Partners See More Opportunities, Few Downsides In Splunk-Cisco Integration

Partners See More Opportunities, Few Downsides In Splunk-Cisco Integration

While maintaining separate partner programs for the moment, Cisco is taking steps to build links between the Cisco and Splunk partner bases and help them leverage the combined Cisco-Splunk technology portfolio.

Cisco Systems and its recently acquired Splunk business unit are taking the first steps to build links between their partners and the channel programs that support them.

At Splunk’s .conf24 in Las Vegas last week solution providers got a look at some of the initiatives that are in the works, including linking the Cisco and Splunk partner portals and identifying 2,500 Cisco customers that are prospects for Splunk partners.

At the event they also heard from Cisco executives and channel chiefs who urged Splunk and Cisco solution providers to take advantage of each other’s expertise and the combined Cisco-Splunk technology portfolios.

[Related: Splunk Unveils Advanced AI Capabilities Throughout Its Security, Observability And IT Service Intelligence Software]

“This has tremendous upside for Cisco and for partners that have Splunk expertise,” said Matt Clemmons, managing director of the Splunk business at TekStream Solutions, a Splunk partner based in Atlanta, while discussing the Cisco-Splunk channel plans in an interview with CRN.

Gary Steele, previously Splunk president and CEO and now general manager of the Splunk business unit and president of Cisco go-to-market, Gretchen O’Hara (pictured), Splunk vice president of worldwide partners and alliances, and other Splunk executives vigorously sought throughout the .conf24 event to allay concerns channel partners may have about Cisco’s $28-billion acquisition of Splunk in March.

In keynote speeches, in presentations at the Partner Summit within .conf24, and in one-on-one interviews with CRN, executives assured partners that Splunk’s product portfolio won’t disappear within networking giant Cisco – potentially negating partners’ sizeable investments in their Splunk practices – and that ongoing Splunk-Cisco product and operational integration will not disrupt Splunk’s development roadmap.

“We are continuing on this path of innovation and we are going to continue to deliver on our roadmap,” Steele said in his keynote of Splunk’s development plans. “So I just want to reassure you – and want you to hold us accountable – that we are going to continue on this path of strong innovation that delivers great technology.”

(In addition to Steele and O’Hara, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins and Cisco channel chief Rodney Clark also addressed Splunk partners at the .conf24 Partner Summit.)

Product And Partner Program Integration

While long-range plans call for eventually combining the Splunk Partnerverse program with the Cisco Partner Program, O’Hara and others said there is no rush to do so.

“We want to be thoughtful on how we bring these partner ecosystems together,” O’Hara said in an interview with CRN at .conf24.

Since the acquisition was completed Splunk has continued to operate as a somewhat independent business unit within Cisco – Steele has said that on the first day his was the only job within the company that changed.

Shortly after the acquisition, Cisco’s observability product development, including the Cisco AppDynamics software, was moved into Splunk. And in recent weeks, at Cisco Live and Splunk .conf24, the companies have announced integrations between their observability and security product sets: Cisco XDR has been linked with the Splunk Enterprise Security platform, for example, and Splunk’s Observability Cloud is now integrated with Cisco AppDynamics and other Cisco observability offerings.

For the time being, however, the Splunk and Cisco partner programs will operate separately. “Over time we will certainly bring our partner programs together,” O’Hara said. “We want to be able to bring the best of what Splunk offers around Partnerverse, and also the best of what Cisco brings in their partner program, which is world class.”

“But you can’t do that overnight. You have to be very thoughtful on who your partners are, how they go to market, and what is important, quite frankly, to each of our ecosystems,” the channel chief said. “We would never want to disrupt any of the business momentum from either of those partner [bases]. It’s been a very deliberate process. And we’ll be very thoughtful, so we don’t leave any partners behind.”

About 75 percent of Splunk’s partners are already Cisco partners, O’Hara said.

“They seem very committed to maintaining both partner models for some time, which I think is very, very wise,” said Ryan Morris, president of, an Annapolis, Md.-based solution provider that has been a Splunk partner for 10 years.

Splunk is working to allay partner worries that the investments they have made in their Splunk practices could be diminished: Steele and Robbins addressed those concerns in talks both during the .conf24 Partner Summit and the general keynote.

O’Hara said partners are seeking assurances “that Cisco understands the unique nature and specializations of some of these partners. Some of these partners are boutique or highly specialized. And so we’re making sure that investment doesn’t get pushed to the wayside by big partners that have large selling engines and the ability to do large enterprise agreements.”

Partners interviewed at .conf24 saw more opportunities stemming from the acquisition than potential downsides.

Bruce Johnson, senior director of Security at TekStream Solutions, a Splunk partner based in Atlanta, noted the acquisition’s $28-billion price tag. “That’s an outrageously big number. That was actually somewhat comforting for us because that is an investment. That’s an investment in technology that you intend to grow,” Johnson said.

Morris at was also of the belief that Cisco bought Splunk for more than a new product line. “The reality here is, this is not just buying software. They’re buying the people, they are buying the process, the techniques that Splunk [uses] in how they go to market,” he said.

With Steele now leading Cisco sales, partners are waiting to see what kind of Splunk-Cisco product bundles and solutions Cisco develops and how they go to market with them. “We’re all watching that very, very closely and trying to stay ahead of that curve,” Johnson said.

