Cisco Makes Security Pay for Channel Partners

By Rebecca Rohan  |  Print this article Print

Cisco is offering a pair of attractive, new security-based programs for both SMB and OIP partners.

Cisco Systems this week announced two new programs that make a security focus even smarter for channel partners.

Cisco Systems Inc. unveiled both an SMB (small and midsized business)-focused Cisco Security VPN/Firewall Express Specialization, and an Opportunity Incentive Program called the Cisco IP Network Defender Program, which is applicable to any size business and involves security products.

A specialization is awarded to a partner business when a certain number of employees are certified in a specific area and other criteria are met. Specialized partners are allowed to appear as such on the global Cisco Partner Locator.

The increased training from earning a specialization improves the value of a business to customers and pads the company's bottom line, since each "badge" is worth a number of points which, in turn, earns the business extra money.

The Security VPN/Firewall Express Specialization is worth 10 Specialized Partner Points. The Express badges offer fewer benefits and resources and less support to partners, but require less time and effort to achieve.

Express specializations are for two distinct types of partners, according to Alex Thurber, director of security and wireless strategy in worldwide channels at Cisco.

One is small markets, such as countries that cannot have enough business to support a specialization. The other is partners who target the SMB market, for example, "a voice expert or a storage expert, and they want to add security elements—to start moving down that specialization path until they can prove their business model—they can have a Cisco Security Express Specialization," Thurber said.

This express specialization recognizes resellers that offer network security solutions to SMBs. "They can hold themselves out and say, 'I'm going to properly service and support your business,'" Thurber said. "It's part of our broader approach to our partners who target that SMB market."

"This should help us increase our sales," said Dan Phoenix, vice president of DAT (Distributed Applications Technologies LLC), a Premiere Certified Partner and a Security Express Specialized Partner. "Given that we now have the specialization and can sell the full suite of security products to our customers, that in turn should help boost sales."

"The training is based on individual certification by employees," Phoenix said. This is "something we've been working on for the past few months. [Cisco] helped by providing access to the lab, and the Cisco sales engineers worked with the salespeople to show them how the products work and how to position the products."

"Customers know we have the training," Phoenix said. "They know they're getting certified individuals—qualified individuals designing and implementing a solution. We also get better pricing so we can turn around and charge less, so they're paying less for that solution."

Two engineers at DAT focus exclusively on security, according to Phoenix. "One of them, Elizabeth, who's a graduate of RPI [Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute], probably spent upwards of 400 hours training with Cisco [career long]," Phoenix said.

Figuring in the cost.

Asked about the cost, Phoenix said he figured it was worth the investment in time, salary, books and certifications: "Even with a small business, when you say 'Cisco,' people say, 'Can I afford that?' They like the Cisco products."

"For the smaller customer that can't afford it, these specializations can bring the pricing down," Phoenix said. "And they understand that if you don't have the right people to do the installation and configuration of the network, there's not any sense in implementing it. Anyone can spend a ton of money, but if it isn't set up correctly, then what's the point? They know what Cisco is."

"The way the economy is connected to the Internet ... to e-commerce ... there's a need for security," Phoenix said. "It's key to have the right engine in place so you can get these specializations. Put the time into it, and it can pay off."

Cisco's IP Network Defender Program is part of the broader Cisco OIP (Opportunity Incentive Program), which helps protect business prospects for specialized channel partners as they're being developed, and rewards the effort of the channel partner who's stalking the quarry. The IP Network Defender program brings the program into the security arena.

"OIP is the hunting part of the sales cycle," Thurber said. "They register an active opportunity. Cisco validates the opportunity—makes sure it is a new opportunity, and that some other partner hasn't registered it. If it is closed, they get additional points for it. It's a way to support your business if you're out hunting for new opportunities. We support the hunters with this program."

"There are leads, and training, too," Thurber said. According to Cisco materials, 30 to 90 Learning Credits ($3,000 to $9,000 value) are provided at no charge when customers meet a minimum program purchase. Learning Credits, valued at $100 each, pay for authorized training from Cisco Learning Partners for a variety of security training.

"You can buy a router and add a firewall or buy a secure router bundle as a single SKU and put the whole bundle into the OIP program, so they get the incentive on the router, which isn't a security product, and the security items," Thurber said.

The program includes flexible financing and leasing options.

"The whole program concept allows me to be a high-value solutions provider for Cisco," said Andy Shulman, national Cisco practice manager at ePlus Technology, a Cisco Gold Certified Partner. "It protects me from a predatory competitor in the late stage of an opportunity competing solely on price.

"Even the most enlightened consumer has a hard time rejecting an opportunity on price. As long as we follow the registration process, we'll have a level of protection against pure pricing. In that ePlus is heavily focused on solutions, as opposed to transactions, it is very much to our advantage," Shulman said.

"In addition, I'm very excited about the security solutions and programs that Cisco is bringing forward, and we plan to aggressively pursue Cisco-based security solutions with both existing and prospective clients."

Check out eWEEK.com's for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at eWEEK.com Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer's Weblog.


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