Cisco Puts Spotlight on Midmarket at Partner Conference

Cisco officials unveil a new cloud network management dashboard and a Catalyst switch aimed at midsize companies.

BOSTON—Cisco Systems, which is better known for selling into the enterprise, is focusing much of the attention at its Partner Summit here on the midmarket.

During his talk in front of 12,000 or so channel partners June 4, CEO John Chambers spoke of the importance the networking vendor is placing on the midmarket, and Robert Lloyd, Cisco's president of development and sales, said during a question-and-answer session with journalists that it is a key part of the company's business plans.

"It should be our fastest-growing market," Lloyd said. "It is our fastest-growing market."

Chambers, during the same session with journalists, said Cisco plans to grow its share of the midmarket from 22 percent to more than 50 percent.

Cisco officials estimate there are 1.4 million midsize companies—with 100 to 1,000 employees—that will spend about $25 billion on technology and another $30 billion on services by 2016. At the Partner Summit, they talked about an expanded approach to the midmarket that involves the channel, a product portfolio aimed at midsize companies and a focus on marketing.

The key to the midmarket is understanding that "it's not about [just selling] products anymore," Sujai Hajela, vice president and general manager of Cisco's Enterprise Networking Group, told eWEEK. "It's about value."

At the Partner Summit, Cisco unveiled several moves aimed at midsize companies, and partners that sell to them. The company is doubling the amount of money it spends on channel resources, incentives and programs, bringing it up to $150 million in Cisco's current fiscal year.

In addition, the company introduced new products, including the Meraki Managed Services Dashboard, which will give managed-service providers a new tool to enable them to offer customers network management services via the cloud. The service providers can sell and deploy Cisco products to a midmarket customer, and then manage those resources through the dashboard, which will offer a range of analytics, monitoring and troubleshooting capabilities.

The dashboard—based on technology obtained with the $1.2 billion acquisition last year of Meraki—also lets service providers manage the networks of multiple customers through a single central location while ensuring that each customer's data is kept separate and secure.

Cisco also is rolling out the Catalyst 2960-x Series switches, which officials said can help midsize companies that need greater scalability and security due to such trends as bring-your-own-device. Midmarket companies struggle with the same challenges as enterprises brought on by BYOD, but don't have the same IT staffs or budgets, officials said. The new Ethernet switches double the number of stack members, bandwidth and processing power of previous Catalyst switches; offer greater application visibility and control with NetFlow Lite; bring Layer 3 routing capabilities and can be used alongside current Catalyst 2960-S/SF switches.

It's also significantly more energy-efficient, with some reports saying 80 percent more efficient than competing products.

"It's the greenest switch on the market today," Cisco's Hajela said.

Cisco officials said that if all 230 million or so comparable switches that were sold in 2012—per analyst firm IDC—were Catalyst 2960-x switches, enough power would be saved to shut down the Hoover Dam for 2.6 years, power all households in San Francisco for 3.3 years, or make 234 round trips to Mars in a Toyota Pruis or 34,000 round trips to the moon.

It also would reduce carbon emissions by 5.7 billion pounds, or roughly the equivalent of planting 146 million trees, the company said.