Cisco's new channel chief for Australia and New Zealand (A/NZ), Rodney Hamill, may have only been in the job for three months, but to him it already feels like 12.
The former cloud infrastructure and software director's appointment coincided with the global networking giant's ongoing shift to its new 'everything-as-a-service' (XaaS) model, a gargantuan transformation for how it as traditionally transacted with the channel.
Now as Cisco prepares to launch its first XaaS pilot in A/NZ in partnership with NTT, Hamill has the big job of bringing the vendor's 1,000-plus ecosystem onboard for the ride.
"This is the framework we are looking to apply to get as many products as possible offered as a service," he explained to Reseller News. "All partners are looking at what we are doing in this space. Some are more ahead than others to execute it. Some are buying infrastructure and running as a service already."
Alongside NTT, Cisco already has made some significant inroads with up to six other partners in preparing XaaS models for its Cisco Plus Hybrid Cloud portfolio.
"Customers have asked for [as-a-service] and pushed for us to have it," he said. "Quite often when we sit down and do it, it might not be the right fit, so sometimes it's a bit slow out of the gate, so other offers in market are slightly ahead of ours."
For bringing Cisco Plus Hybrid Cloud under the XaaS umbrella, the "final piece of the puzzle" for Cisco was being able to bulk the third-party storage providers into the mix.
"These are the ones who we work with on our hyperconverged infrastructure already," he explained. "They have already had some mature as-a-service offers in-market, but the catalyst that got the ball rolling for us was when we could bring the third-party storage in. So, we have the data centre, compute network and storage all rolled into one."
What will be key for partners’ success with Cisco's XaaS model is the ability to add more value for customers beyond the technologies' bare bones, Hamill added.
"Where we are different from others is that for us the partners still need to add a lot of value themselves," he said "Customers who are looking to buy the XaaS model are looking for an outcome, so partners still need to wrap a managed service, billing and support around it.
"We look at this as a big opportunity for partners to add their own secret sauce or flavour to it. The pendulum has started to swing towards outcome-based demands and this is accelerating. This is what Cisco and the partner provide joined together. It's not a pass-route billing arrangement; there is an expectation partners will add their value into this.
"NTT has a very mature managed services business, for example, and that's what's being taken to market. It's not just a different way to pay for something, it's a new way to get to the outcome customers want."
The biggest difficulty, especially for Kiwi partners, may end up being around their account billing. As reported by Reseller News, many New Zealand companies have been forced to write off millions of dollars in intangible software assets as part of new accountancy rules.
Responding to this, Hamill said: "We want to make sure that we have options for partners to offer customers depending on their circumstances. While customers want to treat their assets a certain way, others may not be able to, so they will continue to use their traditional methods."
Although, as mentioned, some partners are well ahead on their infrastructure and hardware consumption journeys, other partners will need more assistance.
To provide this, Cisco is now investing heavily in service-creation, which Hamill believes will help partners accelerate XaaS adoption.
"We are putting some muscle into our service-creation to help partners accelerate the adoption of this," he said.
"Service creation previously involved partners buying lots of infrastructure and building out offers to get decent scale. Now service creation is bringing a Cisco-delivered offer and using the right integration points and the right commercial model. For example, SASE coupled with Cisco Plus as a commercial model."
As Hamill works to bring this model to A/NZ, he also acknowledges that he has a huge job ahead with getting fully acquainted with the region's partner ecosystem.
"I feel like I've done 12 months in a three-month window," he said. "It's definitely fast-paced. Coming into the role after 12 years at Cisco, I thought I knew the partner ecosystem, distribution and the channel. I thought I had a good grounding in it. I realise I knew about 10 per cent.
"You are literally the glue of everything at Cisco because everything we do is 100 per cent through the channel. You're involved in every go-to-market and every technology, so you are across the entire business. That's been quite eye-opening – just how much of an engine the partners are for us."