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Liveblog: Cisco Partner Summit kicks off in San Diego

April 17, 2012
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Networking vendor's partner conference has an in it to win it theme

San Diego Convention CenterSAN DIEGO – Cisco kicks off its 2012 Partner Summit here this morning, with a general sessions that includes the company’s worldwide channel chiefs, Keith Goodwin and Edison Peres, as well as CEO John Chambers.

This year’s event has a theme of “In It to Win It,” and and ChannelBuzz.ca is there to liveblog the day’s events.

Expect the liveblog to start updating shortly after 9 am Pacific, noon Eastern, as the keynotes begin. Want to do some prep work for the event? Check out what Goodwin and Peres told ChannelBuzz.ca to expect when it comes to the agenda and tone for Partner Summit.

12:03

Good morning from San Diego! Things are about to get started here… and one addendum to the agenda. I just saw Cisco SMB exec (and Canadian) Andrew Sage walking around with a headset microphone on. Looks like he’s on the main stage this morning as well.

12:04

And with that, out comes worldwide SVP of partner organization , coming down the on-stage stairs from the heavens to welcome partners to the 16th Cisco Partner Summit.

Six years ago, Cisco was here for Goodwin’s first Partner Summit as the company’s channel leader. He admits he was nervous six years ago, but today “I feel like I’m surrounded by old friends.”

12:10

Goodwin talking about the “in it to win it” theme of the event. There’s two parts of winning it, he says, using the example of his two daughters — the ability to win and the passion to win.

“Cisco has the passion to win. You know us. It is in our DNA,” he says, most notably including John Chambers and Rob Lloyd.

12:11

The company also has the ability to win, he asserts, an ability that is “only matched” by the Cisco partner base.

12:14

For the first time this year, Cisco is an official sponsor and infrastructure supplier to The Olympics. Goodwin talking to partners about the company’s Cisco House facility in London.

And to bring “the Olympic spirit” to this event, Goodwin declares Cisco Partner Summit open, complete with the Olympic theme. This includes and impressive walk-in by flagbearers from partners from all the nations represented at this year’s Partner Summit. It’s an impressive display!

12:17

And carrying the Partner Summit torch for the event, a Cisco employee and Olympic medalist.

12:19

Over the next three days, Cisco will give away 12 packages to partners to the London Olympics, hosted by Goodwin.

Partners in attendance can win by handing in eval forms.

Cisco’s always providing incentives to partners to hand in their feedback at these events… but I’m pretty sure this is the biggest incentive they’ve every done.

12:22

The lineup: John Chambers, then Goodwin and .

Tomorrow morning is “innovation day” with CTO Padmasree Warrior and “a few special guests,” including Cisco collaboration boss Barry O’Sullivan and former channel chief Paul Mountford.

And the mainstage wraps up with Rob Lloyd, and author Jim Collins.

And with out that, out comes John Chambers.

12:24

Chambers starting off with a review of the company’s past, including betting the company on the Internet, and moving from a direct culture to a partner-centric culture.

“My job today is very simple, it’s to share with you where we see ourselves going and how we’re in it to win it together.”

12:26

There have never been more shifts going on than right now, Chambers says. But partners need to know how they’ll make money with Cisco. For every dollar Cisco makes in revenues, he asserts, partners should make more in services.

12:26

Here’s a couple of looks at the procession of flags from the opening session.

photo 1

12:27

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12:28

Chambers says he feels Cisco (and partners) are better-positioned against competitors than they were a year ago, suggests that competitors have stayed on a single-product approach “way too long” while Cisco has shifted to its architectural approach.

12:29

“We have to run together at a pace that makes us all uncomfortable,” Chambers says, talking about catching coming market transitions.

12:34

Chambers talking about the speed of broadband buildout worldwide.

BYOD is “just the principle of the Internet.” “You’ve got to connect anywhere, from any device, to any service.”

