Cisco IoT Strategy Revolves Around Channel Partners: ‘They Are Critical In Driving Scale’


Cisco believes there will be a big opportunity for the channel to "go big" in the Internet of Things (IoT) space in 2019, so much so that the networking giant is basing its own IoT strategy around its partner base.

Cisco last month rolled out an expanded product line that expands its networking capabilities to the IoT edge and introduced a brand-new set of resources for partners looking to dive into the IoT space, including a formal IoT partner program. The purpose? To point out the window of opportunity that will exist for the early movers in the fast-growing IoT space because Cisco needs the help of these solution providers, Andres Sintes, global senior director or IoT and partner sales for Cisco, told CRN.

"We believe in partners immensely," he said. "They are critical in driving scale of our IoT architecture globally. In 2019, there is window of opportunity for Cisco partners to go big in IOT."

According to market research firm IDC, worldwide spending on IoT is forecast to reach $745 billion in 2019, an increase of 15.4 percent over the $646 billion spent in 2018.

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"We can't do this on our own. Cisco can't do this on their own. They need partners that are going to come in as solutions managers because Cisco doesn’t have the analytics piece, but that's what we bring into mix to bring everything together into a business outcome for the customer," said Mike Trojecki, vice president of IoT and Analytics at global MSP Logicalis, a Cisco Gold partner.

[Related: Cisco 'Data Center Anywhere' Vision Includes ACI, HyperFlex, CloudCenter Updates]

Logicalis is building IoT solutions for its base of customers, right now with a focus on healthcare, manufacturing, and government and education use cases. The provider is taking a consultative approach to IoT and is working with vendors such as Avnet, Cisco and IBM to help address the three main pieces of IoT: the things, connectivity, and platforms, Trojecki said.

Cisco is helping Logicalis with the connectivity piece of the IoT puzzle, he said. Logicalis is using Cisco Kinetic, a platform for connecting endpoints securely to IoT networks. Logicalis was one of the first Cisco partners to become IoT Essentials certified.

"There's so much information being generated by these devices, and Cisco is of the few [companies] that allows us to combine both the gateway management, the industrial networking, and the platform all into one. We look at Cisco right now as being core to everything we're doing, and Kinetic is like the control center of IoT."

Partners that aren't looking for IoT opportunities with their current customers from just a connectivity standpoint alone, are leaving money on the table, warned Cisco's Sintes.

Cisco’s IOT portfolio -- the vendor's fastest-growing set of offerings -- according to Sintes, consists of the vendor's industrial Ethernet routing, switching, and wireless plus Kinetic. At the end of January, Cisco unveiled two new lines of IoT networking products that extend Cisco's intent-based networking infrastructure to the edge, as well as three validated designs to help partners accelerate IoT deployments. Cisco also introduced new training resources and a new IoT certification.

The new offerings, Sintes said, will help simplify IoT for Cisco partners, while helping these solution providers be able to talk about IoT with greater clarity with their end customers.

"In the past, we were working IoT perhaps a little bit more complex than it needed to be," he said. "IoT as a whole is about connecting things that aren't connected, extract the data from those newly-connected things, and do something with that data that is going to deliver a business outcome. We need to connect the dots between the business outcome and how technology enables that outcome."

Solution provider and Cisco partner World Wide Technology (WWT), has been heavily invested in understanding its client's IoT needs for the past several years. The company is starting to break down the barriers of entry into IoT -- such as secure connectivity -- for its customers with the help of Cisco, said Brian Ortbals, vice president of advanced technology for WWT.

"Between Cisco's [hyper converged Infrastructure] HCI platform with HyperFlex, SD-WAN, and some of their service provider-class systems that they've acquired and built over the last few years, being able to onboard and segment IoT sensors, offer compute at the edge, and have the connectivity back to a cloud provider if they need to do additional machine learning or data analytics against that data set, Cisco can stitch these things together in a way that really no other individual provider is capable of," Ortbals said.

The biggest problem for most vendors and solution providers with an IoT business today is that too many are trying to go it alone, Logicalis' Trojecki said.

"We've made a conscious decision to develop the right partnerships and be able to deliver complete solutions," he said of Logicalis' IoT strategy of working with players like Cisco. "We're building out the right ecosystem."