Cisco Partner Summit 2012 – Day 1 – Welcome to San Diego!

Tuesday was my first actual day at the Partner Summit since I had no meetings scheduled for Monday and there are no normal sessions.  The first full day at Partner Summit is full of general sessions…basically large sessions for the general partner community in the morning and then sessions broken out by geography in the afternoon.  Being in the Americas geo I’m in the big rooms almost all of the day.  I won’t lie….at the end of the day I was pretty tired of sitting in this metal chairs…

The theme for Tuesday was Opportunity with the motto for this conference being In It to Win It.  The first session started off with a nod to the upcoming London Olympics, comparing the network capabilities Cisco is deploying there compared to Beijing, and a show of the number of worldwide partners attending.  In Olympic fashion this was displayed with partners carrying flags from all of the different countries.  And Cisco..if you’re listening…I’d love to win some of those tickets to the London games.

Usually John Chambers is the last keynote speaker but this year he was the first.  Personally, I like that better.  I love to hear Chambers speak and I’d rather hear that early in the week than later in the week.

Sat in the front row all week but hard to get good shots of the speakers.

John’s focus was on services, differentiation, and competition.  One excellent quote on competition was:

John Chambers: “I got soft on competition … never again”

At these events Cisco usually has very good theme-based entertainment.  By theme I mean location or a tie-in to a conference message.  Last year in New Orleans they had amazing local musicians and singers.  For today it was based on competition and the Pentatonix, who won NBC’s “The Sing Off” performed.

As a partner I think that’s (John’s competition remark) a true statement and something that is changing within Cisco.  Cisco is moving to leverage their breadth, R&D capabilities, and integration options to really push out competition.  While some would say that’s a big gorilla using muscle it really allows for much better overall architecture creations…and that’s another major message and push this year.  It’s about the overall architecture, it’s not about the component products and that couldn’t’ be more true, especially in the data center space where Varrow is a major player.  My discussions these days are not usually around new storage or servers or management…it’s about how we deploy, provision, manage, and support the environment…not the components.

Much of the messaging on the future was similar to last year, but that’s expected.  Cisco is currently executing on the three primary areas of focus:  Data Center, Mobility, and Video.  The interesting point about this is how these are really a single strategy.  Mobility and video go hand in hand but they depend on the capabilities of the data center.  We are often working on data center refresh projects to help support communications projects.  Those two business models are quickly starting to merge.

Good VCE Vblock Placement for Collaboration Demo

As always there was a technology demo.  It was a collaboration, mobile device, integration demonstration using a tablet and infrastructure hosted on a Vblock.  There was some pointed discussion around Vblock and VSPEX.  We have seen lately the re-invention of VCE in the partner channel aided by the major players (Cisco, VMware, and EMC) so it was good to see that continue here during the keynote.

Next up was Edison Peres, SVP of Worldwide Channels.  His talk was on new efficiencies and offerings to the channel community.  Cisco has invested a lot in streamlining tools and the quoting/ordering process.  We are a big fan of the new CCW tool that has made our jobs easier both internally as well as with working with our Cisco sales team counterparts.

Edison Peres Discussing “Smart” Services

He and Nick Earle (SVP of Worldwide Services) also talked heavily about new “smarter” services that Cisco and partners can deliver to customers.  As networks and organizations continue to grow the traditional methods of analyzing, maintaining, and standardizations have to go away and smarter tools and processes need to be created and deployed.  Some interesting statistics from his talk are that 37% of IT services will move off premise by 2013 and private cloud infrastructure is growing 33% faster than public cloud infrastructure.  Without a doubt I agree on the latter statement.

Cisco is also revamping their Cloud Builder partner certifications and expanding it to a Master Cloud Builder offering.  I expect to hear more on that on Wednesday.

And more!  Andrew Sage (VP, Partner Led) discussed new programs and focus not he SMB market.  There are a lot of SMB organizations that don’t realize how much they can do today.  They feel that many of the advanced collaboration and compute services are only for the larger enterprise and that just isn’t the case.  Cisco along with partners want to help close that gap and remove those misconceptions.

And then finally…  Tiffani Bova from Gartner gave an excellent short talk on the future of partners and how they interact with customers.  This presentation was way too short.  Dan (Varrow CEO and with me at the conference) said he had seen her do a similar talk but much longer at VMware’s Partner Exchange.  I’d love to see that.

She hit on a number of crucial points.  One was the changing skill set required in the IT profession.  It’s less and less about pure technical aptitude and more and more about being able to interface and understand the business challenges.  Another was how partner sales interacts with customers…and who they interact with due to the changing landscape of how services are consumed.  It’s getting far more common for LoBs (Lines of Business) to procure their own infrastructure, cloud services, and applications.  We, as partners, need to work more closely with them along with the organizational IT group.  This is a topic that has been discussed at very long lengths within Varrow and talks directly at our future.  I agree with someone from Gartner?!  Maybe those Mayans were on to something…

Collaboration Lounge

Once the sessions were over for the day it was time to meet and mingle in the Collaboration Lounge.  After some drinks and appetizers it was time to go to a gathering for the South area Cisco partners.  At these you get to talk with peers in your area.  While we often compete we’re also good friends and share information.  During this mixer Cisco also gave out the South area awards.

We’ll Get the Pretty Award Later

Varrow won the Data Center Partner of the Year (South Area) award and I honestly couldn’t be prouder of us.  Those that know Varrow know we aren’t a traditional Cisco partner but we have really worked hard to become a leader in the Cisco Data Center space.  My goal last year was to grow our business in that practice by at least 100% and we went well beyond that.  It was an amazing team effort by all at Varrow and it’s nice to be recognized by Cisco for this achievement.

So that was day 1!  Wow!  It was a long day but a very good one.  I’m looking forward to day 2 where we’ll dive more in to Cisco’s announcements on Data Center and Virtualization.

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