And to do that, you need to have smart networks, he says.

“A lot of the most creative ideas are coming from emerging countries. They’re no longer following what Europe and the United States are doing. They’re skipping one or two generations and moving ahead.”

12:35

“It’s not just moving from an information technology age to a network age, it’s a transformation at a pace we’ve never seen before,” and smart network capabilities are at the core, Chambers says.

12:40

“We find that every three years or so, we have to re-invent ourselves,” Chambers says, adding that three times, Cisco has done so very well, and twice (including last year) it’s “been knocked on its seat.”

“We got fat,” he says, and it affected how quick Cisco was to react and how easy it was to work with.

But “the shift from technology architectures to business architectures” is starting to occur, and Chambers says we’re at the dawn of customers choosing all-Cisco networks. “It’s our ability to bring this capability together into these accounts,” he says.

12:41

Chambers taking a straw poll of partners — most seem to fear that Juniper and HP are weaker today than they were a year ago.

Of course, one would expect that of this audience, given that it’s the Cisco Faithful.

But “if we don’t change Cisco, we don’t make it through these changes. And if you don’t change your businesses, you don’t make it through either.”

12:46

But there’s still work to be done in how partners monetize cloud, he says, despite the company’s rollout of a cloud partner program last year that covers builders, service providers and resellers. Expect more over the next 12-18 months, he suggests.

“Think like a 13-year-old,” Chambers tells partners, when it comes to re-inventing your business and going to where the market is going: In other words, mobile-centric, any-device-centric, and truly ubiquitous network access.

12:48

Moore now talking services, where there are three priorities: Customer satisfaction, profitability and growth. “Again, the ratio we have in mind is 5-to-1,” Chambers says.

12:50

Chambers working the crowd as usual… pacing through the audience as he presents his keynote.

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12:53

“We took some shots 12 to 18 months ago, but we came back, didn’t we?” he says of competition.

“I wish I was a better person, but I’m not, he jokes, before adding “but they came after your profitability.”

12:56

Chambers says that when it comes to transitions, CEOs are the toughest to change, followed closely by the most successful business units. No one wants to change when things are going well, but it’s important to get in front of market transitions. And by “in front” Chambers seems to mean “by years.”

01:01

Talking about the need to transition the commercial market from technology architectures to business architectures, as it’s started to have success doing in the service provider marketplace, and through the company’s “have at least 40 per cent market share” approach.

“This is a pretty good hand we have together,” he says, pointing to significant growth in most key business areas – routing/switching, data centre, video, etc.

01:02

“Cloud is the most network-centric technology ever. The ability to build this out, together we have, but without the network it doesn’t work,” Chambers says.

01:13

But there’s still work to be done in how partners monetize cloud, he says, despite the company’s rollout of a cloud partner program last year that covers builders, service providers and resellers. Expect more over the next 12-18 months, he suggests.

“Think like a 13-year-old,” Chambers tells partners, when it comes to re-inventing your business and going to where the market is going: In other words, mobile-centric, any-device-centric, and truly ubiquitous network access.

01:16

And now it’s demo time with “Chief Demonstration Officer” Jim Grubb. “Let’s talk about how it all comes together in 12 minutes or less.”

01:17

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01:22

And demo time is over. Chambers is talking about tying innovation to “every aspect of your organization.”

01:25

“We were four to five extra inches around the waist” a year ago, Chambers says, “and I needed to lose that weight badly.” Having the extra layers slowed Cisco down in every way, he says.

Now, leaner, the goal is to “make us the most trusted IT partner our mutual customers have.”

01:28

And with that, Chambers wraps up his presentation, takes his seat in the first row, and we have a brief interlude from hip-hop dance crew We Are Heroes, apparently of reality TV fame.

01:30

And out to continue the song and dance (okay not really) .

“I may have to turn it down just a notch for this next section,” he quips.

01:31

Goodwin’s going to take partners through what it started in New Orleans, and how it’s done over the last year.

