Cisco-IBM IoT Partnership: 6 Channel Benefits Partners Need To Know

The Channel Play

Although the new Internet of Things alliance between Cisco and IBM sent shockwaves through the IoT world, it left channel partners scratching their heads, wondering if there was a partner play.

In an interview with CRN, Mike Flannagan, vice president and general manager for Cisco's Data & Analytics Group, shed some light on the beneficial aspects of the strategic partnership for solution providers, such as a boost in Cisco Connected Streaming Analytics (CSA) products and the greater ability to sell in specific IoT verticals.

"This is giving our partners an opportunity to bring a more intelligent solution," Flannagan said. In the following slideshow, Flannagan explores with CRN the channel opportunities sprouting from the Cisco-IBM alliance.

IoT Insight At The Edge

IBM is combining its Watson IoT technology with Cisco's edge analytics capabilities to allow a deeper understanding of critical data at the network edge. The vendors are targeting companies that operate in remote environments or at the network edge, where timeliness is important but access to the network can be limited.

"Solution providers now have the ability to offer solutions that deliver business insight without always needing connectivity to the cloud or without relying on transmitting 100 percent of their data to the cloud at a very high transmission cost," said Flannagan.

Intelligent Network Cost Benefits

The cost of data transmission and storage can prohibit businesses from achieving efficient IoT. By combining these analytics tools, partners can give customers a more intelligent solution that provides cost benefits.

"There are cost benefits to being more intelligent -- to know where data needs to move. You can save on the equipment cost at the edge, the transmission costs, etc.," said Flannagan. "But it also gives partners the opportunity to have a more intelligent discussion about the role that network infrastructure can play in broader business solutions. So for our channel partners, the ability to articulate the value of a more intelligent network gives them the ability to articulate better the value of why they position Cisco into their client accounts."

Industrial IoT

Channel partners now have a better solution to target IoT verticals, specifically, industries such as factories, mines, and oil and gas.

"If I'm a system integrator for an oil and gas solution, I can say to an oil field operator, 'If you want to get continuous intelligence from a down-hole sensor on an oil well, we can now give you the kind of intelligence and insight from that data even if that oil field is not connected back across 3G or Wi-Fi to the cloud,' " said Flannagan.

Cisco's CSA

One key solution that the networking giant is providing in the alliance is Cisco's Connected Streaming Analytics (CSA) products that should help partners boost sales around CSA, according to Flannagan.

"CSA is about being able to take an analytical model and apply it at the edge," he said.

Distributed Message Broker

As more data is collected at the edge, one role for channel partners is as a distributed message broker, according to Flannagan.

"If you think about the kind of message broker role that a cloud-scale piece of software provides, think about having that capability but in a hyper-distributed coordinated footprint," said Flannagan. "So being able to handle hundreds of thousands of messages coming from sensors and managing the process of delivering data to the applications where it's relevant, rather than just unintelligently spewing all the data in a northbound direction, is a key element."

Working Together

Cisco and IBM are two of the largest IoT-focused vendors in the world.

"If you're a channel partner for both Cisco and IBM, this gives [you] great confidence to go to a customer and tell them that [Cisco and IBM] are working together on IoT and are both fully committed," said Flannagan. "Let's not fight about 'A' versus 'B' -- let's talk about what 'A' plus 'B' can do. That's a conservation we had with Bell Canada, Port of Cartagena [Colombia], SilverHook Powerboats -- there's also a dozen clients that we haven't identified yet."

Communications company Bell Canada, the city of Cartagena and SilverHook Powerboats -- a designer of high-speed racing boats -- are all customers currently using IBM's Watson IoT Platform with Cisco streaming edge analytics.