CRN Interview: Juniper Networks CMO On The 'Huge Opportunity' For Partners To Specialize In IoT

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For Mike Marcellin, CMO of Juniper Networks, it's still early days when it comes to channel partners working in the Internet of Things space, but for those that break through and learn how to specialize and scale their practices, there are "huge opportunities."

"Where our partners come in is any time there's something that's very nascent and you're dealing with IoT organizations that are flat budget, not a lot of know-how in a given space. To me, that screams huge opportunities for partners," Marcellin said.

CRN recently spoke with Marcellin at the IoT World conference in Santa Clara, Calif., where the CMO of the Sunnyvale-based company talked about Juniper's IoT strategy, where channel partners are finding traction in the space and how companies should handle data privacy issues, the latter of which has been a major focus with the European Union's enacting of the General Data Protection Regulation rules

"I suspect at some point there will be a GDPR-like thing that hits the U.S. If you go to China, the attitudes are very different about willingness to be surveilled and just all that," he said. "That tells me there is no right or wrong per se, but it does say that you got to do right by your customers and your users."

What follows is a lightly edited conversation between CRN and Marcellin.

What is the state of Juniper's IoT business and strategy?

I'd say there's two big areas we're focused on, I think both of which actually have good applicability to our partner community, too. The first one is around security, which is obviously huge for any IoT deployment at scale and just embracing of it, whether it's smart cities, industrial IoT, connected cars -- the trust has got to be top notch for any level of [deployment]. And obviously at Juniper, we're going to play at the intersection of networking and security. We do networking, we do security, so that's a good intersection as you're having an IoT conversation.

Then the other one is, there's an emerging kind of architectural transition that's happening, and it's actually interestingly happening on two parallel paths that I think are going to come together nicely. One on the 5G side, as carriers do 5G, and then one on IoT, but they're both a similar transition, which is kind of the concept of edge computing and putting as many compute resources out as close to the users or the end points as you can. Because we have spent a lot of time over the past five years helping some of the big hyperscale cloud providers get off the ground -- we're infrastructure providers to them. And so, large centralized data centers and clouds are great, but as you start to then say you need low-latency, high-reliability connectivity for a variety of applications, then you start to say, "well, the speed of light alone is going to get in the way then," so push it out closer to the users. I do think […] the IoT and 5G convergence over the next couple of years is going to be an interesting one. Not necessarily that it's going to be the exact same solution. Just if you talk to the [telecom companies], they're talking about, "we need the killer app of 5G, it's not selling more handsets anymore," so it is maybe this connected car, maybe it's a smart city type of application. Where our partners come in is any time there's something that's very nascent and you're dealing with IoT organizations that are flat budget, not a lot of know-how in a given space. To me, that screams huge opportunities for partners.

They can come in and really help companies or cities or whoever that entity is get something off the ground because they're looking for answers. The good thing for us is we can really package up these solutions, I think, in a very consumable way, so it's not like partners [have] to figure out how to necessarily piece it together. If they want to take it on themselves, great, but we can give it to them in a pretty consumable way, and they can then wrap on the services piece. [In a study we commissioned with the IoT Institute], they said as of today, the vast majority of IoT implementations -- it's pretty early -- but the vast majority, I think it's like 70 percent are done by internal IT organizations. They're doing it themselves. Then the same question was next two years, what do you think it's going to be? And they are all saying they want it to be a managed service. They want to leverage partners to help them do that. I think part of that is because they find out it's hard, but also it is an ecosystem play, and that's another place where partners can really sing, because otherwise, if I'm a CIO or an IT organization, I've got to walk around this and figure out what I'm doing. Whereas if there are partners that really specialize in the space, they can take that on and come to me with some answers and some recommendations and help me manage the ecosystem, so I think it's a huge opportunity.

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