“Last year, for the first time, I used the term Partner Led,” and now it’s everywhere, plus, there’s the simplification issues touched on by Chambers and Moore earlier.

01:33

And “it just so happens” that he sees Andrew Sage in the crowd to talk about Partner Led. It also just so happens that Sage is wearing a headset. What a happy coincidence!

01:35

“Cisco is a very partner-centric company, and you know how to lead the sale, already,” Sage says. The company is going to accelerate its investment in Partner Led across geographies, introduce new tools to make it seamless, and change the way its sales team works with partners.

“At the end of the day, this is an opportunity for new, profitable growth for both of us,” Sage says, because small and medium are the biggest growth opportunity, and will move to cloud the quickest.

Sage will be back on stage with later to announce details of the company’s investment plan.

01:39

And now, it’s time for Goodwin to visit with Wendy Bahr, former North American channel chief, who now heads up global strategic partnerships.

“Robust solution selling is key to satisfying our customers and overcoming their business problems, as well as creating competitive differentiation for us,” Bahr says.

“Integrating solutions is hard word,” she says, but Cisco is “sharing the workload” with its architectural approach. Bahr’s focus is on bringing in other ecosystem partners (Citrix, VMware, NetApp, Oracle, Microsoft, Intel, SAP, etc.) into the company’s business architectures.

“In the past, there’s been a lot of the integration burden on partners themselves,” Goodwin says, but help is on the way with the architectures and ecosystem partners.

01:42

Bahr talking about the company’s success with Vblock and FlexPod, its integrated data centre stacks with VMware and EMC and NetApp, respectively.

By going with those stacks, Bahr details how a partner was able to turn a 0k data centre deal into a .4 million deal across the company – “it increased their services, raised their margins, and made the partner all the more strategic,” she says.

Up next: Bahr says her team will focus on integrated go-to-market with its ecosystem partners. “We’ve always been good at investing in tools, but we’re amping it up a notch,” including toolkits for joint solutions.

“We are committed to having an open and non-proprietary solution set,” Bahr says.

01:43

“We have three incredible assets,” Bahr says — the Cisco brand, its ecosystem partners, and “the secret sauce,” the Cisco partner community.

And with that (and a drop of the “in it to win it” tagline) Bahr takes a seat. And out to talk about investment is .

01:51

Peres says the company’s partner loyalty scores “are at an all-time high,” but the company isn’t taking them for granted.

Among the top things partners value about their partnership with Cisco, he says, are their technology innovation, partner profitability and practice enablement, and the partner-centric (and partner-led) sales model.

Peres says Cisco has to create greater business value for partners to maximize their “return on Cisco.”

Peres talked to a number of investors who were acquiring or had acquired Cisco partners, and they said there were four things that drive the valuation of Cisco partners: operating profit, the potential for growth, the business risk around the company and the sustainability of the partner’s business model (recurring revenues, etc.)

01:53

“These are four areas we believe we can influence,” and the company will evolve its thinking in terms of how to drive economic value for partners, Peres says.

A walk down history lane – moving from the “old day”s of talking about product margins, to ROI on partners’ Cisco practices, and now the concept of return on partnership. Cisco will remain focused on profitability, but will also look to drive partner valuation, measured from an investor’s point-of-view.

“We want to maximize your business value and optimize your return on Cisco,” Peres says. And that philosophy will define the partner programs of the future.

“Our focus is on helping you build a strong, highly-valued business.”

01:56

Today, it’s about “making intelligent investments,” Peres says, with four key investments.

  • First – enhance architecture differentiation
  • Second – Deliver new consumption models
  • Third – Optimize your sales engine
  • Fourth – Make your services smart.

01:58

Partners who did architectural specializations (introduced last year) are growing 20 per cent faster than those who have not, Peres says. “Coincidence? We don’t think so.”

