Cisco is encouraging its channel partners to invest in their own intellectual property as a way of differentiating themselves from their competitors.
The vendor launched an innovation challenge at its Partner Connection Week in the Bahamas, with the partner deemed to have developed the best application on top of Cisco's platform being awarded $100,000.
Cisco VP Nirav Sheth said: "I look at this whole concept of extensibility and programmability, and taking advantage of our APIs, as an opportunity for you to develop your own digital business.
"We are committed to open and extensible [technology] across the entire portfolio. You can increase your customer relevancy, develop new services offers and extend your reach and value.
"[Partners say to me] ‘does this mean we turn into an ISV?' Absolutely. I'd love all of you to not only resell and drive our business more; I'd love all of you to create apps and turn into ISVs.
"It would also increase your own valuations, if that's one of the things you're looking for."
Cisco's UK partner CTO Rob Price told CRN that recent innovations from Cisco, including the launch of its intuitive network, have made it easier for partners to develop their own software.
"A significant number of our products have APIs and software development kits so we expose them to the partners and allow them to develop their own solutions on our platforms," he said. "We're starting to see that come into some of our hardware now as well.
"The Cat9k - which underpins the intuitive network - has on board a generic x86 processor so you can write applications to run on the switch. If I sell you a vanilla Cat9k, anyone else can do that; if I sell you one that I have put some bespoke code on, all of a sudden I'm different."
Price said that bespoke software will help partners differentiate themselves beyond pricing, explaining that the traditional way of beating a competitor - undercutting another firm on a deal - doesn't provide any real benefit to any of the parties involved.
"If you go back to the old world and you sell a customer a Cat6k, what differentiates you from any other partner?" he said. "What you end up with is a contest on price, and you end up winning because you're prepared to cut your costs more than someone else, and no one wins in that situation.
"The partner makes less money, consequently we make less margin, and also the customer doesn't win because they've now got a partner that has made no money and is therefore not inclined to invest more time in them.
"We constantly seek ways to help partners differentiate and partners creating their own IP is a good way to do that because you create something yourself for a customer that is unique to you and no one else can replicate."
Neil Pemberton, director at Cisco partner ITGL, said that developing IP is a way for resellers to install value into their own business, rather than just relying on the products that a vendor produces.
ITGL was formed by the management team behind Cisco-only partner Skynet Systems, which was acquired by BT in 2005, and, like its predecessor, only works with Cisco.
"We have already started developing the wraparound piece," Pemberton said. "Cisco will be the core of what we do but you have to develop your own IP around it to differentiate yourself and make yourself relevant to customers.
"You have to develop stuff that wraps around the core offering. Ultimately we have to build value into our own business.
"It's all well and good being a really good Cisco partner, but you have to have a secret sauce on top of that to make yourself different."
By making its software open to developers, Pemberton said that Cisco has made it easier for partners to develop applications - something that the channel would not typically have considered in the past.
"We are employing software developers, which we never would have done in our previous life," he added.
"If you work in vertical markets, education being a great example, if you can hit on something that works for one university then it's pretty likely that it can be translated to others. If you do it successfully for someone they will talk to each other."
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