Cisco Unleashes New Certifications For Partners To Win IoT And Cloud Markets

Cisco Systems is giving both its channel and its industrial partners a jump-start into the Internet of Things marketplace by training them in the skills needed to try to capture some of the $19 trillion in projected opportunities.

The San Jose, Calif.-based networking giant Wednesday unveiled a new Cisco Certified Network Associate Industrial IoT certification along with two new cloud certifications to help partners deliver optimal business outcomes.

"Technology adoption is happening at a very rapid pace in the industrial verticals, but then the skills are not moving at the same pace," said Sudarshan Krishnamurthi, senior manager for product management and marketing for Cisco Services, in an interview with CRN. "We need our channel partners to get into that $19 trillion value that they can capture, but we need them to be understanding of the context of the industrial and IoT environments while they're deploying and managing these network and IT devices."

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The IoT-focused certification is a lab-based training program targeting networking engineers, plant administrators, control engineers and IT engineers to learn how to build, manage and operate converged industrial networks in the fast-growing IoT manufacturing markets, according to Krishnamurthi.

"This certification targets both the customers and channel partners. … To realize the full value of IoT -- to get the efficiency, the visibility, the productivity -- it is critical that we actually train and skill people," said Krishnamurthi.

Bill Smeltzer, chief technology officer of Focus Technology Solutions -- a Seabrook, N.H.-based Cisco, EMC and HP partner -- said Cisco is being "forward-thinking" with the new IoT training and is ahead of the pack, enabling channel partners to succeed.

"I haven't seen any manufacturer put out a specific curriculum around IoT, so I definitely think Cisco is out early in that area," said Smeltzer. "You can clearly see IoT is coming on the horizon. … I think that it's going to take a lot more and different training than what's out there today."

Smeltzer said his wireless business has almost doubled in the past year because of customers' simply connecting more things. For example, he says, a machine-making manufacturing customer of Focus Technology now has all its tools and machines connected wirelessly.

"It's not just the consumer market like the iPhone, the iWatches, iPad -- we're just seeing more and more clients hooking things up that were never hooked up before," said Smeltzer. "I definitely think a lot of the end points in [IoT] are going to require different skill sets and trainings, because I don’t think you're going to be connecting with Wi-Fi and IP the way we are today, you're going to see a lot going through some type of proxy or lightweight protocols."

Last week, research firm IDC released a report forecasting that the IoT market in manufacturing operations will grow from $42.2 billion in 2013 to $98.8 billion in 2018 -- representing a CAGR of 18.6 percent.

Kent MacDonald, vice president of converged infrastructure and network services at Long View Systems -- a Cisco gold partner based in Calgary, Alberta -- said he is seeing a growing interest in IoT and that new expertise is needed for partners in areas like data analytics.

"There's a new expertise needed for collecting data from environments where data wasn't typically collected -- be that in manufacturing, engineering, real estate, oil and gas production -- that we see as a significant market opportunity," said MacDonald. "What I like about Cisco in their synergy with the market evolution is they're supporting the partners by creating these certifications that define how you should be making your investments. It's really a road map for partners who want to elevate or enter into those markets."

Along with IOT certification, Cisco also launched Cisco Certified Network Associate Cloud and Cisco Certified Network Professional Cloud certifications aimed at helping partners build private and hybrid cloud-based Infrastructure-as-a-Service solutions.

The associate certification is designed to train solution providers for entry-level provisioning and support of cloud and Intercloud solutions, while the professional certification gives partners skills to explain cloud concepts as well as design, deploy and maintain cloud and Intercloud solutions in complex environments, according to Tejas Vashi, director of product strategy and marketing for Cisco Services.

Whether partners are focused on building cloud infrastructure, a private cloud for an enterprise or cloud services, Vashi said, "they really need to get re-skilled and sharpen their capabilities."

At Cisco Partner Summit 2015 last month, the networking giant unleashed seven new cloud professional services for partners to utilize such as Cloud-Consumption-as-a-Service and Cloud Threat Defense Service.

Vashi cites research reports saying 78 percent of workloads will be processed in the cloud by 2018 and 52 percent of companies are currently using Software-as-a-Service solutions.

MacDonald said customers are asking how they can use, leverage and efficiently run a public, private or hybrid cloud.

"It's a growing demand of expertise in being able to architect what cloud works best, what cloud architecture, what hybrid -- it's a skill that didn’t exist two, three years ago," said MacDonald. "What these [certifications] bring is a structure for our thought leaders, our architects to make sure they have captured all those best practices from a global perspective. … It allows partners to elevate our game and gives us the brand and the recognition that we have Cisco's certification to execute on that."