While you may not have yet provisioned an IP address for your toaster, Steve Steinhilber, VP of strategic alliances for Cisco, said the company expects enterprises to spend more than $40 billion globally in 2015 designing, implementing and operating the Internet of Things (IoT).

At this year’s Cisco Partner Summit in Montreal, Canada, the company highlighted that the IoT is closer to reality than science fiction. Canada is already a top user of the IoT, most notably in its oil and gas industry, and it will host one of Cisco’s eight new IoT Innovation Centers in Toronto.

As presentations and discussions continued throughout the week, it was clear that this is the year when the IoT breaks through and becomes something that all organizations have to start planning for –primarily in their data centers. As everything from baby monitors to toasters and bridges starts streaming massive amounts of data online, companies need to make sure they have cloud computing networks, analytics and storage capabilities. The IoT will include about 25 billion units installed by 2020, with key challenges including security and privacy, according to Gartner, the world's leading information technology research and advisory company.

But the greatest limiter to the reach of this technology may not be the cost; it may be the availability of key talent. To make the most of the benefits of the IoT, data scientists are required to crunch numbers and understand the impact of the countless bits of data we can collect. But these data scientists are in high demand and, without analytics ability, IoT deployments will not reach their full potential. Companies like Cisco are rolling out new data center products to help manage the IoT, but there is an increasing need for IT and cloud professionals to learn how to use these systems. Systems like FirePOWER.

Rob Soderbery, SVP of enterprise products and solutions for Cisco, discussed the integration of FirePOWER Next Generation Intrusion Prevention System (NGIPS) with Cisco’s highly touted Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) platform. FirePOWER has been generating buzz for some time. In fact, SourceFire acquisition were a key topic from last year’s partner conference. This year the discussion went a step further to focus on integrating this significant technology into the creation of client-minded solutions.

The mash up of FirePOWER and ACI should prove quite powerful for Cisco. According to Soderbery, it will allow the network to act as a “secret weapon” as it is enabled to both sense attacks and respond immediately. A year ago I watched John Chambers discuss how Cisco had risen to having the number one server for the data center with their Unified Computing System (UCS).Advances like we have seen in ACI and now this integration of FirePOWER should continue to help Cisco exert an ever-increasing stronghold on the data center. We’ll have to wait to see this unfold, but it should give Cisco one more reason to own the data center.

Soni Jiandani, SVP of marketing for Cisco’s Insieme business unit, estimated that enterprises will spend $11.6 billion before the end of 2016 to modernize their data centers, with the bulk of those dollars flowing into efforts to update to leaf-spine architectures and high-speed Ethernet.

Any discussion of data center these days inevitably leads to talk of the cloud, and Cisco was focused on growth in this area as well. Last year’s Cisco Partner Summit emphasized Inter-cloud, and in the last year the company has been busy building out capabilities in this area. Since then, Cisco has added more than 60 global partners to their Inter-cloud stable, all vying to help clients understand and implement the right cloud solutions as businesses increasingly transition.

The session on Cisco Cloud Consumption as a Service that was led by Nick Earle, SVP of global cloud and managed services sales for Cisco, was one of the more interesting at this year’s summit. With “fifty million things being IP-enabled every week,” Earle noted that often businesses don’t always have a handle on just how prolific their use of the cloud actually is.

“Any discussion of data center these days inevitably leads to talk of the cloud”

To help companies better understand and control cloud use, Cisco’s Cloud Consumption as a Service will crawl the network and identify which services are being used, which apps are in the cloud, and how a client is paying for and encrypting (or not) the data being exchanged. This is just one of many new cloud services that Cisco announced earlier this year at Cisco Live Milan, including Cisco ONE Enterprise Cloud Suite and OpenStack Private Cloud bundle. Cisco is continuing to make good on its promise to expand and one day dominate the cloud space.

What struck me at this year’s partner summit was the pace of innovation and change, as well as the constancy of topics from a year ago when we were in Las Vegas. In some ways it’s comforting that as quickly as technology moves, there are perhaps a series of “new normal” topics. For Cisco, these seemed to revolve around cloud, security and the data center.

Cisco’s theme this year was “Be Bold.”For Cisco and its partners, bold is moving beyond the traditional routing and switching world and embracing the cloud and software-defined networking (SDN) and really getting serious about security. Keeping pace with the advances in technology like the IoT is an ever-increasing stress on organizations of all sizes. As Cisco’s Global Learning Partner of the Year for 2015, Global Knowledge helps Cisco’s partners and clients maximize their investment in new technology by helping them understand how to deploy, integrate, secure and maintain Cisco solutions. With the combination of the right technology and the right training, any enterprise can afford to be bold.