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Cisco Partner Summit 2018 sets the stage for change

With Cisco Partner Summit 2018 in the books, here are some takeaways from the conference that may shed some light on what Cisco’s channel allies can expect over the next few months.

Continuing software focus

Software has been at the forefront of the Cisco strategy for a while and channel partners can expect the software pursuit to continue, if not intensify. At Cisco Partner Summit 2018, Nirav Sheth, vice president of partner solutions, architecture and engineering at Cisco, encouraged partners to add software to their offerings. Professional services offer margins in the 30% range, Sheth said, but partners that build their own software stacks on top of Cisco’s technology platform can expect margins in the 70%-plus range.

“That is why [Cisco partners] should all be thinking about this as an opportunity,” he said.

Revised channel programs

As Cisco and its ecosystem moves to software, subscription-based sales and recurring revenue, the company is revamping its channel programs to reflect those directions. Partners can expect to see program updates over the next few months. The Cisco Services Partner Program, for example, will see a shift from its current focus on performance thresholds to new measurements based on monthly recurring revenue, growth and renewals. The changes to the incentive structure, which will go into effect within 12 to 24 months, will align services incentives with Cisco’s software incentive strategy, according to the company. In the next few months, Cisco will also debut a customer experience specialization, which revolves around software and services.  The new specialization will eventually subsume Cisco’s Lifecycle Advisor program.


Simplification was one evident theme at Cisco Partner Summit 2018. It’s a goal perhaps easier to state than accomplish given Cisco’s appetite for acquisitions over the years. Nevertheless, the company appears willing to take on the task as part of the overarching Cisco strategy. Karen Walker, chief marketing officer at Cisco, said the company aims to simplify the “naming of the portfolio,” reducing complexity by 90% as it sifts through a “jumble of names and brands.” The upshot for channel partners is a portfolio that should prove easier to market and sell.

Walker also promised “fewer and bigger moments” when it comes to product launches. She suggested the days in which Cisco conducted 43 launches in 52 weeks will be a thing of the past. Partners can expect to see fewer launches, which may be tied to events such as Cisco Live and Cisco Partner Summit.

With Cisco Partner Summit 2018 in the books, here are some takeaways from the conference that may shed some light on what Cisco’s channel allies can expect over the next few months.

Multi-cloud outlook

Look for Cisco to continue its multi-cloud strategy. Last year’s summit featured a hybrid-cloud alliance with Google. At this year’s event, company officials discussed the company’s recently unveiled Kubernetes offering for Amazon Web Services (AWS). The Cisco Hybrid Solution for Kubernetes on AWS lets customers deploy containerized apps in Kubernetes clusters spanning in-house data centers and AWS’ cloud platform. David Cope, senior director of market development, CloudCenter, at Cisco, said the company will train about 25 partners with Cisco and AWS experience in the first phase of a channel go-to-market initiative.

A focus on today and tomorrow

Events such as Cisco Partner Summit 2018 are inevitably forward-looking. A key purpose of a channel conference i

Oliver Tuszik

s to point partners toward emerging markets and differentiated services. But Cisco executives sought to make it clear that the company will also help partners where they currently stand while also planning for the future.

Oliver Tuszik, senior vice president of Cisco’s global partner organization, called this approach “perform and transform” – a simultaneous focus on managing the daily business and  building new opportunities.

“We need the profit of today to invest in an even better future,” he said.


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