Cisco Systems released this month a new cloud-based service that helps its small-business partners more easily provide network assessment, management and advisory services to their customers. Called OnPlus, the new offering allows value-added resellers to manage and modify their ability to offer network services, including the ability to provide remote visibility of a customer's network and attached devices.
OnPlus is part of Cisco's Partner Led initiative, a $75 million effort announced by the company earlier this year, which will provide services and support through 2012 to help channel partners increase their business capability.
Network Agent Appliance
With OnPlus, a VAR can remotely monitor one of its customer's networks, via a small OnPlus Network Agent appliance that is plugged into a switch or router on a customer's network. The Agent transmits about the network to a secure Cisco data center, accessible by the VAR.
OnPlus also allows the VAR to remotely troubleshoot and configure manageable network devices. The VAR has enhanced capabilities, such as the ability to automate regular administrative tasks, for certain Cisco devices on the network. The cloud-based service enables VARs to manage their network services for customers from anywhere, quickly.
Cisco Vice President Andrew Sage said in a statement that OnPlus shows Cisco is "reinforcing our commitment to small-business partners by enabling them to quickly create and expand their offerings in network management and advisory services."
In announcing the service, Cisco noted that remote monitoring and management tools currently offer network visibility, but their expense rules them out for many small businesses, while professional services automation tools primarily address business operations.
'Additional Tool in Our Arsenal'
In a video posted on its OnPlus site, Ben Johnson, president of Cisco customer Liberty Technology, noted that his first reaction was "we've already got that covered." But, he said, after seeing "what it could do with such little effort," he was quickly convinced that OnPlus could become "an additional tool in our arsenal."
Dave Tang, director of strategy for Cisco Small Systems, told NewsFactor that OnPlus is "targeted at network management for companies with 100 employees or less." Being a cloud-based service, he said, allows it to be "extremely affordable."
The service's list price is $250, including a three-year OnPlus subscription and a Network Agent appliance, which covers management of one network. Native apps for Apple and Android mobile devices are available for free from those companies' app stores.
Tang said that the service started in beta about a year ago, and was rolled out into production in September. Currently, he said, there are "several hundred" installations in the U.S. and Canada, with a rollout to Europe and Asia next year. VARs outside North America, he noted, can use the service now, but some prefer to have data centers closer to their locations.