On the eve of its Partner Summit, Cisco execs have stressed the importance of video and other emerging technologies to the networking vendor and its channel.

Speaking to Channel Insider, Marthin De Beer, senior vice president of the Emerging Technologies Group at Cisco, said the company has invested “north of $100 million” in its latest technologies based around video technology.  “We’re focused on our telepresence technology, digital signage and physical security, along with five other technologies that are in development around video,” he said. 

The future of the Internet, DeBeer said, is about video, which he said is “already exploding” in terms of uptake.  Cisco is relying on this uptake in video to create more demand for its networking products as demand for video technology will cause companies to have to upgrade their networks to cope with the new traffic. “Video on the Internet will require a different type of infrastructure, which is not predominant now. There will be a fundamental shift that we are already responding to and massive upgrades as people move to video,” DeBeer said.   He called high-definition video the “killer app” and said he is convinced we are just at the beginning of the evolution of video on the Web.

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Cisco’s predominant technology around video is telepresence, a Web conferencing system that DeBeer said is ramping up faster than any other technology the company has developed.  However, many users have been put off by the price tag of around $300,000 for some systems. DeBeer said the company already has a single-screen product on sale for $79,000. and the market should expect “many new systems, both higher end and in the lower end for the home office.”

He said telepresence is Cisco’s first foray into the teleconferencing market and that prices at the low end will continue to get lower to compete head to head with other teleconferencing solutions.  He added that channel partners are key to getting these new solutions to market. “People think of innovation as just technology, but it’s also in business strategy and routes to market, which is why we try and include our channel partners as early as we can on our new technologies.”

Cisco usually targets what it calls “incubation partners” to launch emerging technologies into their accounts.  These partners, usually around 10 or so, can be existing Cisco partners or Cisco will look into the sector to find new partners.   “If we use too many partners in the beginning they won’t get the return on investment they need; by using a restricted number we can better ensure their ROI,” DeBeer said.

Steve Benvenuto, director of worldwide channels, said it was this focus in the beginning on just a few partners that has helped the networking giant to form ecosystems around its emerging technology. One area Cisco is looking in right now to create ecosystems of partners is the digital signage market.

He said at the moment most content on digital signage is shipped on CD and sits behind the signage on a PC.  “We want this content to be on the network, because this means it can change instantly, and schedule content across various locations and manage the content better.”   He said Cisco is looking for partners that can help it deliver this—from the displays to the content to the networking. “Ideally the partners that we use for this will have the ability to build a digital signage practice, that we will help them to do,” he said.

Adoption for the technology has been strong in financial services markets as well as retail outlets.  “Asia especially has seen massive growth for us, and we see this continuing across the globe,” he said.