Cisco advances as-a-service push with Cisco Plus debut

Todd Nightingale, senior vice president and general manager of enterprise networking and cloud at Cisco

Last year, Cisco said it was moving towards offering more of its portfolio on an as-a-service basis. And this week, at the second consecutive all-digital edition of its flagship Cisco Live event, it offered a look at what that will look like.

The networking giant announced Cisco Plus, its bid at combining hardware, software, and services into a subscription bundle. In developing the offering over the last year, the company has focused on flexibility and ease of use for customers, said Todd Nightingale, senior vice president and general manager of enterprise networking and cloud at Cisco.

“We’re not just delivering HaaS or SaaS, but whole solutions as a service, turnkey offerings that offer the power of Cisco technology as a service in the simplest way possible,” Nightingale said.

The company will debut the model in a series of bundles, starting with a Hybrid Cloud offering “around mid-year” this year and then moving on to Network-as-a-Serice and SASE shortly, Nightingale said.

That initial Hybrid Cloud bundle will include what companies need “to scale their infrastructure and total cloud automation,” Nightingale said, including Cisco’s UCS compute, storage, and data centre monitoring, and will be available in pay-as-you-go and pay-as-you-grow models.

While this, and other areas like SASE, may seem like decidedly enterprise endeavours, Nightingale suggested that as Cisco makes more of its technology cloud-delivered, it will be more able to tailor and deliver more of that technology stack to smaller customers as well.

“The goal is to bring the most powerful and differentiated technology to every user through simplification,” he said, noting the importance of the concept of inclusiveness in Cisco’s vision and calling Plus an important driver for that business in the future.

In its news release announcing the initial Plus offerings, Cisco notes that “Cisco Gold Provider program partners will play a key role in delivering Cisco Plus offers, accelerating their as-a-service practices” and that “other Cisco partners can also benefit from selling and supporting more complete Cisco experiences.”

Nightingale said the offering’s simplicity would help the company’s partners bring a complete solution to their customers while reiterating the importance of the company’s channel in bringing Plus and the increasingly important stream of subscription revenues it will represent to the forefront.

“We scale our reach and serve our customers better through the channel, and we’re trying to tailor these offerings to serve the channel,” he said Tuesday.

Training around the Cisco Plus bundles and go-to-market plans will be available before launch, he said.

In discussion with press and analysts Tuesday, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins said the continuing drive towards subscriptions and services, mostly because of customer demand for the agility and flexibility it affords, will continue existing trends in the Cisco channel. As Cisco has moved over the last half-decade towards more API-driven products, Cisco partners have responded by using those APIs to develop their own unique intellectual property, adding repeatable solutions around vertical expertise or other differentiators.

Chuck Robbins, CEO of Cisco

It’s a shift Robbins said he’d seen many times in the past, with partners changing with Cisco as the important technologies of the day changed. Through all those changes, the chief executive said, there have been partners who’ve been ahead of the curve, partners at the same point as Cisco, and partners who have lagged, particularly as the shifts involved have evolved from the biggest changes being technology transitions to today’s shifts being more about business models and the nature of the solutions they deliver.

“We will continue to evolve our programs to make sure partners are a part of our value chain going forward and to create more options for partners to create unique intellectual property,” Robbins said. “In the past, it was about differentiating through the best services wrapped around Cisco. Today, it’s about differentiating through intellectual property.”

Robbins said his advice to partners remains what it’s been for the last few years, although that message is becoming more clear and important as more of the market moves towards various flavours of as-a-service. Robbins said, move up the stack in terms of the kind of value you offer, moving towards building unique intellectual property at the partner level. And look for more work at “the intersection between applications and infrastructure.”

“There’s a lot of extension of their current capabilities, embracing SASE and embracing the Plus architectures,” Robbins said.

Robert Dutt

Robert Dutt is the founder and head blogger at ChannelBuzz.ca. He has been covering the Canadian solution provider channel community for a variety of publications and Web sites since 1997. 

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