Government Resellers Attain Cisco Convergence Credentials

Government Resellers Attain Cisco Convergence Credentials

By Lisa Terry, Contributing Writer

Government resellers seeking to establish their credentials in the emerging world of voice, data and video convergence now may choose from an expanding array of channel specialization programs created by Cisco Systems Inc., including recently announced programs that focus on voice technologies.

"We've actually been demonstrating voice over data technology for a couple of years, but we've noticed a significant increase in interest over the last six months within federal agencies," said Marc Mercilliott, systems engineering manager for Federal Data Corp.'s Systems & Technology Group, Bethesda, Md.

Cisco's new specialization programs in voice are IP/telephony, which debuted earlier this year, and voice access, introduced last October.

Federal Data, one of the first government resellers to receive certification in Cisco's Voice Access program, sees the certification as a competitive advantage as government agencies grow increasingly interested in carrying data, voice and video traffic on a single network infrastructure.

"In competitive product markets, you really need to differentiate yourself as someone who provides more value than just shipping product," Mercilliott said. "It certifies that a company has the aptitude to understand the sale and the implementation of those solutions. Not many players in the federal marketplace can boast that kind of capability."

Federal Data also has earned Cisco Gold Partner Certification and Telephony/AVVID, or architecture for voice/video integrated data specialization, a technical certification separate from the channel specializations.

NASA, several Defense Department units, the Job Corps and Veterans Benefits Administration are among those moving aggressively toward convergence technologies, particularly voice over IP, according to San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco.

"Cisco specialized channel partners have the skills required to meet customer needs by enabling customers to deploy key technologies that are essential to compete in the new world of data, voice and video convergence," said Tom Stevenson, vice president of worldwide channels for Cisco Systems.

The offering positions Cisco and its partners as leaders in the convergence movement, particularly from the data networking side, said Michael Speyer, director of small and medium business for The Yankee Group, Boston. "Those who are coming from the voice perspective probably aren't as far down the line in announcing plans as Cisco is," he said.

Attaining such specialization credentials from Cisco also helps resellers obtain choice sales leads and earn higher margins, Speyer said, and "certainly among [value-added resellers] there is a certain cache in having the Cisco name attached to theirs."

The channel specialization programs, launched in January 1999, comprise seven specializations with another on the way. The first round of programs included network management, security, wide area networks, SNA/IP and voice access. Added since then were two voice programs, IP/telephony (voice over Internet protocol) and voice application specializations, with a video specialization currently in rollout.

Besides Federal Data, only three of Cisco's 900 government resellers have elected to obtain specialized training and certification in voice access: ITC Inc., Unisys Corp. and World Wide Technology Inc. An IP/telephony-certified government reseller is expected by June or July.

The offering also is a way for Cisco to "recognize its partners who have invested in driving additional solutions for customers, and who influence new business for Cisco as opposed to moving a lot of product for them," said Matt Horner, director of professional services for World Wide Technology, an e-business solutions integrator in St. Louis. "It's a way of recognizing partners that are stepping up with leading-edge technologies."

The integrator is working toward several specializations. Certification candidates must meet certain requirements to be eligible. Voice access specialist partner certification, for example, requires a minimum of one certified sales expert, one certified design associate, one certified network professional and a range of lab equipment and support requirements.

"They have to have a lab
in place to train engineers and simulate and troubleshoot customer situations," said Jad Peterson, manager of systems engineering for Cisco Systems Federal Channels. Only partners with the requisite specializations are permitted to purchase certain Cisco convergence products.

Program benefits also include access to a higher level of technical support. Much of the training for the new certifications is provided via the Web, with other instruction offered via Cisco or partner classroom and lab programs. Some of the training is free while other courses require a fee.

Cisco's stock closed at $140.85 March 21, just below its 52-week high of $141.87.

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