Cisco Systems (CSCO) is looking to enable more partner-to-partner connections with its recently announced Cloud Reseller Program. Announced at Cisco Partner Summit 2013 in Boston earlier this month, the new program extends Cisco's existing cloud programs, but the focus of this new partner program is on enabling partners that lack the bandwidth, skills and resources to build out their own cloud practices or cloud services platforms.

As Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, told Talkin' Cloud following the Cisco announcement, the new program will serve as a way to create incentives and to inspire partners to expand the adoption of the primary vendor's products and services. Specifically, partners in the program will act as sales agents for Cisco Cloud Builders and Cloud Providers.

Essentially, think of it as giving the little guys the ability to get in on providing cloud infrastructure and services without having to put the capital to build their own systems and services. Instead, Cisco is enabling them in a trend company executives have been talking about a lot over the last few years—partner-to-partner relationships.

The Cisco Cloud Reseller Program follows two years after the launch of the Cisco Cloud Partner Program. According to a blog post by Bob Gault, vice president of Partners Sales at Cisco, the program launched two years ago was the first step in putting partners at the center of Cisco's cloud strategy, but now the company is "going wider and deeper with all of the ways Cisco helps you, our partners, win in the cloud era."

As usual, Cisco is taking a route to market that enables partners rather than competes with them. Although Cisco doesn't do all of its business through partners, the networking giant has been considered for years a leader in partner programs. It's not without its stumbling blocks (such as complex and overly complicated programs in the past—most of which have now been simplified), but does try to work with its channel partners at all levels to ensure success.

"A larger question to ask is exactly how beneficial the incentives will be to reseller partners," King told Talkin' Cloud. "Like similar partner programs, Cisco's is broad and complex, and could contain inherent conflicts, like overlap with the company's own sales efforts. All in all, Cisco seems to have taken steps to minimize potential problems, but I expect it will take a few months to iron out the kinks and educate cloud resellers about the program's ins and outs."

A fair assessment, as these new programs rarely launch out of the gate as the ideal system for enabling partners. Tweaks are frequently needed, and it's safe to bet Cisco's reseller partners that join the program will speak up should their needs not be met.

To meet the requirements, partners will have to be registered Cisco partners that have a valid contract with a Cisco Cloud Services Provider and someone on staff to manage the relationship with that provider. The program's benefits will begin in August. Those benefits include:

  • Existing partners that join the program will receive a Value Incentive Program (VIP) rebate on sales of Cisco Powered Cloud Services.
  • Cisco's internal sales force will be compensated to sell a Cisco Powered Cloud Service sold through a Cloud Services Reseller.
  • Cisco Cloud Services Resellers have access to the Cisco-Powered branding and logo as part of their marketing campaigns when they are partnered with qualified Cisco Cloud Providers.
  • Cisco partners will have access to an enhanced Cisco Rewards Program that includes a catalog of individual rewards and Cisco go-to-market assets that individuals within our cloud resellers, who have earned reward points from cloud services sales, can redeem points for a variety of rewards, including Cisco Learning Credits.
  • A Cloud GTM Resource Center that provides an online self-service portal for Cisco partners to gain access to all of Cisco partners' go-to-market tools and assets. Included in those assets is a new virtual Cloud Connections capability that allows cloud resellers to see and understand cloud providers' services in market today, compare various resale options and develop a short list of cloud providers to talk to.

We'll have to wait to see how this plays out and how well it actually enables partners.