Cisco's SMB channel could be diluted with up to 20,000 new resellers worldwide after the vendor announced plans to amalgamate the Linksys small business channel partner programme with its own and promote cross-selling opportunities.
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Linksys dealers have until 16 September to register for the opportunity to become part of the Cisco channel partner programme, although Cisco has not disclosed what will happen to those who don't make the cut.
One former Cisco reseller said that while existing SMB dealers might not welcome the new competition, it would probably have only a minor impact on their business. "I can see why some would be fuming but it isn't a big deal because there's no money or margin in it," he said.
Other dealers believed the move would be good for Linksys resellers, but did not necessarily want to start selling Linksys themselves.
Darren Stringer, managing director at Cisco SMB Select dealer Brighter Connections, said: "I have no desire to chase the Linksys business, but it will be very easy for them [Linksys partners] to become accredited on Cisco."
Linksys small business Europe head Tunji Akintokun insisted Cisco dealers would see the benefits too.
"They can look at Linksys solutions when opportunities arise that require a greater SMB focus. They previously had to have a different conversation with Linksys in order to do that, but this makes it much easier," he said.
Despite the changes, Cisco reiterated its commitment to retaining the Linksys brand. The future of the brand has been subject to speculation ever since Cisco acquired Linksys and intensified after an apparent gaffe by CEO John Chambers in August 2007.
As reported at the time, Chambers revealed to journalists that the brand was to be axed, although Cisco subsequently denied the allegation.
Cisco has always taken the position it would reassess the value of the brand if it made sense to do so, however in conversation with MicroScope, Cisco's new UK channel head Bernadette Wightman said the vendor was "committed" to keeping both brands alive.
Akintokun believed there was no threat to the brand because Linksys' primary area of expertise was still the consumer networking market.
Wightman said the "harmonisation" was timed to coincide with a ramp up of Cisco's SMB strategy.
"We've built councils aligned to different verticals that drive our go-to-market strategy, and we've just built a new one around SMB, headed up by [worldwide channel head] Keith Goodwin, so it has very strong executive sponsorship," she said.