**Editor's Note: Click here for a list of recent channel-program changes you should know.**
Cisco is doubling its investment in resources to support channel partners targeting the midmarket, which the company estimates to be a $55 billion opportunity in technology and services by 2016.
The networking giant announced Tuesday at its annual Partner Summit, that it will spend $15 million on incentives and programs targeting companies with 100-1,000 employees in its fiscal year 2014, which begins in August 2013; this compares to $75 million spent in fiscal 2013.
The bulk of the new money will go to Partner Plus, a program Cisco introduced last year, to help partners grow their midmarket practices, said Andrew Sage, Cisco's vice president of Worldwide Partner-Led, in a press briefing. More than 2,000 partners are enrolled in Partner Plus globally.
Sage cited doubling virtual engineering capacity for Partner Plus partners and a new Winner’s Circle for high-performing partner sales reps.
Along with the investment, Cisco is boosting its marketing to generate $1 billion in qualified sales leads for partners. As part of that effort, it is launching a new Web presence to increase midmarket brand awareness. In addition, the Cisco Sales Collaboration Platform announced last year is now available.
Cisco also is beefing up its portfolio with additional products designed for the midmarket, including the Catalyst 2960-X series switches and Virtualized Foundation Smart Solution, as well as a new Cloud Managed Networking portfolio and Managed Services Dashboard as a result of Cisco's recent acquisition of Meraki.
The Catalyst 2960-X series, due out in July, doubles the scale of previous-generation switches while adding application visibility, routing options and redundant power-supply options. It also includes energy-saving features to reduce power consumption by up to 80 percent.
The Virtualized Foundation Smart Solution brings together LAN, server, security and virtualization infrastructure in a pre-test, pre-validated reference architecture; specifically, it combines Cisco's networking and data center portfolio (Catalyst, Nexus, UCS) with VMware's vSphere Hypervisor.
The Managed Services Dashboard offers tools, analytics and monitoring capabilities for MSPs. It's available immediately, but partners wishing to use the service will need to become Meraki partners until the channels are integrated sometime before yearend.