Reading the Tea Leaves for IoT Solution Providers

By Howard M. Cohen  |  Print this article Print
IoT solution providers

ANALYSIS:  If the Internet of things sounds as good today as the cloud did five years ago, one wonders where the IoT opportunities will be for channel partners.

Angela Beltz, vice president of the Cisco Solutions Group at Tech Data, noted: "Bigger partners are partnering with us on data analytics. There's an opportunity for channel partners to recognize where they can participate in new solutions and add data analytics, aggregation points, perhaps even set up on-premise where they can grab data right away for real-time analytics. Many end-customers don't know much about this. Partners can create a practice teaching customers to leverage the data to get the outcomes they're hoping for." 

Beltz recommended that partners "come to know where to monetize. Partners are trying to create annuities and operationalizing IoT. Expand that a bit and look at opportunities around IoT and data analytics."

This speaks directly to the many channel partners who have added managed services to their business to create monthly recurring revenue annuities and who will find managing customer IoT services and the enormous quantities of data collected by them to be a substantial new source of income.

Key watchwords for partners will include "secure connectivity," Tennefoss predicted. "Bone up on security. It's going to be unacceptable to deploy these systems without security. And remember, more of these devices will be mobile. If you're just in the switching infrastructure business, go back and learn about wireless."

Data and security are the first things channel partners seeking to enter the IoT fray should focus on, CompTIA's Robinson said.  The concept of data has taken on a new priority as companies grow more digital.  Companies are treating data as a precious commodity.  Security and privacy of data are more important than ever with all these massive hacks taking place," he added. 

Tennefoss sees security as the IoT's best opportunity to generate recurring revenue. "As business processes get tied to reliable IT, you'll need proactive monitoring. Security will be required across the entire ecosystem to protect IT. As more devices exchange information with other devices, there will be a need for a lot more integration in the ability to deliver security in the IoT. Just an air gap will be insufficient. There will be a need to monitor both sides of the air gap. These are tremendous opportunities for channel partners."

The Importance of IoT Partnerships

Strong IoT partnerships will be paramount.

Vendors consider IoT "a large greenfield area," CompTIA's April said. "There's lots of blurring between the lines of IT and non-IT companies, so we're seeing a lot of convergence in this space." 

She recommended that partners seek channel-friendly vendors "beyond the big guys" and see what they are doing in IoT.

"Collaboration is key, and we're working in close conjunction with our IoT partners and customers to realize the opportunity for the entire ecosystem," Jerry Lee, director of product marketing, data platform and IoT at Microsoft explained. "Specifically, our partners help tailor IoT solutions to meet the business needs of our customers, ensuring a solution integrates with their existing processes and systems."

Lee offered the following three best practices for selling IoT solutions:

--Developing internal practices around IoT will require cross-functional teams with different capabilities—including hardware, software and service development as well as business consultation, data analytics and more. 

--You can't be everything to everyone. Define your core competency on a specific segment, vertical or area of focus in order to differentiate from others.

--Remember that some projects require partnering with others to deliver a solution; so a willingness to join different partner ecosystems is crucial.

No single vendor can do all this on its own, so it's best to turn to partners, Tech Data's Beltz emphasized, "More complex solutions mean lots of opportunity for those partners to monetize on their own."

Howard M. Cohen is a 30-plus-year IT industry veteran who continues his commitment to the channel as a columnist and consultant.