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Cisco CEO outlines channel relationship in cloud-first era

Cisco and partners must ‘think differently’ about how to coexist, says Chuck Robbins

Cisco must find new ways to work with the channel in a cloud-first era, according to CEO Chuck Robbins.

During the company’s first digital Partner Summit, Robbins said Cisco was in transition as it takes on a “hybrid, multicloud, app-first” world.

“We’re going through a pretty significant business model shift and that requires us to work very closely together, think differently about how we’re going to coexist, and deliver these solutions to our customers,” Robbins told partners. “But we will figure it out.”

One area the CEO identified as delivering “a huge differentiator” for partners was building intellectual property on top of Cisco’s technologies.

“One thing that has become clear out of this pandemic is that we all have to accelerate the innovation that we’re delivering,” he said. “We have expanded our portfolio to allow you to drive more innovation – things like delivering APIs [application programming interfaces] on all of our platforms, so that you can deliver your own innovation on top of our technology.”

Robbins also said customers are demanding Cisco’s product portfolio as-a-service, which partners should embrace.

“Customers want public cloud, they want private cloud,” he said. “They want on-prem, they want to consume as-a-service. Some customers want to buy systems, other customers want to buy disaggregated software, hardware and components. And we’re going to actually give them all of those choices across the portfolio that we have.”

In terms of investment, Robbins outlined several areas. “We’re going to focus on cloud-first development,” he said. “We’re going to focus on the customer experience. We’re going to focus on automation, security, quality and cross-architecture integration. These are the things that you should expect from us as we build the technologies that we will deliver to our customers in the future.

“There’s lots of places for us to deliver value together – we just have to continue to work through, identifying those and evolving together.”

Robbins also highlighted a new emphasis on simplicity, which was reflected in the news that Cisco is consolidating nearly a dozen partner programmes over the next 12-18 months into one unified programme. This, the company said, “will serve partners in a more flexible and agile way than ever before”.

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