Cisco: Focus on verticals for IoE success

VARs should focus on their existing customers to find the right verticals to target with specific Internet of Things application, a Cisco executive says.

Cisco's Andrew Sage and his connected baseketball on stage at One Ingram Micro

Cisco’s Andrew Sage and his connected baseketball on stage at One Ingram Micro

LAS VEGAS – Veteran Cisco channel executive Andrew Sage took to the stage and Ingram Micro’s One event here Monday morning dribbling a basketball.

No, Sage (now vice president in charge of Cisco’s Americas distribution relationships) was not making a semi-obscure reference to his Canadian roots (although he did ‘fess up that the Toronto Raptors along with the Golden State Warriors are his team), but rather showing off another tangible example of the Internet of Things, or the Internet of Everything in Cisco-speak, if you prefer. The ball, he explained, contains nine sensors that capture 6,000 points of data per second to analyze every possible detail of a player’s shot.

The analysis of Sage’s shot was withheld, so the executive may not be off to a new career in the NBA. But Sage’s point was more an analysis of the Internet of Everything opportunity for the channel – and it’s a bright one.

Cisco pegs the value of Internet of Everything technologies at around $19 trillion over the next decade — $14.4 trillion in the private sector, and $4.6 trillion in the public sector. And a good portion of that is going to be accessible to the channel. But solution providers might have to find their way into some unfamiliar environs to truly maximize on the opportunity. When Sage asked attending solution providers how many had done technology deployments on an oil rig, there weren’t a lot of hands coming up, to no one’s surprise. But it’s Cisco’s position that if Sage were to ask the same question in a few years’ time, it’s likely many more hands will come up.

“We’re always going to take a vertical view of this, because Internet of Everything applications are necessarily specific to a business,” Sage said. “I don’t think this is going to be a successful horizontal play.”

Continuing the oil rig example, Sage pointed out that oil rigs produce an enormous amount of data – upwards of 2 TB of data per drill per day, but that 99 per cent of that data is discarded for a variety of reasons, including the lack of computing power at the edge of the network, and lacking bandwidth available to get that mass of data into the cloud into a central point for better crunching.

Because of that, Cisco’s core role as a networking company is to expand its networking gear from the wiring closet “out into the field and into the most harsh environments.” At the same time, the industry will have to embrace “fog computing” that puts more computing power closer to the edge of the network, allowing macro data analytics much closer to where that data is being collected.

The company will also have to get a lot closer to the applications delivered on the network, because with the vertical focus, it’s much more about the applications than the infrastructure running those applications. And that’s where the company’s partners will come into the play in a big way, Sage said.

“Look inside your existing customers, and see if there’s an opportunity to extend what you’re doing right now into an Internet of Everything application,” he said. “These will be vertical, and very specific to the customer, but you’ve got the connections to have these conversations. We’ll make the devices, you come up with the applications for them.”

For example, Sage told partners that soon they will be able to purchase network appliances with popular big data analytics software Mapr pre-loaded “that you can stick on a customers network to crunch all that data.”

Sage stressed it’s not a futures thing, saying that he’s been “really impressed” by the work done by the company’s two-tier partners since taking over as Americas distribution boss.

The next step for many partners who identify the roots of an opportunity in their existing customer base is to start building a practice to deliver the solution – again, this must be done at a vertical level, Sage asserted.

“Bring in line of business specialists who speak the language. Bring experts in and get proactive,” Sage told partners, adding that both Cisco (through its Solution Partner Programs) and Ingram Micro (through its Internet of Everything group and a growing number of vertical solutions practices) have tools to help partners make the right investments and start to grow those solutions practices.