Cisco Partner Summit 2023: CEO, Channel Chief Weigh In On Splunk Deal, AI And Channel Culture

CEO Chuck Robbins, alongside the tech giant’s executive leadership team and incoming Channel Chief Rodney Clark, spoke on the mainstage and with CRN about AI, the Splunk acquisition, as well as Cisco’s culture at Cisco Partner Summit 2023.


Cisco Partner Summit 2023 highlighted new product innovations, partner programming updates, and a chance for channel partners to hear all about the company’s strategy and channel opportunities heading into 2024.

The San Jose, Calif.-based tech giant’s executive leadership took to the show to talk about major trends, such as AI, managed services and Cisco’s software focus. Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins took the opportunity to talk to CRN about how the planned Splunk megadeal will bolster Cisco’s security prowess. Meanwhile, on the channel side, the company at Partner Summit introduced Rodney Clark, a well-known channel leader and former Microsoft channel chief as its new channel leader beginning in January. Clark, as well as former Channel Chief and current Cisco EMEA president Oliver Tuszik met up with CRN at the show to talk about Cisco’s channel-first culture and the company’s platform approach it’s adopting to networking, security, and observability.

Here’s what Cisco’s leadership team, including Chuck Robbins and Rodney Clark, had to say at Cisco Partner Summit 2023.

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Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins On Impending Splunk Acquisition

The [extended detection and response] XDR platform is going to continue to have more and more AI and machine learning, helping to correlate threats more quickly for customers. And we’ve talked about moving from detection and response to prediction and prevention. And if you think about Splunk’s platform, it’s just massive data platform that has ingested lots of insights from different threat sources, logs [and] events. And I think when you put that together with the XDR platform, which is all utilizing AI, we should be able to give our customers the most rapid insights relative to what’s going on in their security and their infrastructure of anyone, and so I think that’s the big play there.

Rodney Clark, Incoming SVP, Partnerships and Small & Medium Business On Cisco’s channel culture

I’ve had fairly large channel responsibilities in my last two companies. And there’s a fairly unique difference between all of those experiences and this one at Cisco. And it’s hard to articulate in words, but I’m going to give it a shot. The partners are genuinely excited to grow with Cisco. The partners are genuinely excited to leverage Cisco and our capabilities to help them build new capability. In the 48 conversations that I’ve had [at Partner Summit], I haven’t had one partner corner me and give me the list of issues. I’ve had partners corner me and give me the list of opportunities to grow, and where and how we can help them. That’s a pretty significant shift and that’s my big takeaway … just how genuinely excited this ecosystem is to partner with Cisco.

Liz Centoni, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Applications & Chief Strategy Officer On AI

We have an enormous amount of telemetry across email, endpoints, and the network. To really get the biggest benefit from AI, you need massive amounts of quality data. There are very few companies in this planet that have that. Now, AI is used pervasively across our portfolio. You’ve heard us talk about automation, baselining, anomaly detection, and noise reduction. We love Gen AI, it brings us huge opportunity, and we’re rapidly using it across our portfolio. You will hear us talk about this. We are powering AI workloads for our customers.

Oliver Tuszik, President, Cisco EMEA and Former Channel Chief On Cisco’s platform approach to networking, security, and full stack observability

That is a big change. These borders, these clear lines that we had. They no longer exist. Technology-wise, they might still exist in some areas, but take networking, security, that’s where the power of both worlds come together. And customers don’t want to deal with the interface. They want us our partners in this case to deliver this and that’s the big opportunity. We see network, security [and] managed services growing very fast.

Jeff Sharritts, Executive Vice President and Chief Customer and Partner Officer On Cisco Being The ‘Most Relevant Partner’

We want to be your most relevant partner that you have when you’re working with your customers. And we’re committed to ensuring that our partnership is mutually beneficial … I think from just a relevance perspective … I’m having conversations with CIOs and CTOs every day and we’re talking about areas of focus [AI and security] and how those topics are key to their business. And it doesn’t matter if it’s governments, enterprise, commercial, it doesn’t matter the segment of the market. And I think as we continue to evolve our programs … and making sure that they’re aligned to those things, and things our customers care about, and [we] demonstrate how critical the service capabilities, whether it be what we’re doing the maintenance services, what we’re doing in the public cloud marketplace, and co-selling or what we’re doing in professional services, all kind of tied closely and thus delivering value to our customers around those key areas. That’s the relevance I’m talking about. It’s all about the customer.