In a now customary packed opener to its annual Partner Summit, Cisco's bosses have told an audience of over 2,000 channel partners that the vendor will not compete with them in the cloud as it launched a new cloud partner programme.
Setting out the summit's agenda in New Orleans earlier on Tuesday, John Chambers moved to reassure partners concerned by Cisco's ambitions in the growing cloud marketplace.
In his keynote speech Cisco worldwide senior vice president of channels Edison Peres said that cloud would be a key conversation at this year's summit.
Peres said resellers would be able to choose one of three cloud 'pillars' - Cloud Builder, Cloud Provider and Cloud Services Provider - that will sit within the new programme.
Cloud Builders, according to Cisco, will design and implement cloud-ready infrastructures or fully provisioned private or public clouds. The Cloud Provider pillar is designed for partners offering Cisco-powered public cloud servers to the market, while Cloud Services Resellers will offer an additional route to market for Cloud Providers through white label partners.
Acknowledging fears that the channel's relevance was "diminishing" in the cloud environment Peres said: "I do not believe that. Cisco does not believe that."
"The network platform is essential to the delivery of cloud applications and services, creating a rich opportunity for Cisco channel partners," he said.
It is thought that the cloud infrastructure market is currently growing at around 25% CAGR, with private clouds accounting for around three quarters of that, said Peres, adding: "Where there's mystery, there's margin."
Peres also talked up the need to invest in specific architectures and verticals, and lead on professional services, and announced that Cisco would be backing up the new programme with a line of Collaborative Professional Services (CPS).
The vendor claimed that this portfolio, which combines Cisco intellectual capital, engineering and service automation will "help partners profitably expand or build new professional services practices".
At launch, CPS spans all major technologies in Cisco's borderless networks, collaboration and data centre/virtualisation architectures, and will be expanded to offer cloud services by the end of 2011.
MicroScope will be providing further coverage of Cisco Partner Summit 2011 throughout the event.