Partners are seeing the value of architectural-based sales, but some sales people are having trouble expressing the value of the architectural-base sale. To help ease that, the new EASE program — Enabling Architectural Sales Excellence — a training program (for free) for up to ten salespeople from each Cisco partner, through the company’s learning partners.

02:00

The next step in architectures, he says, is “recognizing the value of cross-architectures,” bringing together things like borderless networks, collaboration and data centre virtualization.

“This integrated world that we’re in is very complex … and only Cisco, with our ecosystem partners, can deliver on the promise of what BYOD can be,” Peres says, adding that Padmasree Warrior will have more on that topic tomorrow.

02:02

On the second area — new consumption models — “where there’s mystery, there’s margins.” And there’s still a lot of mystery around cloud. “Someone has to solve those mysteries. And that’s you.”

Customers want to “consumer IT by the drink” he says, and that demand is being fulfilled by new cloud services as well as creative managed services. Managed services partners are growing 2x the rate of traditional resale partners, Peres says.

These new consumption models is as big of a shift as the data/voice convergence of a decade ago, he says. And there were frustrations with that transition, “but we all profited from it, and we can profit from this shift as well.”

02:06

“This opportunity is falling right into your sweet spot, right into your value-add,” Peres says. “Someone has to build out these highways before the cars can drive on them.”

A few years ago, Cisco introduced a managed services partner program. Last year, the company introduced its “pick your approach” to the cloud — with cloud builders, providers and resellers in a cloud partner program.

But the program “continues to evolve” as the industry evolves.”  “Cloud all begins with the data centre, and that’s the number-one growth area for most of you in this room,” he says, a billion business for Cisco.

“But we’re learning that to be able to architect clouds, partners have to be expert in data centre infrastructure, clouds, and the applications that run on them.”

As a result a new Master Cloud Builder specialization, that ties in data centre specialization, cloud-builder program from last year, and adding competencies for solutions, specifically VXI, FlexPod and VBlock.

“Think of it as a one-stop shop around competency for creating cloud solutions.”

02:11

It’s been a busy year in the cloud-builder market, but also in the number of applications riding those clouds, including the prevalence of white labelled cloud apps, allowing partners to quickly and inexpensively introduce their own (white label) cloud apps.

To support the move to “as a service” offering, Cisco is bringing together its managed services and cloud provider streams down into a cloud and managed services partner program.

Peres pledges it will make it easier to sell managed services and cloud solutions, and it will bring managed services and cloud apps into the VIP program.

02:11

Another change – a new partner logo and branding, available today.

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02:12

Delivering new consumption models “is driving all of us to deliver innovative solutions,” Peres says, and that will be key to evolving partners’ businesses and valutation.

“We’re committed to not competing with you in the area of cloud, but enabling you

02:19

And onto the third priority – optimizing partner sales engines.

Priority one there – making sales more efficient. “We are leaving money on the table in the midmarket and the SMB market,” despite rapid growth. “We’re all growing, but there’s more to be had given the size of the market.”

To elaborate, here’s Partner Led chief Andrew Sage.

“Our partners already lead the sale in mid-market and SMB customers,” he says, a a show of hands confirms that. Sage says there have been “great innovations” in the geographies, but now it’s looking to “focus its investment” (of million, announced last year). And that focus is a new program called Partner Plus.

Partner Plus is targeted at growth in that mid-size customer space.

The program will include marketing supports, customer intelligence to focus sales teams, and enablement for sales teams.

Support is a major part, Sage says — “We want to be side by side making this happen,” including support from a Cisco sales team dedicated to the area, and a new pre-sales service for Partner Plus program members, focused on expanding sales across architectures.

Underneath it all, a new “sales collaboration platform” that will share customer intelligence, leads and opportunities.

And then there’s the investment: “We’ve announced a new incentive program, part of Partner Plus, with a way to consistently re-invest in their business.”

