Cisco unifies TelePresence channel programs

Cisco Telepresence SuiteCisco Systems will Monday announce its plans to integrate its own TelePresence-focused partners with those selling recent purchase Tandberg’s TelePresence offerings under a single partner program.

The new TelePresence Video Authorized Technology Provider (ATP) program is set to debut Jan. 31 of next year, and company executives said it would bring together the best of the two companies’ channel programs.

“Both companies’ models were very partner-centric and partner-friendly,” said Rick Snyder, vice president of global business TelePresence sales, from a Tandberg background. “This program has a competency and value-based model. Partners who bring the greatest value will get the greatest rewards.”

As Cisco has previously done with its TelePresence partner base, the program remains invitation-only. Richard McLeod, senior director of worldwide partner collaboration sales and practice management at Cisco, said that decision was made to avoid commoditization in the market. The program offers four tiers: Express; Advanced; Advanced Plus; and Master.

Express will focus on endpoints and audio/video integration; Advanced will a focus on infrastructure and solution sales; Advanced Plus will add focus on Cisco’s Unified Communications Manager system; while Master will be reserved for partners with the deepest video collaboration practices.

“We foresee in the very near future that video will be everywhere and we expect all our UC and collaboration partners participating at some level,” McLeod said.

The announcement of the program merger comes as the company is seeing more and more connections between legacy Tandberg and Cisco UC partners, Snider said, in the face of a video market that is “changing very dramatically” by its very definition. While it was previously the field of A/V integration expertise, the introduction of new endpoints for TelePresence and technologies like Cisco Show and Share, which allows users to take TelePresence endpoints beyond simple meetings to create and share videos, is changing the value proposition for partners and the expectations on them in the market.

With Cisco’s partners ensconced in the networking space and Tandberg partners offering a heavy background in AV-friendly rooms, Snyder envisions an ecosystem of connections between partners from the two background to tackle customer needs. Already, he said, there is “some dating and some marriage” between partners from the two sides, and there are “some acquisitions occurring.”

“The ecosystem approach is really, really working,” Snider said. “It’s gasoline on the fire of video – it’s really going to explode the market for us.”

Snyder described the Canadian market “as a significant growth opportunity” for Cisco in video, and a market that has outpaced the 35 per cent growth in video and collaboration products that Cisco has seen across the board. He said the company has “great partnerships, including the service providers.”

The channel program news is part of a broader a set of broader video announcements from Cisco to be announced this week at the company’s Collaboration Summit in Phoenix, Ariz. this week.

The company will also announce:

  • All of the company’s enterprise collaboration endpoints will be video-enabled.
  • All voice and video endpoints (including Tandberg products) will interoperate natively with Cisco Unified Communications Manager.
  • Interoperability between its enterprise TelePresence products and its WebEx Web meeting system.
  • New high-definition video WebEx clients for Cisco’s own Cius and Apple’s iPad media tablets.
  • The Cisco TelePresence Exchange System, designed to allow service providers to roll out their own TelePresence networks, including intercompany calling.
  • Midrange options for TelePresence, including a new 32-inch single-screen product.
  • The Cisco TelePresence EX60 desktop TelePresence system.
  • The Cisco TelePresence Directory, a new global directory that helps schedule intercompany TelePresence meetings.