Smart services to lower the bar?

Smart services to lower the bar?

The introduction of Cisco's co-branded channel services package has raised some concerns it could accelerate commoditization of managed services.

3D Networks CEO, Chris Luxford, said the ready-made offer could lower the barrier for competitors who had not previously invested in building services from the ground up. 3D provides call centre, voice and data solutions. Luxford said the lack of pricing set for the services or guidance from Cisco could also kick-start a price war. However, he recognised the value such a program had for integrators starting out in the managed services game.

Unveiled at the global Cisco Partner Summit, the new Smart Care Service for SMB and mid-market includes 24x7 support, advanced product replacement, software updates and upgrades, remote networking monitoring, proactive notifications, and assessed and repair services. The service employs a software client or network appliance, which is deployed at a customer's site.

Partners will be able to combine the Smart Services with their own under a single contract. Cisco is leaving it up to the individual integrator to determine pricing.

Cisco Premier partner, Touchbase, piloted Smart Care across in Australia. Local business leader, Andrew Fisher, said he wasn't worried about the proliferation of bundled managed services because the vendor's technology certifications were so stringent.

"Cisco's certification program is such that an inexperienced partner can't sell any advanced products," he said. "It's possible we could see a price war [on services]: while Cisco wants to provide support for everyone, they do open the market to less experienced players. But partners as a whole have to go through certifications which stop them providing professional services by restricting product access in the first place. "I don't see too much risk."

Getronics managing director, Paul Timmins, said its Workplace Management practice was based around business continuity rather than technology.

"This provides customers with a single point of contact for the management and resolution for any of their desktop, network, and application needs," he said. "This [Smart services] is not a major concern for us - it actually provides us with greater flexibility in building our solutions."

Cisco managing director, Ross Fowler, said partners needed to find innovative ways to differentiate their services offerings.

"Partners that stand still and don't move as the technology evolves are going to be in big trouble," he said. "If you look at how this [Smart services] system can combine all of the end points so you can fi x someone's network end-to-end and remotely - that was always going to happen. Technology would always come out to do that. So what are other value adds beyond that?

"We can't monitor how well that application is interworking with the unified communications- it's about the network platform. So there needs to be other value-adds delivered by that partner's platform.

"Just like Cisco moving up the applications stack into unified communications, our partners have to move their value add up towards applications as well."

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