Why Cisco’s new Solution Specialisations are great for Cisco, their partners, and their customers

As tech vendors continue to modernise and revamp their partner programmes to better align with the pace of technology, changing needs of their customers, demands around hybrid work and the continual digital transformation acceleration, Cisco have recently added six new solution specialisations which aim to further build and support their partner competitiveness as well as recognise and reward partners with specific expertise and capability.

Image (c) Cisco

The six new specialisations are tied to Cisco customer priorities and represent fast-growing market opportunities for Cisco and its partners in areas where Cisco has been investing and innovating. These are heavily focussed around Hybrid Cloud and Hybrid Work and the solutions that enable these.

Cisco’s Solution Specialisations

The new solution specialisations are one of the four categories of partner specialisations available to qualified Cisco partners, like Cisilion to demonstrate their expertise to customers, including:

  • Architecture specialisations: demonstrate product expertise in specific technology areas.
  • Solution specialisations: demonstrate that a partner excels at delivering value with Cisco solutions, including cross-architectural offers prioritized by customers.
  • Cisco Powered Service specialisations: convey partner proficiency in delivering managed services and as-a-service offers.
  • Business specialisations: focused on horizontal business practices that are essential to supporting customers’ business goals.

Partners that achieve solution specialisations are recognised and rewarded based on the value delivered to customers. The requirements for each specialisation are tied to knowledge and experience, allowing partners to capitalize on their existing investments with Cisco.

The relevance of the new Solution Specialisations

Cisco say their solution specialisations are designed to “showcase partner value to customers and represent the type of solutions partners are selling today“. These specialisations (which are not simple to earn and retain), reflect how Cisco partners, like Cisilion, are using cross-architectural solutions to solve their customers’ biggest challenges (such as how to address the challenges or hybrid work) rather than just simply selling and deploying technology products. Cisco say that “the specialisations are awarded to partners that can demonstrate how they are working collaboratively with Cisco to help solve customer challenges such as balancing an organisation’s security needs with the flexibility employees want, providing the best digital experience or consistently delivering a secure user experience from anywhere.

Specialisation is ranked number one as the initial critical partner selection criterion for 74 percent of customers. By tying solution specialisations to customer buying criteria, Cisco makes it easier for customers to identify which partners to work with.

Techaisle Take: Cisco Partner Program

The six new solution specialisations

  • Full-stack Observability (FSO): Which highlights partners expertise in centralising and correlating application performance analytics across the full IT stack. This includes integrations across Cisco’s AppDynamics, Thousand Eyes, Intersight, and Secure Application. Partners with this specialisation can demonstrates expertise in prioritising actions to deliver superior customer experiences, drive revenue streams, and accelerate digital transformation for their customers.
  • Hybrid Work from Office: Which recognises partners for their skills and experience helping customers evolve traditional on-site and off-site work models, with solutions that power hybrid work, enabling people to work safely and securely from home, the office, and anywhere in between on any given day or time.
  • Secure Access Service Edge (SASE): Which highlights partners’ ability to help their customers to securely enable the growing universe of roaming users, devices, and software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps without adding complexity or reducing end-user performance.
  • Hybrid Cloud Computing: Showcases partners that provide customers with simple, secure hybrid cloud computing experiences at home, in the office, or anywhere.
  • Hybrid Cloud Networking: Recognises partners that securely and efficiently connect and manage customers’ data, workloads, and applications across data centres, edge, and multiple clouds.
  • Hybrid Cloud Software: Demonstrates expertise in managing operational complexity by helping customers streamline and unify IT operations with secure, hybrid cloud management software.

Benefits for Customers and Partners

The main benefit is that this approach takes away from an old-skool technology/product sell that was all about speeds, feeds, features, and cost, and instead encourages partners to have more meaningful “outcome-based conversation“. Cisco say this should help partners do what they do best – having a more “unified solution strategy” conversation with customers where technologies integrate and work together to provide solutions that are better than the sum of the parts.

Examples of this include the alignment between Cisco’s Webex video, calling and meeting services, the network infrastructure layer, the edge, and the Internet with integrated full stack visibility across these layers to ensure the best user experience whilst simplifying IT operations through management and support.

Cisco Live 2022: Cisco Catalyst Management is coming to the Meraki cloud

At Cisco Live 2022 this week, Cisco annouced that Catalyst is coming to the Meraki cloud which put simply means that organisations will now be able to manage their Catalyst switches and access points using the Cisco Meraki cloud dashboard, providing a centralised view of the network with real-time switch status and health.

Image (c) Cisco Meraki

Supported platforms

At time of launch, the Catalyst 9200, 9300 and 9500 switching platforms will be supported in the Meraki dashboard with two different options:

  • Cloud Monitoring (monitoring only)
  • Cloud Management (monitoring and config management)

Licensing

  • Monitored Catalyst switches needs only a Meraki license.
  • Fully managed Catalyst switches requires DNA Advantage (DNA-A) or DNA Essentials (DNA-E) licensing.

The main difference between the two switching licenses is that DNA-E will not include application visibility or client usage data.

Is this the end to DNA Center?

Put simply, No. What Cisco is doing is providing more flexibility and options to their customers. It will mean, however that organisations will need to make a choice as to where that want to manage their Cisco Catalyst infrastructure. In Meraki, in DNA Center, or standalone.

Once a Catalyst switch is fully managed by Meraki it will no longer be an IOS device and will instead run Cisco Meraki software. If the Catalyst switch is a monitored only switch though, it will still be accessible and manageable via the CLI.

New Catalyst Wireless Switches

Cisco also annouced that they are introducing three new Catalyst wireless access points that can be managed by their Meraki dashboard or a C9800 controller.

  • Catalyst CW9166
  • Catalyst CW9164
  • Catalyst CW9162

Feature Partity with DNA Center?

No.. Well not initially anyway.

Since this is the first iteration of Catalyst management within the Meraki Cloud dashboard, there will not be feature parity with what is possible with the CLI or DNA Center. Initially all the core basic basic monitoring and configuration will be available and Cisco have a said a feature list and roadmap will be published soon.

Why are Cisco taking this approach?

Cisco have traditionally been continuing to build on-premises software solutions, such as DNA Center, but with their increased focus of software subscriptions and cloud this is a logical move and something their competition have been doing for a while.

Since the aquisition of Meraki back in 2013, Cisco have continued to try to provided multiple options for their customers and this appears to eb a great move into that hybrid space, providing and option for scenarios where DNA Center maybe too much or complex, but a more simplistic cloud managed approach with a Meraki may well fit organisations who want cloud management with Meraki while still having the feature-rich capabilities of the Catalyst product set.

Getting Started…

Cisco advise their customers to speak to their account manager, work with their trusted a isco partner and / or to check out their get started guide. There’s no need to go full in and organisations can start their move cloud management for Catalyst at their own pace.


Read the full detail from Cisco