Cisco Partner Summit 2022 is in the books. As is the norm, the Partner Summit was a hybrid event, drawing thousands of global partners in-person in Las Vegas and virtually on Cisco’s digital platform. I attended live and was well worth the investment. In this article, I will capture the essence of Cisco's upbeat message to the partner community.
Cisco was one of the first tech companies to implement a channel-led model 26 years ago. Today, Cisco's partner ecosystem includes thousands of partners across 150 countries. An astounding 90% of Cisco’s revenue flows through Cisco’s partners.
CEO Chuck Robbins and everything-as-a-service (XaaS)
Cisco is attempting to transition from hardware to software, services, and recurring revenue. Robbins acknowledged that supply chain issues over the last two years have impacted getting hardware to customers but provided assurance that the XaaS initiative Cisco Plus was still a priority as customers are looking for new ways to purchase IT.
There were Cisco Plus offerings announced this past year. Cisco Plus Hybrid Cloudincludes Cisco’s entire data center compute, networking, and storage portfolio. Cisco+ Secure Connect, Cisco’s unified Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) solution. Cisco+ Secure Connect is a SASE solution that securely connects users to applications over a network. The service is a cloud-managed SASE solution with a unified dashboard.
I have long predicted the trend toward everything-as-a-service. Cisco's success with partners revolves around Cisco's products sold bundled with managed services. Fast forward to the not-too-distant future, the partnership model becomes even more pivotal as the world of managed services and as-a-service merges.
Cisco and full-stack observability
Cisco sees a clear need voiced by customers for full-stack observability, citing multiple tools for monitoring and friction between teams. Cisco is developing an open, extensible, and API-driven platform to integrate applications, networks, internet, cloud, infrastructure, security, and digital-experience monitoring. There were hints on how emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning could reduce complexity.
How effective Cisco partners will be at selling observability remains to be seen. Keep reading below to get a glimpse of how that will happen.
Cisco partner program evolves with six new specializations.
In keeping with the market changes, Cisco is developing the partner program by adding six new solution specializations. These six new specializations showcase capabilities at a solution level and demonstrate successful delivery, not just the completion of exams and training courses:
1. Full-stack Observability (FSO) demonstrates the ability to centralize application performance analytics across the entire IT stack, including integrations across AppDynamics, ThousandEyes, InterSight, and Secure Application.
2. Hybrid Work from Office recognizes skills and experience in helping customers evolve traditional on-site and off-site work models with solutions that enable employees to work safely and securely from the office or remotely.
3. Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) highlights the ability to securely enable users, devices, and software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications without adding complexity or reducing end-user performance.
4. Hybrid Cloud Computing will showcase partners that provide customers with simple, secure hybrid cloud computing experiences at home, in the office, or anywhere.
5. Hybrid Cloud Networking recognizes partners that securely and efficiently connect and manage customers’ data, workloads, and applications across data centers, edge, and multiple clouds.
6. Hybrid Cloud Software demonstrates expertise in managing operational complexity by helping customers streamline and unify IT operations with secure, hybrid cloud management software.
End-to-end security across hybrid multi-cloud environments
Cisco has a strong security portfolio of point security solutions which has hindered adoption according to the partner community, citing customer preference for an integrated platform rather than point solutions. Enterprises tell me that they are looking for less security vendors, not more. There is an integration tax to every point product.
Cisco’s response was Cisco Security Cloud, an integrated security and networking platform utilizing the Cisco security portfolio to produce a cloud-native service. Years ago, I said that the best approach to muti-cloud would be to adopt a common networking, security and data fabric. Cisco’s security cloud provides two out of three.
The new overarching security strategy starts with a single platform. It will ensure security and networking across hybrid and multi-cloud environments with the capability of securely connecting people, applications, and devices anywhere.
The platform includes threat prevention, detection, response, and remediation at scale, with no vendor lock-in.
Cisco has a broad set of solutions, from the user, device, network, and applications. Moving away from a best-of-breed, point solution-based approach to an integrated platform is the right approach, in my opinion.
A zero-trust strategy should include passwordless and risk-based authentication to improve user experience. Cisco has made Duo Passwordless Authentication available to protect Single Sign On (SSO) applications. Users can log in without passwords using biometrics (Windows Hello and Mac touch ID) and security keys.
As hybrid work becomes the norm, organizations demand high-performance network security without the increased cost. Cisco is introducing the new Secure Firewall 3100 Series to meet this need. The 3100 Series firewalls are purpose-built for hybrid work with support for more remote users and increased VPN speed and performance. The 3100 Series firewalls use machine learning technologies to passively identify user applications and potential threats in encrypted traffic, without decryption, to detect malware.
Seeing Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins in-person reinforced my belief that Cisco is a company you can trust. Robbins spent more time admitting the company’s shortcomings and plans to improve more that tooting its own horn. That engenders trust and I believe trust will be more of a deciding factor than the best tech in the future.
Cisco’s analyst event was one of the best I have attended in a while, even though it was a partner event which I don’t often frequent. I got to meet 1:1 with nearly every member of the C-Suite. This means a lot to me as I rank and compare different technology companies not just on the merit of its solutions, but its senior management as they’re the best indicator of what to expect in the future. Weak senior management means a weak future. Strong senior management means a strong future. Cisco’s future looks bright to me.
Cisco's focus and strategy have been incredibly consistent - pre and post-pandemic. To an ex-corporate strategy guy that is impressive and must engender trust with enterprises. There’s that trust thing again.
That said, Cisco is not standing still and has recognized the tectonic shifts in how technology is consumed and delivered. We are moving to a world where the line between managed services and as-a-service becomes blurred.
Cisco is calling this shift the “Age of the Partner” and is actively working to equip the partner ecosystem with the tools to be successful in a new model where Cisco, partner, and customer all work together with a set of business imperatives rather than a technology stack. That must be good news for Cisco customers!