Cisco Dives Deep Into IoT With New Products, Framework

Cisco is bulking up its Internet-of-Things portfolio with more than a dozen new IoT products and a new framework aimed at accelerating partner adoption into the emerging marketplace.

The networking giant sees a $19 trillion IoT market opportunity approaching and wants channel partners to be confident and transition easily into the new networking world of IoT.

"There's a lot of hype around IoT, but it's really happening now and there's opportunities to engage with new customers," said Kip Compton, Cisco's vice president and general manager, IoT Software and Systems Group, in an interview with CRN. "What we've done is taken our entire IoT portfolio along with 15 new products and organized it in a much better way that shows how the different products fit together to enable IoT."

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New purpose-built IoT networking products include an industrial switch, an 802.11ac access point, two IP cameras and a total of seven new routers, all designed for rugged environments in manufacturing, transportation, cities and other emerging IoT fields.

"This is going to strengthen our overall IoT approach," said John Rohde, director of corporate business development, enterprise vertical markets and IoT strategy for World Wide Technology, a St. Louis-based solution provider and Cisco gold partner. "It's basically allowing us to have a deeper infrastructure offering than we've ever had before."

With many of the new products being ruggedized, partners say Cisco is taking its engineering expertise into new challenging environments that will generate new sales and services for the channel.

"IT power needs to move into very nontraditional environments," said Kent MacDonald, vice president of converged infrastructure and network services at Long View Systems, a Calgary, Alberta-based solution provider and Cisco gold partner. "They're opening up a significantly large new market and taking very established strengths in technology around wire, wireless and security and packaging it to survive in those more challenging environments."

Cisco also revealed IoT Field Network Director software that allows operators to monitor and customize IoT network infrastructures for industrial scale. Fog Data Services for data analytics was also launched, providing operators the ability to create policies that monitor and take actions on data flowing through an IoT environment.

Andres Sintes, Cisco's senior director of Worldwide Partner Organization, Enterprise Networking and IoT/IoE Solutions, said some partners are having difficulties getting their feet wet in the IoT market.

"This really helps partners to be able to get their foot in the door with the right level of products and solutions," said Sintes. "[We're] going to help them find a solution down to that specific area of that factory floor, or wherever they need to be, to address that customer need."

The San Jose, Calif.-based company is introducing its first ever Cisco IoT System framework aimed at addressing the complexity of IoT and digitization with an infrastructure that can manage the growing number of endpoints, platforms and data. The framework is broken down into six pillars: network connectivity; fog computing; security; management and automation; data analytics; and application enablement platform.

Cisco says the framework will support infrastructure growth requirements that organizations are facing with IoT by raising operational efficiency, creating new services and improving security.

"The IoT system is going to enable partners to understand which are all the key products and solutions we already have available for them to be able to find a solution to the customer," said Sintes. "We have some gaps that we are now going to be filling and then on top on that the way that we're organizing it is going to simplify for our channel partners how to find a solution with that customer to develop the business outcome."

Partners say Cisco is the industry leader and on the forefront of IoT.

Cisco IoT efforts over the past year include three new partner specializations focused on IoT, a Cisco Certified Network Associate Industrial IoT certification using of a lab-based training program and a IoT Partner Playbook providing a blueprint for partners seeking to build vertical practices around IoT.

"Cisco is certainly beating the drum the loudest," said MacDonald. "They are leading the [IoT] industry and have an advantage of having the strength of channel partners that have experience delivering 'traditional IT' who are now taking that skill set and moving that into new environments, and connecting to new points of connectivity that use to be in very siloed networks."

MacDonald said that although Long View is in the early stages of IoT, the company is "ramping up" efforts alongside Cisco.

"We need to have a strong road map and a program to execute and follow, which is what Cisco is bringing to market here," said MacDonald. "Cisco's looking for those partners that want to evolve in this market transition and are willing to make the investment -- they'll support them."

On the other hand, World Wide Technology has been investing and developing IoT practices for years, according to Rohde, having already established IoT partnerships with companies like OSIsoft, Bit Stew Systems, Davra Networks and Itron Inc. Rohde said WWT has also hired big data scientists and nontraditional IT employees with backgrounds in areas such as manufacturing and health care.

"IoT is a significant focus for WWT today," said Rohde. "In conjunction with Cisco, we have really made significant wins and success here."

Cisco's Compton says IoT is one of the networking behemoth's key priorities and has seen increasing investments over the past seven years.

"In 2014, we were the most active IoT venture investor, not just among large tech companies, but even among the venture capital firms themselves," said Compton. "Cisco has the unique relationship with IoT in part because connectivity is such an important part of IoT. At the end of the day, IoT is really about connecting things that weren’t connected before. As the world's largest networking vendor and the biggest R&D investor in networking technologies, I think it’s pretty natural that we have such a big play in here."