5 Channel Ops: Cisco IoT, Cloud Certs Worthwhile Investments?

If you think education is expensive, try the alternative.

Lorna Garey

May 29, 2015

7 Min Read
5 Channel Ops: Cisco IoT, Cloud Certs Worthwhile Investments?

Lorna GareyKleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Mary Meeker this week released her annual Internet Trends roundup. The deck is worth a look; highlights for channel partners include a bunch of rising trends (new ad formats, “buy buttons” embedded in social sites, mobile payments, real-world uses for drones) and ways to make your and your customers’ businesses run more smoothly. Also: China and India stats, countries where the most new mobile subscriptions will be sold, evolving Millennial and workplace behaviors, security and more.

Closing the IoT, Cloud Skills Gap

Cisco this week announced three new IoT- and cloud-focused CCNA and CCNP certifications, all available through the company’s 480 authorized learning partners. I asked Tejas Vashi, Cisco Services’ director of product strategy and marketing, and Sudarshan Krishnamurthi, senior manager, product management and marketing, why channel partners should invest more in training — right now, they’re a minority. “It varies across technologies, but usually about 30 percent of our certified individuals are in partner organizations,” says Vashi. He acknowledges the elephant in the classroom: Why should partners make employees more qualified for new jobs?

“I welcome that argument,” says Vashi, and the answer is the same for any company — vendor, customer or solutions provider. “If we can’t evolve skills and stay ahead of competitors, guess what? We’re going to fall behind. I have no choice but to train my people. It’s a catch-22, but if I don’t do it, I’ll be out of business anyway.” And if you’re going to invest in training, hot areas like IoT, cloud and security offer a stronger ROI.

The IoT-focused Cisco Certified Network Associate Industrial certification is focused on the manufacturing vertical, where IoT/machine-to-machine and automation technologies are growing in importance, but there’s often a lag in converging industrial networks with IP-based IT infrastructure. That’s an opportunity for partners with skills to bridge the gap. “People who worked for 15 or 20 years in a manufacturing plant are now being asked to work on things that are related to Internet and IP,” says Krishnamurthi, yet there’s little room for error or on-the-job learning. “Mistakes are expensive,” he said. “One minute of downtime on a large manufacturing floor can cost $200,000.”

Cisco projects that actual IoT spending will reach $3.05 trillion in 2020, up from $1.5 trillion in 2014. Operational technology vendors skilled in proprietary protocols are looking for partners with IP experience, says Vashi, with an emphasis on industrial control and security systems.

Meanwhile, the CCNA and CCNP Cloud certifications are about the skills needed to build private and hybrid IaaS stacks and then manage enterprise-wide cloud deployments in a consistent, centralized manner. The CCNA certification teaches entry-level provisioning and support of Cisco Cloud and Intercloud solutions, while the CCNP cert gives candidates the skills to explain cloud concepts to customers then design, deploy and maintain Cisco Cloud and Intercloud in complex environments.

SDS With Investment Protection

Have you heard of Atlantis? If not, check out a new post on the company’s site by data center expert Bill Kleyman that ties business cases to various levels of convergence. Atlantis is a software-defined storage vendor with a strong channel play; essentially, it offers multiple versions of its USX software compatible with HP, IBM, Cisco or Dell hardware, with final assembly of the converged storage infrastructure done by the partner, often integrating a customer’s existing gear.

The company also offers a line of appliances that integrate with Cisco, HP, Lenovo or SuperMicro platforms and Citrix and VMware hypervisors. The SuperMicro devices, for example, come in two models with between 256 and 512 GB of memory per node and 12 or 24 TB of all-flash capacity.

Atlantis launched its Certified Partner Program in January with Silver and Gold level opportunities for distributors, solution providers and VARs and says partners can deliver customers improved storage performance while dramatically lowering costs, without sacrificing margins. The selling point for customers is that they can get started with SDS without investing in new hardware.

Go-Fast Wi-Fi

Got customers ready to jump from 802.11n to the significantly faster 802.11ac Wave 2? Check out Aruba’s new 320 Series APs with dynamic multi-user multiple input/multiple output (MU-MIMO) plus integrated Bluetooth low-energy beacons that let IT, or partners, manage firmware updates, monitor battery life and perform configuration changes from a cloud-based server.

If customers are not looking at 802.11ac and plan to stick with 11n, well, wish them luck with offices packed full of Millennials, each toting two or three devices.

Aruba, which is in the process of being acquired by HP, has packed some interesting capacity-increasing capabilities in its APs. Wave 2 refers to second-gen 802.11 APs that can deliver theoretical performance up to around 7 Gbps. In reality, most Wave 2 APs support around 2.6 Gbps in the 5 GHz band compared with 1.3 Gbps in Wave 1 devices. The Aruba 320 series APs will be available in Q3 starting at $1,395; more on Aruba’s Partner Edge is here.

One added op for resellers: The wired backhaul and power infrastructure that did just fine with 11n may not support 802.11ae APs, especially Wave 2. PoE and a single gigabit Ethernet link per AP will not suffice. Aruba has a guide to needed physical and MAC layer enhancements.

New White Label Security Op

Vijilan Security launched this week three security services aimed at small and midsize businesses. The TheatDetect, ThreatAnalyze and ThreatRespond offerings will be sold exclusively through the Vijilan Partner Program, a white-label channel sales model that includes IT solutions providers and MSPs. Not sure it’s worth staffing up for an MSSP offering? Infonetics says the managed security service market will grow by 45 percent over the next five years, and The 2112 Group calls managed security services one of the most profitable segments.

The ThreatDetect, ThreatAnalyze and ThreatRespond services provide detection, monitoring and incident response via Vijilan’s 24/7 security operations center, which monitors more than 600,000 worldwide hosts and processes more than six billion security events daily. “We’ve invested heavily not just on our security infrastructure, but on the security processes and skilled, professional security experts that back up the technology,” said Gustavo Zeidan, the company’s CTO, in a statement. “This combination — people, processes and technology — makes Vijilan highly valuable to our MSP partners and, ultimately, their customers.”

3 Bits & Bytes:

  • Microsofthis week added LG, Sony, TMAX Digital and 17 more global players to the roster of OEMs that have agreed to preinstall Microsoft productivity software including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, OneDrive and Skype on Android devices. Good news for Office 365 resellers.

  • At the Code conference going on this week, Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure asserted that his company will be ranked No. 1 or 2 in network performance within two years. As Geekwire reports, that raised some eyebrows. Currently, Sprint ranks either third or fourth, depending on whether you’re looking at nationwide, state by state, or metro results.

  • Security vendor Fortinet this week announced that it will acquire troubled Wi-Fi networking provider Meru Networks for about $44 million. Fortinet already has Wi-Fi offerings, including the FortiAP wireless access points and FortiWiFi security appliances; Meru brings an experienced research and engineering team plus a portfolio of more than 33 awarded and 35 pending patents. Some analysts say the move could help Fortinet challenge Cisco/Meraki, not to mention HP/Aruba. Info on Fortinet’s extensive partner program (which also includes an MSSP offering) is here.

  • Channel partners serving the education vertical take note: Aerohive Networks yesterday announced the addition of Apple to the reseller roster for its cloud-enabled Wi-Fi and routing solutions. Aerohive has a 100-percent channel sales model.

Follow executive editor @LornaGarey on Twitter.

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