Tech Data Sees Continued Demand for Next-Generation Solutions
Pandemic or no pandemic, demand for next-generation solutions remains strong, according to executives at Tech Data, who spoke to partners and with ChannelPro this week at the company’s online Next Tech partner conference.
Long known as a leader in distribution, Tech Data has reinvented itself in recent years as a “solutions aggregator” that helps resellers assemble software, hardware, and services to solve end user business challenges in cloud computing, security, the Internet of Things, and endpoint solutions. Despite the severe recession triggered by the COVID-19 crisis, the company says, those markets continue to offer both immediate and long-term opportunities.
Providers of endpoint solutions, for example, are seeing robust demand for mobile connectivity offerings. “COVID overall has really accelerated this always connected workforce and these solutions that need high-speed access to internet and data all the time,” says Dylan Leach, vice president of solutions for Tech Data’s Americas endpoint solutions group.
Building mobile broadband into sales proposals helps IT providers turn that need into a source of added revenue, he continues, adding that mobile networks are often better encrypted than Wi-Fi and just as fast.
“You don’t have to wait until 5G is fully mature,” Leach notes. “You can utilize the current high-speed LTE network that exists today.”
Too few partners are reselling connectivity, though, mostly because hardware resellers have traditionally focused on the infrastructure and device portions of solution deals and let mobile carriers handle the connectivity piece. They were right to do so too, Leach observes. “A lot of carriers really didn’t embrace the channel. There was some competition between carriers and our channel partners.”
That has changed dramatically in recent years, however, as companies like Verizon and T-Mobile have recognized the benefits of collaborating with local IT providers on front-line customer service. “The carriers have really started seeing the value in what our channel partners provide to end users, and they acknowledge what they do well and what they don’t do well,” Leach argues.
Partners don’t need extensive knowledge of connectivity to profit from selling it either, he continues. “We have the technical expertise in house most of the time, and if it’s something that is beyond our scope, we have resources that we can leverage in order to help them through that process.”
Tech Data plans to introduce a portal designed to help channel pros manage mobile connectivity sales in the third quarter of the year. It will also launch an online “practice builder” site in that same timeframe to help newcomers to the market learn how to turn mobility into a fresh source of solutions income. The company already offers similar resources for cloud computing, security, and the Internet of Things.
Adoption of IoT solutions has accelerated in recent months, according to Colin Blair, vice president of Internet of Things and data solutions for Tech Data in the Americas. Demand is up in particular for pre-packaged offerings in areas like tele-medicine and “spatial analytics,” which helps hospitals and clinics enforce social distancing guidelines.
“These were solutions that we had going into late last year before anyone was thinking about COVID-19,” Blair notes.
Security is a big need among users of IoT solutions as well, according to Alex Ryals, vice president of security solutions for the Americas at Tech Data, who notes that attackers view IoT hardware as an easy way to penetrate corporate networks.
“Devices like security cameras or thermostats or temperature sensors, those types of things, typically don’t have a reasonable way to patch and update on a regular basis, so it’s easier to find a vulnerability and know it’s going to be there for a long period of time,” said Ryals during a Next Tech conference presentation.
Threats to other technologies are on the rise this year as well, he noted, thanks in part to the massive number of people working from home—often on personal devices and over insecure networks—instead of the office at present. “COVID-19 has brought in almost a 400% increase in cyber activity from hackers,” Ryals said. “Some of the threat intelligence we’re seeing is kind of scary.”
Endpoint protection software and VPNs are a must under those conditions, he added, as are email security systems. “Almost 90% of malware is deployed through phishing email scams,” observed Ryals, who cited end user security training products as a potent additional defense against phishing.
Assembling an elite portfolio of security solutions is an ongoing quest for Tech Data, according to Ryals. “There’s over 2,000 security vendors in the market. We have about 44 of them, so we’re very intentional and picky about who we partner up with,” he said, Ryals’s group currently does over a billion dollars a year in sales through those 44 companies.
Tech Data rolled out a security product research tool called RECON SPI in March.
Hosting partner conferences online, as distributors Ingram Micro and D&H have also done in recent days, is one way Tech Data is protecting partners and vendors from COVID-19, according to Marty Bauerlein, the company’s senior vice president of North American sales. Bauerlein shared updates during the conference on measures aimed at keeping employees safe too.
“We still have our global work from home policy in place right now,” he said, adding that the company will begin letting people back into the office shortly. “It’s going to be very slow, gradual, and methodical, and for the time being, probably starting in July on, it’s going to be voluntary.” If all goes well, Bauerlein added, operations will be “close to normal” by September.
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