Partners: Cisco's IoT Strategy Set To Unleash Services Opportunities, Help Them Forge New Ties With Operational Technology Vendors

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Cisco Systems is putting its Internet of Things strategy into higher gear, aiming to leverage its massive networking footprint and next-generation technologies to take IoT devices to a new level. The strategy will unleash rich services opportunities for channel partners by enabling them to tap into an operational technology market hungry for turnkey IoT solutions, according to Cisco's IoT leader, Rowan Trollope.

"This is the biggest thing, in my opinion, to happen to Cisco's business probably in 20 years," said Trollope on stage at Cisco Partner Summit 2016, referring to the services opportunities becoming available in the operational technology market.

The San Jose, Calif.-based networking giant's plan is to create an intelligent network tailor-made for the IoT market, then directly tie Cisco's network into every IoT device possible. "We're actually going to need to talk to the device makers and give them a set of tools and APIs and some code, some certificates, to allow them to participate in the network so that the network and the [IoT device] can operate as one," said Trollope, senior vice president and general manager for Cisco's IoT and Applications business.

[Related: Cisco IoT Leader: The 'Network Must Become Automated' For IoT]

Cisco is creating a Certified Device Program where any type of IoT device that needs connectivity to the network will have to become certified by Cisco. This revamped IoT effort aligns with Cisco's next- generation Digital Network Architecture (DNA) and Tetration Analytics platform.

To help channel partners sell IoT offerings and services more easily and effectively, Cisco has built internal teams -- including an Industries Product Group and Digital Transformation Practice – tasked with creating and customizing Cisco technologies for specific IoT vertical industries such as manufacturing and smart cities.

The strategy can be broken down into three steps, Trollope said. "Evolve the network. Create a new business and an engagement with 'things' makers in a way that we haven’t ever done before and, finally, take that to market and to the customer totally differently with [partners]," said Trollope.

So can this strategy of combining Cisco's next-generation technologies with IoT products work? And can Cisco successfully lead its more than 60,000 channel partners to make the jump into the operational technology marketplace to reap untapped services opportunities? Partners and analysts say they believe if anyone can do it, it's Cisco.

"There's a real need for intelligence in the network to recognize devices and adapt appropriately," said Robert Keblusek, CTO of Sentinel Technologies, a Downers Grove, Ill., Cisco Gold partner. "I'm unaware of any robust standard in this space, and many IoT devices lack embedded security elements and don’t communicate with the network on the policies needed for optimal communications. … If Cisco can help drive this, I believe it will benefit everyone."

Keblusek said the market for partners to add value to operational technology organizations through services is "open and very large."

Research firm Gartner predicts that IoT will support total services spending of $235 billion in 2016, up 22 percent from 2015. "IoT services are the real driver of value in IoT," said Gartner analyst Jim Tully in a report regarding the IoT market.

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