When Axiz set up the Advanced Technologies division, its first priority was to bed down the Cisco solutions line-up.

With Cisco the leading player in the enterprise space – with its network, data center, security, collaboration and software solutions responsible for running about 65% of the world’s data centers – it is still arguably the most important part of the Advanced Technologies business today.

Cisco solutions are the basis for the data center, software-defined networking, the Cloud and Internet of Things (IoT), says Business Unit Manager Maritza Van Wyk.

The vendor is maintaining its technology leadership as the market changes, she adds.


Software-defined networking

Over the last 20 years or so, the networking market has seen relatively few changes, Van Wyk points out. However, the uptake of virtualisation, and the realisation that the benefits of virtualisation can be extended to networking technology has changed that.

She describes software-defined networking (SDN) as taking any new or existing network and layering intelligence capabilities on top of it using software.

“This dramatically reduces the cost of both acquiring and managing the switch,” she adds.

Cisco’s new Cisco One licensing model is a way of enabling SDN and allowing customers to transition to SDN without having to buy hardware.

“Cisco One is driving the change from a commercial model to a per-device licensing model that is not linking to the hardware,” Van Wyk explains.

“This protects the customer on both the technology and the purchasing layer.”


Internet of Things

Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the hottest new trends in the market, with well over 1-billion devices expected to be connected within just a few years.

Advanced Technologies has made a significant investment in Cisco’s IoT solutions.

“We’ve spent R1,5-million on the Cisco Connected Factory kit that allows us to show factories how their IoT equipment can work with Cisco.

“We are the first distributor to have this kit, and it complements the IoT competency that we have built up as part of our Cisco strategy.”

But as the IoT hype grows, so does the concern around security, Van Wyk points out.

“We recognise that most of the traffic on the planet runs over Cisco networks, so we believe they know more about this industry than other players.”

This is driving the sale of intelligent security solutions, she adds.

Advanced Technologies has built up skills and resources around Cisco’s IoT technology and is ready to help its Tier Two partners to compete on an equal footing in the market.

“Our strategy is to enable the partners that don’t have Cisco Tier One status to succeed in the IoT market,” Van Wyk says.

“The IoT market is already big, and there is still a lot of opportunity for more growth,” she adds. “Every mine has a digitalisation strategy, and is looking for partners to help with the execution. There are also opportunities in manufacturing, construction, retail and healthcare to name just a few. The market is mature.

“People are looking at their existing installations and asking why they can’t simply add inexpensive sensors to bring a variety of machines and devices into the network,” Van Wyk adds.

“We are seeing the market move very fast.”

With the growth of IoT, however, there is a responsibility to ensure that the network is secured while still being able to deliver the new levels of connectivity.

“This is why security and SDN are key to be able to adjust to what’s happening in IoT,” Van Wyk says.


Making the transition

Organisations around the world are planning to implement SDN or IoT – or both.

The capex cost of doing a network refresh could be the motivation for a new model, Van Wyk points out.

“If they look at Cisco One procurement, they will almost certainly see the value it offers over time.”

This is the first step towards SDN, she adds, and organisations should aim to make a move as SDN is a viable option in their market.

“If you have a network, there is a pretty compelling value proposition in SDN. You can apply SDN over your existing Cisco network or over another vendor’s network and immediately add value over and above the hardware.”


Engaging with the channel

The Cisco business unit at Advanced Technologies numbers 13 people, offering pre-sales, support and marketing its channel partners.

The overarching strategy is to help the channel grow their business with Cisco, Van Wyk says.

“We have people skilled in every area of the Cisco technology, all of them very highly certified. This gives us phenomenal pre-sales and professional service capabilities that are at the service of our partners.”

The distributor has launched a partner journey programme with the stated aim of recruiting, enabling and growing partners, engaging with them through all the stages from unregistered to premier partner status.

“We will engage with any reseller who is interested in selling,” Van Wyk says. “We will work with them and take them through the whole journey from registration to training to helping them engage and sell.”

Other value-adds that Advanced Technologies brings to its partner base include credit facilities, training facilities, a 200-seater auditorium and a fully-equipped demo center.

“We provide our resellers a value add when working with us,” Van Wyk says. “We invest in a ‘Partner Journey’ with the reseller which in return will assist with the growth of their business