It’s fall, which in the tech world means the conference season is well underway. One of the major events in networking is Cisco’s Partner Summit, as the company typically announces changes to the way it handles its reseller community as well as a handful of new products and this year was no different.
While many buyers of technology may not think Cisco Partner news is relevant, in fact 90% of Cisco’s business flows through its Partner community – so what happens to them, does impact the way customers buy.
Much of the news revolves around software and services: customers want more flexibility and agility in the way they buy. Cisco has rapidly been shifting its business model to accommodate its customers.
Looking at its current business, last quarter, Cisco’s software revenue was $4B, which annualizes to $16B, making it one of the top software companies in the world. Cisco finished its FY21 with 51% of its revenue as software and services, which I believe is the first time those two components were larger than hardware.
The announcements made at Cisco Partner Summit 2021 further this shift. Below are the updates that are most meaningful.
New Enterprise Agreement (EA)
This is certainly the biggest news at Partner Summit as it makes Cisco’s full portfolio available through a single agreement. Over the past five years, Cisco has seen significant increase in customers choosing to purchase their software though a buying program, with the EA being the most significant. IT provides a simpler and more flexible purchasing experience. EA has certainly been better for customers but there is room for improvement.
Cisco currently has multiple EAs for Meraki, DNA, AppDynamics, Webex, etc. and each has its own rules, processes, portals and systems – making it difficult for customers that want to buy a broad swatch of Cisco’s portfolio. The new EA dramatically simplifies purchasing as it creates one program and one experience for everything.
This new EA model aligns to Cisco’s product roadmap much better. For example, Cisco has been aggressive with the concept of full stack observability, which is growing in importance in this cloud centric, highly mobile world. Actualizing that requires customers to purchase ThousandEyes, AppDynamics, Intersight and more and the new EA makes that easier. The new EA has on set of terms and conditions for the five portfolio areas – application infrastructure, networking infrastructure, collaboration, security and services.
Cisco has lowered the minimum threshold for purchasing to $100,000 in total contract value, making the program accessible to a broader set of customers. Customers can also leverage multiple partners in a single agreement and have visibility to see all their licenses.
The new Cisco EA is currently available through select partners with plans to expand partner availability in early 2022.
ThousandEyes Application Outages
ThousandEyes, acquired by Cisco in 2020, provides visibility globally on how the Internet is performing. At Partner Summit, ThousandEyes announced the addition of a new service, Application Outages, to its Internet Insights platform.
Currently, when an Internet outage occurs, businesses go into scramble mode trying to figure out what happened. This consumes IT time, causes workers to be unproductive and can even cause brand damage if the businesses services are unavailable for an extended period. The new Internet Insights provides a global, real-time view of a number of SaaS apps including Salesforce, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, LinkedIn, Paypal, Okta, ServiceNow and others.
It’s important to note that the service is based on authoritative telemetry versus other services, which use user sentiment, which can often be unreliable. When an Internet outage occurs, ThousandEyes correlates the data with the SaaS domain and can identify the impact and scope almost instantly.
Partner Lifecycle Services
As mentioned earlier, most of the Cisco business is routed through its partners. Because of this, Cisco is constantly tweaking the way it deals with its partners. The more successful they are, the better service they can provide customers making Cisco successful. Partner Lifecycle Services (PLS) are a new suite of CX offerings and capabilities designed to let partners create greater differentiation for faster, more profitable growth.
As part of this, Cisco has enhanced its Partner Experience Cloud (PX Cloud) to enable partners to shift to a predictive engagement model. The AI powered portal can track the millions of devices deployed across the globe and predict when events, such as power supply failures, software issues and others may occur allowing them to be taken care of before they are business impacting. One way to think about this is it’s like having a “check engine” light for the network.
PLS brings a level of modularity to services as partners can select the Cisco services they want to resell and combine with their own and market it under their own brand. This makes it easier for customers to consume partner led services, which is important as many businesses are shifting to outcome-based buying.
The other key aspect of PLS is that partners can merge their own data in PX Cloud via APIs. This gives partners a single dashboard into all its customers products, enabling them to provide the highest levels of customer success and service. Cisco has strived to make customer engagement easier and that starts with ensuring its partners are armed with the right information.