Cisco Systems has announced a series of changes to its worldwide channel operations and warned partners to get with the program or risk being left behind.
The message was delivered at the networking vendor's annual partner summit in San Diego, California.
Vice-president of worldwide channel programs, Edison Peres, said the changes were designed to address the evolution of technology, customer desires and partner needs.
He estimated the annual value of switching and routing sales at $US42 billion but claimed the installation and maintenance services around those sales were potentially even more lucrative at $US44 billion.
"Capabilities that used to be in applications or the middleware are moving into the network," he said. "Part of our program is helping partners to exploit services and capture as much business as possible. If you stand still, you're losing ground."
The tweaks to its Channel Partner Program are designed to increase rewards for breadth and depth. Its gold, silver and premier certifications remain intact. Silver and premier partners will be expected to maintain skills in security, wireless LAN, routing and switching. Building skills in unified communications is optional.
Gold certified partners will be required to attain greater skills and must meet criteria in all of these technology areas.
Cisco has also announced three specialisation levels - express, advanced and master - where partners must demonstrate greater sales, technical and service capabilities. Its first two master specialisations - unified communications and security - will be launched during the next year.
Resellers achieving master status in a particular technology set will receive the same level of discount as gold partners for that specific technology.
Six core specialisations will be available: express foundation (security, wireless LAN, routing and switching); express unified communications; advanced unified communications; advanced security; advanced wireless LAN; and advanced routing and switching.
Peres hoped the program changes would help alleviate frustrations partners had shared with Cisco during the past couple of years.
"Some partners had questioned the value of gold status and wanted help in communicating that to the market," he said. "From today, a gold partner is expected to be an integrated partner of the future.
"Partners have also asked for more opportunity to differentiate themselves and asked for help in growing their services business."
To address the final requirement, Cisco plans to incorporate what it calls a 'lifecycle services' element into all specialist training.
"Lifecycle services will be of value to partners because they will improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, increase profitability and drive growth," vice-president of services marketing and channels, Karl Meulema, said. "It is an exciting time to be in services."
About 2200 partners from around the world are expected to attend Cisco's partner summit this year, including more than 30 delegates from Australia and New Zealand.
Brian Corrigan traveled to San Diego as a guest of Cisco.