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Cisco Partner Westcon Group’s LEAP Centers Focus on Technology’s Business Value

Sometimes it helps to see real-world routing and switching technology, data center security, and virtualized Unified Communications in action. Did you know that there’s a place you can do just that—either in person, or virtually?

It’s been just about a year since Cisco distributor partner the Westcon Group unveiled its LEAP Centers (LEAP stands for Learn, Experience, Architect and Plan). LEAP Centers provide partners with hands-on training  in a lab environment, where a reseller and end-user can come together for hands-on demonstrations.

Cisco partners can take advantage of training to evaluate core switching and routing processes, application delivery, data center security, virtualized Unified Communications and other data-centric and Cisco UCS solutions. Westcon has two LEAP Centers, one in Denver, Colorado, and the other in Brussels, Belgium. If you can’t visit in person, Westcon enables users to access LEAP Center resources virtually, as well.

I got the chance to chat with Bill Hurley, CTO of the Westcon Group, and he filled me in on what’s been going on over the past year, why Cisco partners should take advantage of what the LEAP centers have to offer, and how the LEAP centers have exceeded Westcon’s expectations.

It’s been almost a year since you launched the LEAP centers: What’s been going on with them during that time frame?

Bill Hurley: We have been phenomenally successful in raising awareness about the impact and benefits of virtualization and data center consolidation—those have been our two biggest areas of inquiry and activity. We’ve focused on showing how UCS helps enable business benefits. And we’ve also run specific programs around a service-oriented architecture (SOA)-enabled data center, as well as a UCS bootcamp.

LEAP centers have appealed to both partners and end-users: They’re not just about speeds and feeds, but instead help in putting all the technology in a business context. There’s a real benefit for partners in physically being at a LEAP center—it helps them understand how the technologies really work together.

How do partners play a role in what you focus on in the LEAP centers?

BH: We work very closely with partners on which business areas they can use: We want to empower partners and incorporate LEAP centers into their actual selling cycle. We focus on the sales enablement cycle, and we have had a lot of discussions around executive relevance selling.

We also look at where an end-user is having challenges with business substantiation, and we have focused on the areas of data center and collaboration. We’re also talking with customers-- they’re always interested in learning more about specialized data centers.

What are you most pleased about nearly a year after launching the LEAP centers?

BH: We’re most pleased that we’ve focused on our goal of having business-driven value, and value-led conversations. When we first came up with the idea of launching these LEAP centers, we were worried that geeks would just hang out and talk technology.

But with executive relevance selling as a specific focus, we have the ability to bring in many of our partners, and really talk about business value, and hit our goal. We didn’t have executive relevance on paper formally, we just knew we wanted to do something, but now have series of programs and initiatives around that, which has been very rewarding.

Sounds pretty compelling doesn’t it—in a LEAP center, you can see real-world technologies in action, and get a strong understanding of the true business value of data center, collaboration, and more. Visit Westcon Group’s site to learn about how you can arrange hands-on or remote training in their demonstration labs, get training or design validation, or attend one of their webinars.

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