Cloud Strategy Still Evolving

By Lawrence Walsh  |  Print this article Print

In this interview with Channel Insider, Cisco’s global channel chief Keith Goodwin reveals how video is driving virtualization adoption and that midmarket companies – not large enterprises – accelerated Cisco’s next-generation data center and networking vision.

LW: Over the past year, Cisco has said that it was interested in being the platform for cloud, very interested in providing infrastructure as a service, but not application as a service or software as a service. However, Cisco owns Webex and launched Webex e-mail services, and it recently acquired ScanSafe e-mail security service. So is Cisco involving its cloud strategy where it will deliver more software and applications?
KG: Our cloud strategy continues to evolve, and it's one of those four market transitions that are going to be huge for our partners. There is a great opportunity for us to help customers build clouds. Service providers are building private clouds. Many of our large partners are going to build their own private clouds. The opportunity for our partners will be in hybrid environments. Customers will have certain on-premises solutions, and they will have certain solutions and services that will come from the cloud. The partners can deliver a lot of value in helping to integrate hybrid environments. And there's opportunity in the services themselves. If we do create our own service, we're going to take that to market through the partners. So there will be some limited opportunity to do that for our partners, but we want to enable partners to create their own services and then take those to market together as well.

LW: A lot has been made about Cisco's growing rivalry with Hewlett-Packard. In fact, there's talk about Cisco's rivalry with a number of companies. At the same time, there are a number of vendors who are stepping up competition against Cisco. What do you make of the competitive environment, and how do you advise partners to operate under these competitive conditions?
KG: It's definitely competitive, and the competition intensity is increasing. There are a lot of new competitors in our environment. There are new kinds of competitors in our environment. Many of those competitors are going after our partners, our existing partners. The approach I have taken with our team—and I message this internally to our team everyday—is that it's up to us to earn our partners' loyalty and investment every day. Even though they may have historically been loyal to Cisco, we have to have the mentality of earning that loyalty every day going forward because there are alternatives out there. Competition is a good thing. Competition makes us better. Ultimately we will be better for the customers, and we respect that. At the same time, we are not focused on a given competitor. We're really focused on these market transitions (collaboration, video, virtualization, cloud).

LW: We hear this sentiment about earning partner loyalty all of the time. However, there are a fair number of people out there—warranted or not—that criticize Cisco for zealously punishing disloyalty. Are you aware of that perception? If so, what are you doing to shake that image?
KG: Most of our partners work with multiple vendors. We're very comfortable in a multivendor partner environment. That's the business model that's most successful for our customers. Our strategy, the messaging to our field teams, the training we give to our field teams is the attitude of earning partner loyalty and not expecting it, not demanding it, not positioning retribution for partners who aren't loyal. Now, in the field in a sales organization there's always the challenge of getting a 100 percent consistency out there, but we're certainly working on that.

Lawrence Walsh Lawrence Walsh is editor of Baseline magazine, overseeing print and online editorial content and the strategic direction of the publication. He is also a regular columnist for Ziff Davis Enterprise's Channel Insider. Mr. Walsh is well versed in IT technology and issues, and he is an expert in IT security technologies and policies, managed services, business intelligence software and IT reseller channels. An award-winning journalist, Mr. Walsh has served as editor of CMP Technology's VARBusiness and GovernmentVAR magazines, and TechTarget's Information Security magazine. He has written hundreds of articles, analyses and commentaries on the development of reseller businesses, the IT marketplace and managed services, as well as information security policy, strategy and technology. Prior to his magazine career, Mr. Walsh was a newspaper editor and reporter, having held editorial positions at the Boston Globe, MetroWest Daily News, Brockton Enterprise and Community Newspaper Company.