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Cisco Partner Summit 2020 emphasizes services, adoption, APIs

The digital edition of Cisco's annual partner event asked channel companies to focus on the customer lifecycle and develop more customized offerings on top of Cisco technology.

Service delivery, technology adoption and custom development via APIs emerged as key themes this week at Cisco Partner Summit 2020.

Cisco shed some light on its plans for partners at the digital event, which concludes Oct. 29. Company executives emphasized Cisco's push into software and services, a direction the company has discussed in previous partner summits. Cisco also provided a glimpse into its revised partner program, which will roll out over the next few months.

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins said the company plans to enable more of its technologies for service delivery, noting changing customer expectations and the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic. Customers, he said, recognize the "need to accelerate whatever digitization looks like for them."

Gerri Elliott, chief sales and marketing officer at Cisco, said the company is investing to bring more of its core products to the cloud. The strategy includes expanding Cisco's managed services and as-a-service offerings that channel partners can resell. Cisco already lets partners offer its managed software-defined-WAN service on a white-label basis.

Driving adoption

The partners' role doesn't end with selling the vendor's software and services. Elliott asked partners to "drive adoption" and ensure customers upgrade to the latest version of the Cisco software products they have installed. Successful technology adoption has become increasingly important for Cisco, which is looking to generate more subscription-based, recurring revenue.

"We need you to partner with our [customer experience] organization to drive adoption," Elliott told Cisco partners.

Adoption is the closest proxy to value. If you know you have adoption, you can get to value.
Jeetu PatelSenior vice president and general manager, Cisco's Security and Applications business group

"Adoption is the closest proxy to value," said Jeetu Patel, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's Security and Applications business group. "If you know you have adoption, you can get to value." He said Cisco looks to its partner ecosystem to help customers adopt its offerings in the fastest and best way possible.

Cisco also encouraged its partners to use its open APIs to develop customized offerings on top of the vendor's technology. The company has previously called for more custom development but appears to be increasing opportunities for partners to do so. Cisco's platform strategy, outlined at the partner summit, aims to consolidate a multitude of management and monitoring tools into a smaller number of platforms. The company will provide APIs on top of its platforms, which will let partners write applications using the data made available through those APIs, said Todd Nightingale, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's Enterprise Networking and Cloud business.

Program changes ahead

Partners can also expect to see changes in the Cisco Partner Program. Oliver Tuszik, senior vice president for Cisco's Global Partner Organization, said the new program will be organized according to partner roles: Integrator, Provider, Developer and Advisor.

The Integrator role will house Cisco's traditional reseller partners, while the Provider category will include MSPs. The program will maintain its three-tier structure of Gold, Premier and Select levels. Tuszik said the new structure will take 12 to 18 months to fully execute.

Cisco also unveiled its Partner Experience Platform, which the company billed as a one-stop shop for activities such as onboarding and enrollment in partner programs. Availability is scheduled for Nov. 30.

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