Image Gallery: Cisco Partner Summit

Cisco Partner Summit 2017

By Kris Blackmon

Cisco’s 2017 Partner Summit is in the books, with the company announcing a slew of new offerings, partner-program updates, and strategic focuses at the Dallas event.

From intent-based networking to incentives surrounding software and services, the networking giant is hammering home the message that today’s Cisco is a different beast from the hardware-based behemoth of the past.

Click through the gallery below for highlights and a recap.

Photos courtesy Cisco

Datapipe's Robb Allen
From Switches & Routers to Software & Services

Cisco’s deferred software revenue topped $5 billion in its fourth quarter earnings, double from just two years ago, said CEO Chuck Robbins, pictured here on stage. Robbins said that for every dollar of software spend, there’s an 11x incremental opportunity for partners.

The company’s latest Catalyst 9000 series of switches, part of its intent-based Network Intuitive initiative, are its first to come with integrated software subscriptions. Cisco is counting on what it calls its “ecosystem” partners such as ISVs to work together with its traditional reseller base to develop their own intellectual property on Cisco networks. Its Solution Partner Program has seen a 20 percent increase in ISV partner participation in the last year, Robbins said, and the company is placing heavy emphasis on the programmability of its networking solutions.

Further pivoting to software and services will allow Cisco to tap into the outcomes-based opportunity provided by digital transformation and the rise of the line-of-business (LOB) buyer and move away from commoditized products to solutions that provide ongoing revenue.

Avaya's John Pradal

That was the theme of the summit, which Rick Snyder, SVP of Americas Partner Sales, described in a blog as "going full speed with partners to capitalize on the digital era with Cisco."

"In the Americas, we truly believe when partners, APO and Cisco sales are three teams working as one," he wrote. "We have an unfair advantage allowing us all to 'OWN IT' for our customers."

Pictured above, Cisco execs sit down for a question-and-answer session.
Network Intuitive

Cisco is taking a “new” approach to network architecture that combines security, networking and advanced analytics with machine-learning capabilities to deliver an “intelligent” network that can anticipate threats and evolve over time. The solution is built around a subscription-based model to further build up its recurring revenue business.

David Goeckeler, the executive vice president & GM of Cisco’s networking and security business, emphasized the company’s focus on expanding beyond its enterprise base into the SMB market with a new initiative called Web Scale, which leverages automation to define a new path to networking profitability for partners that’s all about simplicity and scalability.

The sheer number of devices that will need to be connected to the network in the next couple of years requires a rethinking of Cisco’s value proposition, which he says is shifting to include elimination of manual processes, anticipation of security threats, and a focus on a new set of KPIs to measure profitability in the IoT era that are all about time: time needed to deploy policy changes, update infrastructure, and detect network issues and malware.

Panasonic's Dominick Passanante
Partner Program Simplification

Cisco reduced the number of specializations it offers from 27 to 11, including consolidating its 10 entry-level Express specializations into one track for new partners needing a foundational training in core Cisco technologies like networking and security. It also reduced its mid-tier Advanced specializations from 13 to five and added a new Master Networking Specialization that covers software, security, programmability, analytics, and automation. The new specialization is part of Cisco’s refocus on intent-based networking and will be available in March.

The networking giant also tackled the deal registration and incentive side, reducing Cisco’s 15 different programs down to two. As part of the company’s hard pivot toward software and services, it’s now providing a new VIP Annuity program with SaaS-based incentives. In addition, it's added a VIP Activation that gives back-end rebates on Cisco ONE, Digital Network Architecture (DNA), Identity Services Engines (ISE), and Stealthwatch deployments.

Finally, there’s the new Cisco Migration Incentive Program (MIP) that gives an incremental discount on qualifying hardware, software, and services migration opportunities. The goal here is to incentivize Cisco’s existing install base to begin integrating emerging technologies into the solutions they sell.

Pictured above is Wendy Bahr, SVP, Cisco's Global Partner Organization.

SimpleWAN's Erik Knight
ConnectWise Unite

One of the most buzz-worthy announcements at Partner Summit was the launch of ConnectWise Unite with Cisco, a joint program that aims to grow Cisco’s recurring-revenue efforts by building its presence among MSPs.

Unite brings Meraki, Cisco Umbrella, Cisco Spark, and Stealthwatch Cloud together in a single portal that allows MSPs to more easily manage Cisco’s security, unified communications and multicloud networking solutions.

Cisco is betting big on the fast-growing SMB managed services market, and the new Unite platform is designed to help its traditional partners transition to a managed-services model to grow recurring revenue streams. On the flip side, ConnectWise partners will now be able to bundle Cisco solutions rather than having to individually deploy, integrate and manage each offering.

ConnectWise is offering a free trial of the Unite portal to partners in North America and EMEA through Jan. 1, 2018, with a global rollout planned over the next 12 months. Partners that register for the trial will receive access to enablement content beginning Nov. 13.

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Machine Learning Comes to Cisco Spark

Cisco Spark is getting an AI upgrade. The new conversational assistant, Spark Assistant, is based on the machine-learning technology it acquired earlier this year when it bought MindMeld Inc., which uses AI to enhance chat and voice assistants. The new feature allows users to launch Spark or WebEx meetings using voice commands.

While its capabilities are somewhat limited at the moment, Rowan Trollope, SVP and GM of Cisco’s Applications Group, said future iterations will offer new and more advanced features such as the ability to track action items. Eventually, Spark Room 70 will roll out availability across all Spark clients and hardware devices.

"We had to do some interesting things that are quite different from what you think about when you think about a virtual assistant like a Siri or a Google Home in that this is a team assistant and it's something that can interact with teams," Trollope said in a closed briefing session with media and analysts during last week’s Cisco Partner Summit 2017. "It's a virtual team member. That means it has to solve some quite different problems."

Pictured above, Trollope gives the audience a demo.

Dell EMC Unity Storage
Google Cloud

Attendees at this year’s Partner Summit were treated to a surprise appearance by Google Cloud senior VP Diane Greene who, together with Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins, discussed the two companies’ recent hybrid cloud partnership that combines the Cisco HyperFlex hyperconverged infrastructure private cloud offering with Google’s public cloud. The partnership places a heavy emphasis on the open-source Kubernetes platform for managing containers.

The partnership reflects the focus on multicloud initiatives Cisco talked up at the Summit, which Greene called a huge opportunity for partners.

Greene told the audience that Google will rely on the Cisco channel to drive adoption of the new solution. “Our success is completely tied to your success,” she said.

In addition to giving Cisco an "in" to next-gen public cloud capabilities such as the Kubernetes container orchestration platform, the partnership plays into Cisco’s strategy for enabling partners to develop their own intellectual property combining the Google Cloud capabilities with Cisco’s foundational on-prem networking, hyperconverged infrastructure and security offerings. Early field trials are slated for the first half of next year.

Dell EMC Unity Storage
Next Year

It was hard to miss the dates for next year's summit. It will be held a couple of weeks later, Nov. 13-15, 2018, in Las Vegas.
Dell EMC's Jeff Boudreau

It wasn't all business. Attendees got together for an evening of fun at the world-famous Gilley's in Dallas.

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