Cisco Partners: When It Comes To The Internet Of Things, No One Can Go It Alone

Cisco Systems partners say the company needs to follow through on its goal of adding tens of thousands of new solution providers to its channel as they will need help capturing the $19 trillion opportunity that lies within the Internet of Things.

"No single partner will be able to do it all themselves," said Chris Bottger, senior vice president of collaboration services at IVCi, a Hauppauge, N.Y.-based solution provider and Cisco Gold partner. "IoT will be big enough to handle more partners, but Cisco will be very challenged to drive efficiencies in the short term."

Cisco Executive Chairman of the Board John Chambers told CRN the company is expecting a rapid increase in the amount of solution providers it on-boards within the next few years as more IoT opportunities become available. When asked how many partners Cisco will need in the digital age, Chambers said, "It will be a lot more than 70,000 partners."

[Related: Cisco's John Chambers On How IoT Will Change The Channel]

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"IoT will proliferate dramatically the number of partners you need. … The number of partners that we will have and the financial opportunities for our partners and Cisco go up pretty dramatically," said Chambers.

Solution providers say IoT will drive Cisco sales into areas that will require new partners that specialize in certain verticals.

"It's a little bit like today where a company like IVCi is asked to deliver UC collaboration services to a partner that specializes in data center but has a requirement to deliver UC to its customer. That inter-partnering is already going on today," said Bottger, whose company is ranked No. 226 on the CRN 2015 Solution Provider 500.

Chambers said earlier this year that a key factor in how the channel will be successful lies in partners teaming up with each other.

"It's not going to be Cisco and just one of our partners; it's going to be Cisco and several of our partners in the ecosystem and how we work together," said Chambers during the 2015 Cisco Partner Summit in April.

One Cisco partner said the channel could still operate effectively with upward of 100,000 solution providers, compared with the 70,000 the San Jose, Calif.-based networking giant has today.

"I don't think the new partners will be direct competitors," said Bill Smeltzer, CTO of Focus Technology Solutions, a Seabrook, N.H.-based Cisco partner ranked No. 431 on the CRN 2015 Solution Provider 500. "Adding thousands of partners I think will help because we need a complete ecosystem. … Partners will need to bring specific solutions to vertical markets."

Solution providers are expecting to significantly increase their networking sales within the next five years as billions of more devices become connected. Partners said they're looking at selling more solutions and services based around IoT such as in the connectivity space and data analytics services.

"We're looking specifically at wearables and specifically at Apple Watch and have already started developing and integrating that into our Cisco solutions around customer experience in the [business-to-consumer space]," said IVCi's Bottger.

Digitization was the focal point of Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins' keynote speech this week at Cisco's Global Editors Conference, in which he said IoT is the biggest opportunity for Cisco and the channel in its history. Robbins said he plans to win the IoT space by creating intelligent and secure IoT data platforms with "machine learning" capabilities while building an ecosystem of partners for next-generation IoT apps and solutions.

Partners said they are optimistic that Cisco can drive new sales in the channel through its deep networking roots, while at the same on-boarding thousands of new solution providers into its ecosystem.

"No partner can do everything so the challenge will be how to educate the ecosystem on what is possible," said Bottger.