Partner Cross-Sell, Collaboration Opportunities

Much of the talk at .conf24 was about the potential opportunities the acquisition creates for partners.

“Partners are all very excited, I would say overwhelmingly excited, on the opportunity,” O’Hara said. “I think that both Splunk partners and Cisco partners – 75 percent of Splunk partners are already part of the Cisco ecosystem – see it as a huge opportunity to really expand their capabilities and reach and scale with Cisco.”

She also said partners see the competitive advantages of the recently announced integrations between Splunk and Cisco security and observability products, as well as the roadmap for ongoing integration work. “Partners want to get out in front of those opportunities,” she said of potential cross-sell and up-sell deals.

TekStream Solutions is doing just that. The mid-market systems integrator provides software, solutions and services in such areas as cloud migration and development, observability, security and IT operations. The company is particularly focused on security information management, SOAR (security orchestration, automation and response) and MDR security (managed detection and response) solutions.

TekStream has worked with Splunk for nearly 10 years and has been working with Cisco and its partners for about a year. “That’s what we’re focused on right now is building out a Cisco channel. We’re working with a lot of Cisco partners that are looking to build a Splunk practice,” Johnson said, noting that it can take a year or more to accomplish that. “They want to leverage people like us.”

TekStream is also working with Cisco to develop an observability as a service offering.

At .conf24 top executives and channel chiefs from both Splunk and Cisco encouraged Splunk and Cisco partners to join both partner programs, become familiar with both companies’ product portfolios, and take advantage of training and certification opportunities.

“Some of our partners are quite skilled, but we want to make sure that if they are not in the Cisco Partner Program, [they should join because] it would give them access to all of the benefits and incentives,” O’Hara said. “They can have the right training and support and benefits to ultimately deliver.”

O’Hara said Cisco partners are likewise recognizing the potential opportunities of “expanding their skill set” to work with Splunk products and pursue joint opportunities with Splunk partners. “There’s been lots of buzz around that, both at Cisco Live [the week of June 3] and here at .conf24 week. Certainly, we see that in our large GSIs [global systems integrators] where they have deep practices with both Cisco and with Splunk.”

“We are encouraging [Cisco partners] that if you want to sell Splunk and don’t have Splunk capability, you need to join Partnerverse. And that’s because there is a deep skilling progression path for partners to have the capabilities to deliver on the value and the experience for our customers,” O’Hara said.

TekStream’s Johnson said that despite the overlap between the Splunk and Cisco partners, there are often significant differences between the two – including how they go to market and work with clients.

“I think we can be an amazing partner for Cisco,” said’s Morris., a 10-year Splunk partner, just joined the Cisco Partner Program. Morris noted his company’s deep expertise in implementing the Splunk platform – which he described as “very complex – and has been integrating Splunk and Cisco Systems technology for years.

Morris cited the higher level of customer engagement and “consultative selling motion” that the Splunk platform requires of solution providers. “It is a very different motion that requires significantly more customer intimacy than we are required to have to be successful in other channel programs.”

“For the Splunk ecosystem, we’re selling solutions,” TekStream’s Johnson said. And that “evangelizing” approach creates synergistic opportunities for TekStream to work with Cisco solution providers as they build their own Splunk practices. “There’s synergy in pulling those two together,” he said.

Matching Partners With Prospects

Partners are looking to Cisco and Splunk to help match up partners with complementary skills and capabilities.

On-stage at the Partner Summit portion of the .conf24 event, Kevin Brown, chief operating officer at NCC Group, a U.K.-based information assurance firm that partners with Splunk, issued a call for Splunk and Cisco to provide more opportunities and capabilities to help partners of the two vendors work with each, leveraging their specific expertise where appropriate. “It’s really around the joint value,” Brown said.

Cisco and Splunk have already identified certain partners with complementary skills and developed a program to “accelerate cross-pollination of those partners,” O’Hara said. They have also identified top Cisco partners that don’t have any Splunk expertise and are working to get them up to speed on the Splunk product portfolio.

Splunk has also been identifying partners with positions in specific markets and industries that Cisco sales representatives can pull into opportunities. “It’s really about account identification and partner mapping,” O’Hara said.

And Splunk and Cisco are also working to develop links between the two companies’ partner portals “to provide a more seamless connection between those two programs” and make it easier for partners to do business with both, O’Hara said.

On the demand generation side Splunk and Cisco have launched a pilot program through which they have identified 2,500 Cisco customers that could provide the companies – and Splunk and Cisco partners – with opportunities to bring the Splunk portfolio into those accounts, O’Hara said. The program will help Splunk and Cisco partners work with each other, including offering Cisco partners incentives to bring Splunk partners into deals, and work with Cisco and Splunk sales representatives.

Aside from ongoing Cisco integration, Splunk has also launched a new advisor partner category within the Splunk Partnerverse program that provides resources and benefits for systems integrators, consultants and other partners that work with Splunk on reference sales, but don’t actually resell Splunk licenses.

“We will do everything to make sure that for our partners one plus one equals three, and at the end of the day our partners now have the best of Splunk, but they [also] have a massive opportunity to really grow with the Cisco portfolio,” O’Hara vowed.

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While maintaining separate partner programs for the moment, Cisco is taking steps to build links between the Cisco and Splunk partner bases and help them leverage the combined Cisco-Splunk technology portfolio. Cisco Systems and its recently acquired Splunk business unit are taking the first steps to build links between their partners and the channel programs…

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