Hybrid IT: Cisco Demands New Skills From Gold Partners

**Editor’s Note: Click here for Channel Partners’ on-demand Digital Summit, “Cloud Sales Done Right,” featuring Sungard Availability Services.

By Edward Gately

Look no further than equipment giant Cisco Systems‘ new Gold-certification requirements to see the evolution of the channel playing out firsthand.

Gold partners will need to integrate hybrid IT services, such as Cisco-powered cloud services and/or Cisco-based, partner managed cloud services, into their portfolios. The company will start to log the new requirements on April 1; they become mandatory for renewing Gold certification status starting on Aug. 1.

Cisco Gold certification offers a broad range of expertise across high-growth market opportunities — enterprise networking, security, collaboration, data center virtualization and SP technology. Gold-certified partners have integrated the deepest level of Cisco Lifecycle Services expertise into their offerings.

Becoming Gold-certified requires additional investment and resources, so partners have to decide if it’s feasible for them, said Robb Berger, director of Cisco’s Worldwide Partner Program, in an interview with Channel Partners.

Sungard Availability Services is a Cisco Master Managed Services Channel Partner (MSCP) and Intercloud partner. The Wayne, Pennsylvania-based company provides managed IT services, consulting, and business continuity and disaster-recovery services to clients in the U.S., Europe and India. Sungard AS launched its channel program six years ago.

“The new Gold requirements are helping to drive tighter alignment between the traditional [hardware] resellers, service providers and Cisco,” Melissa McCoy, Sungard’s vice president of channels, told Channel Partners. “We see this change as a positive step, as it is helping to drive increased engagement in the field with our mutual partners and building a Hybrid IT story for our joint customers.”

Gaining Gold certification requires course work, as well as sales-engineer and field-engineer training. It prepares partners to sell and deploy solutions, support those solutions through either their own services or Cisco’s services, and to help customers realize business value from those solutions.

“It has evolved over time; it’s evolved into what we have with this value program where we look at the values that the partner has and brings to the business versus volume and sales,” Berger said.

The program includes various incentives and provides an opportunity for increased profitability, Berger said.

“What we’re seeing more and more is customers are asking Cisco and our partners to help drive that success with them, rather than leaving the successful deployment and utilization up to (their) IT department,” Berger said.

World Wide Technology has been a Gold-certified partner since 2002. The St. Louis-based company provides supply chain solutions to public and private organizations.

“It brings a level of awareness to potential customers and to Cisco in their sales force,” said Brian Ortbals, World Wide’s director of advanced technologies. “It’s very beneficial … and it sets the stage for profitability over a non-Gold partner.”

Click here for a list of other recent channel-program changes you should know.**

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