“It’s really about the growth opportunity,” Sage says. Partner Plus will “focus us” on the mid-market and lead to increased growth, he says.

02:21

And the last category, making services “smart” — the quotes are Cisco’s not mine.

“If there’s ever a place that has a significant impact on the valutation of your business, its your services business, it’s the stickiness you have there.”

And Cisco’s strategy has always been to empower partners there, which he places in contrast with competitors, whom he says competes with partners.

And out to discuss the announcements for today, Nick Earle, vice president of services sales.

02:25

Five years ago, services is 20 per cent of Cisco, and 20 per cent of partners’ businesses. Today, still 20 per cent of Cisco, and 50 per cent of partners’ businesses, Earle says, with data from Cisco’s annual partner profitability survey.

There’s a huge services opportunity, Earle says, because of amount of money customers spend on managing and maintaining networks, as opposed to purchasing gear.

Six months ago, the company introduced “rules of engagement” for Cisco services and partners, and now Earle is thinking about enablement.

Earle discussing “smart” services,” software based services that discover customer information, correlates findings with Cisco data, and provides actionable strategies, reactively or proactively.

02:30

This smart services software is used in 88 per cent of the company’s own services business. “It’s battle-proven, it works, and we’re going to bring it to all of you.”

And it’s doing so through a new partner program, the Cisco Services Partner Program — which consolidates 47 former programs, and will “look and feel” like other Cisco partner programs.

02:32

Two partner modes: partners can “resell” Cisco services, IE: the partner sells and Cisco delivers, which includes quarterly rebates up to 20 per cent.

But for partners who have services capabilities of their own, the second path is “collaborative services” – Partners buy Smart components from Cisco, bring it into their own workflows, and support it. It’s the evolution of the Smart Care program for the SMB market, and Collaborative Professional Services, introduced last year.

02:34

The next step, is the launch of the Partner Support Service.

Partners can now buy “the individual components of Smart services,” embed their own software-based services through open APIs, and “bond” the two together. “In other words, you deliver your own Smart services, under your own brand.”

That will feature rebates of up to 32 per cent for partners who make the qualifications.

02:37

Earle calls the announcements “the most significant changes” in the company’s partner services model in 15 years. Partners in the pilot are growing topline (through selling new services) and bottom line (converting manual processes into software for efficiency gains.”

There are over 2,000 partners  in the pilot program, Earle says.

“It’s the combination of smart services and the new partner program that really is the magic here,” he says. “We can do, together, what nobody else can do. We can make your services smart, drive your value, drive your profitability, drive your valuation and drive your success.”

And with that, Earle hands it back to Peres.

02:42

Peres is back to talk about driving simplicity into Cisco’s partner programs over the last year.

Biggest changes include changing VIP customer satisfaction survey requirements, especially because top-level partners have to do customer sat surveys for their certifications. So effective immediately, partners who meet custom sat goals for certifications no longer have to do VIP customer sat surveys.

And on audits, Peres introduces “focused audits” — once a partner has gone through a full audit, future audits will focus on new areas, areas that previously needed improvement, and opportunities for growth. He estimates that it will reduce time to handle audits by 40-50 per cent.

The third area is Cisco Commerce Workspace (CCW) — a new single tool for managing quotes and orders. He admits there will be learning curve, “but the savings are so great” partners should migrate to CCW quickly, although existing systems will be on-line until August 2013.

“We are committed to simplifying,” Peres says.

02:45

“We find ourselves in changing times: new consumption models, new technologies, new competitors. And some say that many of the channel partners of today won’t make the transition. But I don’t believe that. I believe we will, as we always have, continue to innovate and evolve,” Peres says. “I’m convinced we’ll build a partnership that will make us all proud.”

And on that note, Peres wraps up his keynote, after dropping the “in it to win it” meme, naturally.

That wraps up the keynote session, and our liveblog. Thanks for reading. Much more from Partner Summit to come here on ChannelBuzz.ca.

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