A new authorization and training initiative is aiming to help channel partners sell the Cisco IoT platform.
Cisco's IoT Authorization, first unveiled in November 2018 at the Cisco Partner Summit, officially launched Jan. 28, 2019. A Cisco authorization is designed to bring new technologies and architectures to market via qualified partners. Such authorizations are a type of Cisco competency program -- other examples include Cisco certifications and Cisco specializations.
In support of IoT Authorization, Cisco is rolling out IoT Essentials training for partners, said Andres Sintes, who focuses on IoT partner sales as Cisco's global senior director in its Worldwide Partner Organization. The worldwide training sessions, now underway, will continue through mid-year.
Each training session spans two days, with the first day geared toward sales and technical personnel and the second day mainly focused on technical staff. The technical track includes hands-on labs.
Cisco's IoT Essentials training also covers three sales motions the company has identified as partner opportunities: the extended enterprise, remote and mobile assets, and industry sales.
The extended enterprise sales motion builds on partners' connectivity and networking capabilities, while also enabling them to uncover opportunities beyond the carpeted IT space, Sintes said -- that is, IoT projects within warehouses, distribution centers and other locations outside the halls of corporate headquarters.
The remote and mobile assets opportunity takes partners farther afield -- with IoT implementations on oil rigs or public safety vehicle fleets, for example. Such deployments can begin to involve Cisco's Kinetic IoT middleware, Sintes said. The Kinetic platform, according to Cisco, is suited to highly distributed IoT environments.
The third motion, the industry sales play, finds applications for the Cisco IoT platform among industry-specific use cases in verticals such as manufacturing, local government and utilities. Cisco believes this sales motion will let channel partners generate enterprise network, data center and security sales and unlock line-of-business budgets.
Logicalis gets certified
Mike Trojecki, vice president of IoT and analytics at Logicalis Group Ltd., said his company has dedicated time and resources to Cisco's IoT partner authorization. Logicalis is a global managed service provider based in the United Kingdom. The company's U.S. operation is based in New York.
"We are going to get a significant amount of our people certified on the IoT Essentials," he said, adding that Logicalis has applied for Cisco's IoT Advantage certification, as well. IoT Advantage is the next phase of Cisco's IoT training.
Trojecki said Cisco's IoT partner authorization lets Logicalis customers know that the company is building a practice in IoT. Trojecki joined Logicalis seven months ago to do just that. He said the company is building its IoT and analytics practice in the U.S. around seven key partners: Cisco, AWS, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, Microsoft, NetApp and VMware. Logicalis has been running IoT practices elsewhere in the world for about five years.
"The rest of the world has been a little ahead of the U.S. in IoT and the analytics side," Trojecki said, noting that the U.S. market is quickly catching up.
Mike Trojeckivice president of IoT and analytics, Logicalis
In addition to building credibility with customers, IoT partner authorization also sends a signal to Cisco.
"It lets them know [Logicalis] is making a pretty big investment and training account managers and solutions architects," Trojecki explained.
Partnerships such as Logicalis' Cisco relationship are critical in the complex IoT space, according to Trojecki.
"So many people make so many bad decisions when it comes to IoT and think they can do this all themselves," he said. "This is not a world where you can survive without key partnerships. We intend to extend our partnerships with Cisco and the other core OEMs."
Other companies in the IoT market appear to be reaching the same conclusion regarding partnering. Cradlepoint Inc., a Boise, Idaho-based company that provides LTE and 5G wireless network edge offerings, recently unveiled a platform integration with Microsoft Azure. The integration involves Cradlepoint's NetCloud Edge Connector for Azure IoT Central. Azure IoT Central is a Microsoft managed IoT SaaS offering.
In light of this combination, Cradlepoint and Microsoft partners "have the ability to sell an end-to-end IoT solution, and the opportunity to provide professional services to help customers with IoT app development," a Cradlepoint spokeswoman said.
Cisco has added an IoT module to its Cisco Digital Navigator tool, which debuted in 2018 as a self-help aid for partners working on digital transformations.
The IoT module takes partners through an online self-assessment to identify the knowledge gaps they need to address in order to excel in IoT. The tool offers a set of recommended actions that partners can take to address the gaps in their IoT knowledge, including advice on what specific types of training to pursue.
The tool also refers partners to other Cisco ecosystem partners they can work with to bolster their IoT expertise. Those partners may include specialized digital solutions integrators or independent software vendors.
Cisco IoT platform gets sharper focus
Cisco's partnering moves, meanwhile, are following the company's effort to offer a more unified Cisco IoT platform. Cisco's IoT holdings had been dispersed across a handful of business units; but now, the company has consolidated its IoT offerings under a single entity, the IoT Business Group headed by Cisco senior vice president Liz Centoni.
In addition, late last year, Cisco formally recognized IoT as a Cisco architecture, alongside its Enterprise Networks, Security, Collaboration and Data Center architectures. That elevation in status paved the way for Cisco's IoT partner training and certification.
Cisco has placed a lot more focus on IoT since establishing IoT as an architecture within the company, Trojecki said. He also cited the collaboration between Centoni's IoT group and Cisco vice president Dan Wiggins' Industry Solutions Group as a positive development. "I think they have a clear vison for what they want [IoT] to be," he said.