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Cisco Systems has never been a company that sat idly by as the world around
it evolved. In the past 18 months, Cisco has embarked on radical departures
from its networking legacy to embrace emerging technologies such as video,
consumer electronics and, of course, virtualized data centers. The evolution of
Cisco has put it on a collision path with longtime partners such as
Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft, and the best friend of new allies, most notably EMC
and VMware. Some market and financial analysts have pegged Cisco for becoming
the most valuable and best brand in technology.

The Cisco evolution has a tremendous impact on channel partners. As Cisco
adds new capabilities and competencies, partners must adapt and invest to
capitalize on Cisco’s strategy. This means earning more certifications,
reaching new customers and partnering with peers. Cisco is mindful of the role
channel partners play in its evolution, and is including its channel in every
step of the evolution strategy.

Ziff Davis Enterprise’s Larry Walsh recently sat with Cisco’s global channel
leader Keith Goodwin for an intensive, exclusive interview about the direction
of Cisco’s evolution, the missteps and adjustments Cisco has made along the
way, and the role channel partners will have in Cisco’s virtualized and cloud

LARRY WALSH: Cisco has been talking about the network as the platform for
many years. Now it seems that rivals are picking up on that message. Is that
message still applicable to the entire virtualized data center strategy?
KEITH GOODWIN: We think that the network as a platform is relevant to all
of the major market transitions that we’re positioning with our partners. I
talk about four market transitions with the network central to all four, and so
the four market transitions I talked about were collaboration, of course. That’s
one we’ve been working together very successfully with our partners for a
number of years. Now, we were the first to kind of get out ahead of that one
with the partners and lead that one. The network is absolutely at the center

The second transition—and this was a new one in a sense that it really
positioned it as a market transition is—of course, is video. Video and
collaboration go hand-in-hand. I believe we have the inflection point with
video. We’re seeing video pervasively across many market segments, and it’s
driving network.

The third market transition is virtualization and data center, and this one
is really exciting for Cisco and our partners. I reminded our partners that the
success we had together in voice; remember in voice there were a lot of
skeptics about Cisco’s ability in voice and selling telephones. Together with
the partners we really changed the rules of the voice market. It became voices
and application over the network. Again, back to the network is the platform.
The same thing applies with the data center. What does Cisco know about the
data center? What does Cisco know about selling servers? It’s not about selling
servers. It’s about next-generation data center and virtualization with our
view that the network is at the center of that. The network—the virtualized
network—along with compute and storage are defining the next-generation data

The fourth transition is cloud and cloud-based services. Again, it’s a very
close tie with the virtualized data center. The network is very central to all
of that.

I positioned the four market transitions, and then the borderless network
relates central to all four of those. The borderless network, obviously, being
the concept of anyone, anything, any time or anywhere securely, seamlessly and
reliably. Those, you know, kind of capture the essence of the borderless
network, and that’s really the enabler to the four market transitions that we
have talked about, and the network as a platform becomes more relevant than