It’s All About Ecosystems in the Internet of Things
INTERNET OF THINGS SOLUTIONS, as everyone knows, require a complex mix of sensors, gateways, software applications, and network connections. Less widely appreciated, however, is the equally complex mix of partners needed to bring all those components together and keep them operational.
“It takes a village with some of these solutions,” says Nicole Denil, general manager of global channel sales for the Internet of Things at Microsoft Corp. And not a small village at that, according to her colleague Rodney Clark, Microsoft’s vice president for IoT and mixed reality sales.
“Anywhere from five to 25 partners are needed and necessary to complete an end-to-end solution,” he says.
Indeed, to an even greater degree than usual in the world of technology, IoT solutions are a team effort requiring deep knowledge not just of hardware, software, and the cloud, but deployment, provisioning, orchestration, management, and more. The implications for IoT integrators are clear.
“Anywhere from five to 25 partners are needed and necessary to complete an end-to-end solution.”—RODNEY CLARK, VICE PRESIDENT, IOT AND MIXED REALITY SALES, MICROSOFT CORP.
“You’re going to need to partner with people,” says Jay McBain, who leads Forrester Research Inc.’s research and advisory practice for global channels, alliances, and partnerships.
Finding the right partners is no mean feat though. According to McBain, there are roughly 100,000 vendors in the IT industry at present. Thanks largely to the Internet of Things, that number will stand at 1 million a decade from now. Like the even larger constellation of IoT service providers surrounding them, McBain predicts, each of those companies will specialize in meeting specific needs for businesses of specific sizes in specific industries and specific locations.
Considering the Options
Channel pros will need help sifting through all those options, observes Sean Colby, a manager of IoT partner enablement at Tech Data Corp., of Clearwater, Fla. “You’ve got to have some kind of solutions aggregator to be able to complete these ecosystem-oriented kinds of business solutions,” he says. With their giant product catalogs and wide-ranging supplier relationships, Colby continues, distributors like Tech Data are ideal candidates for the job.
Such companies consistently urge would-be IoT integrators to be as specialized as IoT vendors are becoming. In IT generally, cultivating one narrow skill can be limiting, notes Rob Moyer, vice president for cloud, mobility, and IoT at SYNNEX Corp., of Fremont, Calif. In IoT, it’s the surest route to profitability.
“There’s a big business in just solving one or two problems,” Moyer says, adding that for proof one need only look at the report he gets every quarter of the distributor’s top 25 IoT partners. “I love that I can’t recognize half the names,” he says. “These are small partners that are finding niches and they’re putting up big numbers.”
Distributors can help in that process by making introductions for partners with complementary abilities, according to Colin Blair, Tech Data’s vice president of analytics and IoT solutions. “We’ve been able to create a really good pipeline for business going both ways,” he says.
The wide variety of skills required on IoT projects makes getting into the market easier, observes Blair, who counsels channel pros to build first on what they already know. “If they’re a networking specialist, then that gives them adjacencies into IoT gateways and the edge,” he says.
McBain agrees. “There are some ‘born in the cloud’ players that don’t do traditional IT services,” he notes. They can be fertile sources of sales leads for MSPs and VARs with experience managing IoT hardware.
Microsoft’s Clark advises newcomers to IoT to take a close look at their capabilities and identify their “superpower,” the core, targeted skill that they possess and that IoT solutions require. “Really understand from a partner perspective where you play in the value chain,” he says. Then start building relationships with hardware makers, software developers, and other ecosystem players. The possibilities are limitless.
“There are so many green fields right now,” McBain says. Find yourself just the right one and you’ll have a secure place in the IoT ecosystem for years to come.
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