Cisco ramps up partner data centre enablement

Cisco data centre gearGiven the growth Cisco is seeing in the data centre (see our video interview with Cisco Canada president Nitin Kawale for details), it’s no surprise that the company is very interested in creating incentive and opportunities for its channel partners in the space.

To help support solution providers in the space, Cisco has rolled out a new series of channel programs, promotions and training elements, all of which arrive at the same time as some significant refresh to its data centre product lines.

New programs and tools include a help desk for partners, access to a new virtual lab, and an extended Accelerator program that promises to boost partner productivity.

As usual, the greatest benefits are for those who invest the most in their Cisco-centric data centre practices, said Dave Gronner, senior manager of worldwide channels. “There’s a clear partner profitability benefit that goes with [partners’] own investment,” he said. “It’s our way of making sure we’re staying in step with partner investments.”

The company has extended its Data Centre Accelerator program through the end of its current fiscal year (July 30). The program offers partners in its data centre Advanced Technology Provider (ATP) partners an additional backend rebate for data centre products sold through its Opportunity Incentive Program deal registration system. Gronner said the program includes its Nexus data centre switches and its Unified Computing System lineup, and can “as much as double partner gross margins on a deal.”

Cisco will also fund data centre assessment engagements done by partners. The company has offered Cisco-funded partner network assessments in the past, but now it’s extending that opportunity to the full scope of the data centre. This program is also focused heavily on its data centre ATP partners, but Gronner suggested other partners could also get in on the action as the decision to fund is made on a case-by-case basis. Deals that come out of network assessments usually come in at around $250,000 to $300,000, Gronner said, and he expects that number to grow in the case of data centre assessments.

“Anytime a partner gets better insight into a customer and shares those insights with a customer, good things are going to happen,” he said. “It’s the ultimate in demand generation for our professional services-led partners.”

The company is also introducing a Data Centre Virtual Lab for partners, giving solution providers a sandboxed environment on which to test specific customer requirements or interests in a lab that includes all of the company’s data centre gear in a single place.

And rounding out the announcements, the company has introduced a Plan, Design and Implement (PDI) Help Desk that offers solution providers access to Cisco’s data centre engineers via phone, online chat and WebEx to help VARs build out data centre solutions.

Both the latter programs (Virtual Lab and PDI Help Desk) are targeted at the broader community of Data Centre-specialized partners, and not just members of its top tier ATP, Gronner said.

The company is also updating its data centre-focused marketing tools and supports, including campaign-in-a-box and seminar-in-a-box offerings, playbooks and presentations that partners can use. Within a month, Cisco will debut architectural solution selling guides focused on the data centre, Gronner said.

The new programs debut at the same time as the company is introducing new family members in its Nexus 5000 and Nexus 3000 product lines, adding more high-bandwidth low latency ports and building out the company’s data centre fabric vision in that heated arena.

Despite high-profile announcements in the space from rivals Juniper Networks and Brocade, among others, Shashi Kiran, director of marketing management for data centre and virtualization at Cisco, maintains his company has the edge when it comes to the data centre fabric game.