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Cisco partners view Catalyst 9200 as service opportunity

Channel executives at Cisco Partner Summit 2018 say Cisco's new Catalyst switches offer the ability to wrap software and services around hardware sales.

Cisco partners said the networking vendor's newly unveiled Catalyst 9200 will let them sell switches to a wider range of customers and open service opportunities beyond the initial hardware sale.

Cisco used the occasion of Cisco Partner Summit 2018 to announce its entry-level Catalyst switch, which the company said extends intent-based networking to midmarket customers and branch offices. Cisco in 2017 targeted campus networks when it introduced its Catalyst 9000 switch, which launched the vendor's intent-based networking initiative.

Cisco described Catalyst 9000 as its fastest-selling product ever and has big expectations for its new addition. Cisco executives said the Catalyst 9200 more than doubles that market it current addresses with the Catalyst 9000, noting the new switch's target market represents 25% of the world's networking ports.

Partners see an opening for new sales.

"For me, it's a really big deal," said Clayton Daffron, director of solution architecture at Denali Advanced Integration, a managed services provider and Cisco partner based in Redmond, Wash. He cited the example of a retail customer who expressed interest in intent-based networking but was unsure about the feasibility of investing in the campus switch. The midmarket switch with its lower price point, however, changes the discussion for such customers.

"It allows us to have new conversations with these customers," Daffron said. He noted the new switch suits not only midmarket and smaller customers, but larger customers that have remote sites.

[Catalyst 9200] allows us to have new conversations with these customers.
Clayton Daffrondirector of solution architecture, Denali Advanced Integration

Vinu Thomas, CTO at Presidio, an IT solutions provider and Cisco partner based in New York, said he sees a "tremendous opportunity" in extending the fast-selling Catalyst 9000 technology to branch offices and the edge.

Catalyst 9200L switches, which come with fixed uplinks, are slated for availability in the fourth calendar quarter, with Catalyst 9200 switches, which come with modular uplinks, available in the first quarter of 2019. Cisco also announced its Catalyst 9800 Wireless Controllers, scheduled for availability in the fourth quarter 2018, and also revealed plans to unify security and SD-WAN products.

While the new Cisco switches may open more customer doors, they also open opportunities around software and services.

Thomas said Presidio can provide professional services to help customers set up the switches and offer managed services as well. In addition, Presidio has opportunities to offer advanced services such as building custom applications, DevOps and automation, he said.

Presidio's experience with the Catalyst 9000 sheds light on what's to come with the new switches. Thomas said the Catalyst 9000's software layer became a key differentiator, allowing Presidio to create custom applications using the switch's open API architecture. At the Cisco Live conference earlier this year, Presidio demonstrated a custom application that monitors power consumption through Cisco's DNA Center.

Thomas said power management is not built into the Cisco technology, but noted Cisco's platform-based approach "lets partners deliver what customers need on top of the solution."

Thomas said Presidio offers customers a service to help them "walk through a software migration journey" from an old hardware-centric network to a software-defined network.

Daffron said he also sees software opportunities amid Cisco's hardware devices. Denali Advanced Integration can, for example, advise customers on how to consume software packages that are part of new licensing models such as enterprise agreements.

The company's biggest wins this year, he said, have involved helping customers understand the software lifecycle components of deploying Cisco technology.

While Cisco continues its software push, the company believes there will be a role for hardware and software going forward. Vinay Nichani, vice president of worldwide software sales at Cisco, said hardware delivers performance and scale for customers, while software provides flexibility and agility.

"When we talk about software, it is not an or," he said. "It is an and."

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