Cisco Intros Three New Partner Specializations For The Internet Of Things

Cisco Systems is rolling out a new set of partner specializations aimed at helping solution providers capitalize on what it says is a $19 trillion opportunity in the emerging Internet of Everything (IoE).

The San Jose, Calif.-based networking titan introduced Thursday three new partner specializations focused on the Internet of Things (IoT), a sort of submarket to the broader IoE. These specializations include the Advanced IoT Connected Safety and Security specialization; the Advanced IoT Manufacturing specialization; and the Advanced IoT Industry Expert specialization.

Partners can start applying for all three specializations on Nov. 18.

[Related: Cisco To Partners: It's Time To Monetize The Internet Of Everything ]

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According to Steve Benvenuto, senior director of Cisco partner programs, the three new specializations are designed to help IT solution providers expand their knowledge of operational technology (OT) and specific vertical markets -- two items he said are a must for succeeding in the IoT era.

"It's really about bringing IT partners into more vertical- or OT-related businesses," Benvenuto told CRN.

The first of the new specializations, IoT Connected Safety and Security, is focused on physical security. It's aimed at helping partners resell, install and support a range of Cisco video surveillance and access control solutions, and to provide their customers with ongoing analytics related to those products.

Benvenuto noted that, while knowledge of network security will play a role in earning the specialization, the focus is more on physical security devices, such as cameras or IP-connected door locks and access card readers.

"Certainly, it's all about the network," Benvenuto said. "But if you think about the growing number of security devices, like surveillance cameras or doors that need to be secured -- all of those things are part of this specialization."

The IoT Manufacturing specialization, meanwhile, is designed for Cisco partners who are selling specifically into the manufacturing vertical, a market that's become one of the earlier adopters of IoT technologies. Benvenuto said this specialization will focus on Cisco products, including its industrial-grade Ethernet solutions.

The third new specialization, or Advanced IoT Industry Expert, is unique in that it isn't designed for traditional Cisco or IT-focused resellers, Benvenuto said. Instead, it's targeted at solution providers who specialize in operational technologies, such as those who partner, for example, with companies like Rockwell Automation or Honeywell.

"We want them to be competent on Cisco solutions so that they can then go to market with them," Benvenuto said.

In some cases, solution providers who earn the IoT Industry Expert specialization will become part of the formal Cisco Partner Program, likely as a Select or Premier partner, as these certification levels require fewer specializations, Benvenuto said.

Or, in other cases, these solution providers will join forces with more traditional, IT-focused Cisco partners and then jointly go to market with Cisco IoT solutions.

Benvenuto said the convergence of IT and OT technologies is one of the key enablers of IoT.

"We are certainly trying to capture a new channel that is much more OT-related," he said. "But this is also where the whole partner-to-partner model comes into play, because while these [OT partners] will have the expertise to get to a certain level [in a deal]… they are likely going to need to partner with our IT partners who have deeper integration skills."

Cisco said IoT -- or a growing network of everyday "things" that use an Internet connection to communicate with one another -- will cause a major disruption to the networking industry over the next several years.

Earlier this year, Cisco said the broader Internet of Everything, which encompasses not only connected "things," but the people and processes around them, represents a potential $19 trillion opportunity between the public and private sectors combined.

Greg Wilburn, business development manager at Presidio, No. 22 on CRN's Solution Provider 500 list, said Presidio has created a business unit, consisting of roughly 30 people, that is exclusively dedicated to IoT.

"IoT is definitely accelerating from just [client] interest and evaluation to actual procurement," Wilburn told CRN.

Wilburn also said he's glad to see vendors like Cisco, Intel and AT&T investing so heavily in IoT strategies. In March, these three companies, in addition to General Electric and IBM, created the Industrial Internet Consortium, an industry group dedicated to developing and driving adoption of machine-to-machine and IoT technologies.

"We are definitely seeing the right strategy, vision and execution from not only Cisco, but Intel, AT&T and others," Wilburn said. "Those guys have the right vision in terms of connecting sensors and devices and then measuring that data and making that data business-relevant in order to make actionable decisions -- those are things clients have been asking for. You don't just connect a device because you can. You connect it because you think you can get operational efficiencies and cost savings."

Like all Cisco specializations, the new Advanced IoT specializations require partners go through a sales and technical training process. The number of specializations partners hold have a bearing on whether they are a Gold, Premier or Select Cisco partner.