Tech Data announced its Internet of Things play at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto this week, launching a global business practice dubbed Smart IoT Solutions by Tech Data, with an aim to make complex Internet of Things solutions more accessible to a broader swath of the channel.
The new business practice — Tech Data stresses it’s not a unit, because the practice will draw from various Tech Data technological and vertical resources from around the world — will be headed up by Victor Paradell, currently vice president of IoT Solutions for Tech Data in Europe, a role he’s been focused on for more than a year. In that role, Pardell said, he’s been concentrating on “learning the IoT opportunity, and then building the business model around it.”
Now, Paradell said, it’s time to scale that opportunity and help solution providers take advantage of what’s out there.
“Their end customers are asking [our solution provider partners] more and more about leveraging IoT to improve their own internal processes,” Paradell said. “The ones who take advantage know they will be more competitive, so interest is accelerating.”
One of the key value Paradell sees Tech Data providing in the space is one its familiar with — clarity. Its initial role in building out its IoT-related linecard, he said, will be in finding the right complementary vendors that work with the major IoT players with which Tech Data works. In doing so, Paradell aims to take some of the integration and, before that, the “will it work” angst partners may face in trying to cobble together IoT solutions for their customers.
“We provide clarity on the right selection of complementary partners to our core vendors,” Pardell said. “That’s a very important value-add that we bring, and it’s an ongoing effort. There will be continuous alignment to our core vendors’ reference architectures.”
That’s important in an area where there are many different standards and protocols of play, not all of which are necessarily interoperable. Paradell says that interoperability problem, along with security challenges, has been a limiter to how deep the IT channel can go in IoT.
“There’s so much hype about it, but they struggle to understand in a clear way what the opportunity is about, and how they can participate,” Paradell said of many partners’ thoughts around IoT. “Once they understand that, they move into the interoperability challenges and the security challenges. They’re looking to us to help them jump in.”
The other big value-add for partners is another familiar one for distribution to provide to solution providers — enablement. Specifically, Smart IoT Solutions will focus on educating partners both on hot IoT solutions, and key verticals — initially manufacturing, logistics, retail and smart spaces — where IoT is a major factor, with an emphasis on making sure partners can “speak” a variety of new “languages.” In this space, both the lingo of IoT technologies and the and lingo of the specific vertical come together to form a “matrix of languages” Paradell describes, in which a partner must be proficient to be successful.
The enablement will come through the distributor’s Evolution online platform. Evolution was originally developed as a mechanism for the distributor to help its Cisco partners expand their areas of expertise, but is more recently becoming the distributor’s go-to platform for helping partners expand their business in new directions.
“We help them through building their own practices, get them linked to our key vendors, help them through certifications they need,” Paradell said of Evolution.
The Smart IoT Solutions practice is still in early days, and early priorities include identifying the right players and products, and the right partners. Paradell said the program would roll out at different speeds in different regions worldwide, dependent both on the strength of the IoT opportunity in the focus verticals, as well as local resources to support the push.