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When it comes to providing IT services a lot of solution providers tend to focus their energies on back-office opportunities. But as the so-called “Internet of Things” continues to get more robust, it’s starting to looks like integration of back-office systems with any number of types of embedded systems may turn out to be a massive new opportunity for the channel.

As more embedded systems have been attached to the Internet, the number of these types of devices that are running application-level software has skyrocketed. Almost invariably, these systems need to be integrated with back-end office systems. To facilitate that process IBM has begun working closely with National Instruments, a leading provider of development tools that are widely used in system engineering departments, to integrate IBM Rational Quality Manager software with NI VeriStand and NI TestStand tools from National Instruments. At the IBM Innovate conference next week, the two companies will highlight an example of their effort to unify application lifecycle management (ALM) across back office and embedded systems that is specifically designed for the automotive industry.  

The growth of the number embedded systems that can now be connected to the Internet has been nothing short of astounding. With billions of devices already connected via the Internet, applications running on systems that span everything from mobile devices to black box systems for the government are taking advantage of a variety of middleware platforms to communicate with one another.

The good news from a channel perspective is that not only do the applications running on these devices need to be integrated; many of them need to be remotely managed as well. Collectively, the need to integrate and manage these devices are giving rise to a machine-to-machine (M2M) market that spans multiple vertical industries, ranging from healthcare to the automotive example that IBM developed with National Instruments.

According to Mark Lefebvre, director of strategic alliances and integrations for IBM Rational, IT organizations have also been asking for a unified approach to ALM that span back-office systems and embedded devices. The alliance with National Instruments allows IBM to specifically address that critical requirement, says Lefebvre.

Christer Ljungdahl, director of aerospace and defense for National Instruments, says the integration efforts of the two companies will help eliminate any number of errors that usually occur because of manual processes that today are often tied to generic spreadsheets versus a dedicated ALM platform. The end goal should be to identify those errors much earlier in the development cycle when the cost of fixing them is relatively nominal, says Ljungdahl.

As IT systems become more integrated they become more complex, which increases the probability that there will be multiple errors. At the same time, there is significantly greater emphasis these days on delivering quality software, the definition of which has now been expanded to include testing for known security vulnerabilities.

All in all, the M2M market spans multiple facets, ranging from application development to security. Solution providers can choose to specialize in any one segment or the entire category. The one thing that is for certain is that the opportunities for solution providers in the channel right now may actually be greater outside the office than in it.