Network Security. The deployment plan includes making the two IoT specializations accessible to partners in the first half of 2024, followed by the remaining three networking and security-related specializations in the latter half of the fiscal year. These strategic inclusions align partners’ abilities with Cisco’s overall strategy.
Final Techaisle Take
The Cisco Partner Summit 2023 exemplifies Cisco’s dedication to fostering innovation, promoting collaboration, and strategically aligning itself and its partners for success in a constantly changing tech landscape. The focus on AI integration, observability, security, and sustainability demonstrates a progressive approach, acknowledging the integral role of these factors in driving the future of digital transformation. Furthermore, the newly unveiled initiatives to revamp its partner incentive landscape highlight Cisco’s commitment to creating a conducive and profitable ecosystem for its partners, emphasizing growth, differentiation, and sustainability. Cisco and its partners are preparing for a future where they can prosper together amidst the rapid technological evolution.
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