Cisco Systems ramps-up SMB partner support

Published: December 7th, 2009

On the first anniversary of its US$100 million investment in building its SMB business and the channel capacity to serve it, Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) has announced a number of new partner programs to support its SMB channel, as well as a host of new SMB-focused product offerings.

Cisco has announced two new partner support programs: Cisco Partner Design Support to assist partners with configuration and design, and Cisco Small Business Pro Rapid Replacement Service, a hardware advanced replacement service.

Andrew Sage, vice-president, worldwide small business sales with Cisco Systems, said with its channel investments of one year Cisco signaled it was getting serious about growing its SMB business, and good progress has been made over the last year in that regard.

“We’ve got a lot of support (for SMB) in the company now. The SMB has been identified publicly as a priority for (Cisco CEO) John Chambers, and for us that’s good,” said Sage.

In the past year, Cisco has created a service support centre as well as a partner support community, and has built a portfolio of over 600 products that are purpose-built for small business and carry the Cisco Small Business brand.

“I’ve never seen a more channel-centric discussion at the company in my history, and we’re a channel-centric company,” said Sage. “Every conversation on the SMB, whether it’s with marketing or the product team, is about partners and the channel and how we need to run this business together.”

Sage said Cisco sees the SMB customer coming to an inflection-point. Technology is becoming more accessible due to the work of the channel and the vendors, and there’s an opportunity with the recession to push to make it easier. Even over the last year, Sage said more SMBs have been deciding investing in technology will help their businesses.

“We think Cisco has a unique track-record in creating partner profitability, both through the resale of technology and the deployment of services around that,” said Sage, “We think we can be the most profitable vendor for our partners.”

Launched last week, Cisco Partner Design Support is a presales design consultation service that is free to any Cisco SMB partner. It helps partners during the design, installation and configuration stages by giving them access by phone or online chat to Cisco engineers that can help them create the best deployments for their customers.

“If you’re a new partner to Cisco, this helps you have the confidence that you’re configuring the network properly, and if you’re an existing Cisco partner but you want to get into a new technology, this service can help,” said Sage.

Also new is the Cisco Small Business Pro Rapid Replacement Service. Available through distribution as a service that the channel can add to customer sales, it’s a four-hour on-site parts replacement service for mission-critical applications in an SMB. Customers can subscribe to the service for key applications, and Sage said partners have good opportunity to build margin on top of the sale.

“Having a warranty is great but if it delivers by next-day or best effort that won’t help businesses whose phones or Web site are down,” said Sage. “They’ll want you to get your butt onsite as soon as possible.”

Cisco also made a number of SMB-focused product announcements. The new offering include the Cisco AP 541N, an 802.11n dual-band clustering access point, as well as Cisco VPN Support for the Cisco SPA 525G IP Phone, Cisco SA 500 Series security appliances, Cisco ProtectLink Endpoint to extend protection to Windows PCs, and Smart Business Communications System (SBCS) Release 2.0. Also new is Cisco Hosted Small Business Communications, a customer- premises equipment solution that allows service providers to deliver hosted IP telephony services to small businesses.

Cisco is where it wants to be in Canada in terms of developing its SMB-focused partner ecosystem said Todd Madgett, director of small and medium enterprise for Cisco Canada.

“We’re quite happy with the ecosystem of partners. We’ve had tremendous growth with some of the Linksys SMB customers have moved over to the brand of Cisco Small Business. It’s been quite seamless,” said Madgett.

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