At Cisco Partner Summit 2012 (April 16-19, San Diego), the networking giant will evangelize its Unified Compute System (UCS) and a range of SMB technology products. Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) CEO John Chambers will rally channel partners against Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) and IBM (NYSE: IBM) in the data center. Amid that acronym soup, the one that matters most to Cisco partners is VIP -- short for Cisco's Value Incentive Program. Here's why.

The VIP program is designed for top Cisco partners. The program allows partners to earn extra margin on specific technologies after a deal is completed. Each VIP program runs for six months. The 18th VIP program, for instance, ran July 31, 2011 though January 28, 2012.

The current VIP 19 program started January 29, 2012 and runs through July 28, 2012.

According to documents viewed by The VAR Guy, Cisco VP 19 provides extra rewards to partners that focus and win business in three areas:
  • Borderless networking: Including routing and security, WAN optimization, wireless LAN and small business.
  • Collaboration: Including WebEx, unified computing and telepresence.
  • Data center: including data center unified fabric technology and data center unified computing technology.
The next enrollment window for VIP 19 runs April 29 through May 18, The VAR Guy has heard.

So, how is VIP 19 performing so far? The VAR Guy has a confession: He doesn't have an answer to that question -- yet. But it's a safe bet Senior VP Keith Goodwin or Senior VP Edison Peres will offer some VIP insights during Cisco Partner Summit 2012.

To earn the extra margin, partners must generate lofty customer satisfaction scores while fulfilling a range of additional Cisco requirements.
  • The potential upside: Cisco VIP incentives typically drive partners to fast-growth market opportunities.
  • The potential downside: Much like a sales compensation plan, the VIP plan has to have lofty -- but achievable -- goals to keep partners motivated and focused.
Sometimes it's difficult for the media to gauge partner reaction to current VIP incentives. But Cisco Partner Summit is a prime opportunity for a VIP reality check. And The VAR Guy will provide one.