Cover Story: The Mobile Technology Revolution

Talk about a revolution. Apple iPads and smartphones with Apple iPhone leading the way accounted for the largest platform solutions growth in 2010 for solution providers. iPads outpaced all categories with a whopping 32 percent sales growth for solution providers, followed closely by smartphones with 28 percent sales growth, according to a new mobile technology study by CRN parent Everything Channel.

The robust tablet and smartphone sales growth, which is just as striking this year, is a sign of the radical and pervasive influence the iPad and iPhone have had on the solution provider marketplace. Apple’s game-changing products have redrawn the battle lines for corporate computing. And in many cases, tablets and smartphones are opening the door to big solution sales from client/desktop virtualization to the data center.

Bob Venero, CEO of Future Tech, a Holbrook, N.Y., solution provider, said Apple’s influence on the market has been far-reaching. Future Tech’s iPad sales are up double digits this year and Venero expects those sales to double again in 2012.

’Apple is encroaching on longtime PC maker territory with iPad, iPhone and the Macintosh,’ said Venero. ’There are more iPads, iPhones and MacBooks in corporations than ever before. With the onset of the iPad, Apple has sparked the largest new me-too product onslaught in the history of computing, with every major PC vendor releasing tablets.’

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The iPad along with the iPhone has led to a mobile technology revolution that along with client device virtualization is reshaping how business gets done.

Lenovo, Dell, Samsung, ViewSonic, RIM, Toshiba, Acer and ASUS all have entered the tablet game, alongside some noteworthy newcomers. At the same time, Hewlett-Packard shocked solution providers on August 18 when it disclosed plans to kill off its WebOS-based TouchPad tablet PC just six weeks after it began shipping.

It's not just hardware makers changing their product set to play in the new marketplace. Everyone from software makers to peripherals vendors has come to the table with new products. No product segment has gone untouched.

Future Tech’s Venero said 60 percent of all his sales today have some facet of a mobility focus, and that figure will only get larger next year. ’Mobility for every VAR is now the largest percentage of their sales,’ said Venero, a 15-year solution provider veteran. ’Whether you are server-focused generating content for mobile workers, storage-focused providing storage that feeds mobile devices, or even security-focused securing smartphones and tablets, it doesn’t matter what type of solution provider you are, the majority of what you touch impacts the mobility solutions of the organization you are serving.’

Mont Phelps, CEO of Waltham, Mass.-based NWN, said the mobility revolution has just begun. ’This market is about to explode,’ he said. ’I fully expect this to be 25 percent of our business in two years.’ NWN has even created a small business unit within the company that is doing mobile application development. ’Without applications and business solutions, these devices are just bricks,’ said Phelps.

Phelps said mobility fundamentally changes how work gets done in businesses of all kinds. What’s more, he said, it is creating huge infrastructure opportunities for solution providers. ’You need infrastructure to support all these devices including server back ends, wireless networking and then you need to secure and manage these devices you are now walking around with.’

With that in mind, CRN looked at 10 segments that have been forever changed by mobility.

—Steven Burke

NEXT: Carriers


The mobile revolution wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the carriers and network operators that offer the connectivity to make it all go. The underlying wireless infrastructure and networks keep the world connected, whether from smartphones, tablets, netbooks or some other wireless mobile device.

And as the movement takes hold, solution providers are starting to see the spoils, whether through offering mobile devices that work on carrier networks to selling the ’last mile’ of wireless connectivity from carriers like AT&T or Sprint.

Greg Parsonson, vice president of corporate development for Tech Data, said the distributor is capturing the mobile carrier services wave with a new program called ActivateIT, a joint venture with Brightstar. While Tech Data fills the master agent role for VARs wanting to sell mobile devices and the telecom services to activate them, Parsonson said it’s a major growth area for solution providers to make maneuvers in mobility. And the carriers, he told CRN recently, are more than willing to play ball.

’They realize that this isn’t their traditional stomping grounds in accessing SMBs, so they are very anxious [to work] in conjunction with us,’ he said. And through the program, solution providers can bulk up sales and leave the carrier dealings to the distributor, making it a win-win on all sides.

Mobility, coupled with cloud computing, is the main factor pushing traditional carriers to the channel to resell services and products. Carriers get an extension to their sales force, while solution providers can add new offers to their portfolios.

Earlier this year AT&T vowed to plunk down $1 billion on cloud and mobility in the coming year, a chunk of which will likely filter through AT&T’s channels. And other major carriers are looking at ways to spread their mobile messaging beyond the direct approach. They are investing in new architectures and networks to quicken wireless services, whether it’s through 3G, 4G, LTE or a host of other next-gen wireless plays. And solution providers stand a strong chance of reaping the benefits.

—Andrew R. Hickey, with additional reporting from Chad Berndtson

NEXT: Cloud


Mobility and the cloud are like chocolate and peanut butter: two great tastes that go great together. The cloud enables access to data from any device from any location; mobility provides those devices and clients to make that connection happen.

’We’re starting to see huge demand in the mobile cloud space,’ said Mihir Panchal, senior product manager at cloud solution provider Model Metrics. Chicago-based Model Metrics focuses on services around, Amazon Web Services, Adobe and Google and has seen the smartphone and tablet revolution light a fire under its ability to offer mobile solutions in the cloud.

Panchal said the ability to access data from any back end from any device, and offering services around that capability, is beefing up Model Metrics’ bottom line. About 20 percent of Model Metrics’ business came through mobility, a number he expects to balloon to between 30 percent and 40 percent in 2011.

Panchal said Model Metrics a few years ago started creating solutions that enable cloud apps and services to be accessed via smartphones. That, coupled with the increase of bandwidth and mobile infrastructure, made access to data ubiquitous and affordable.

For Thomas Paquet, senior consultant with G-Apps Masters, a Las Vegas-based cloud solution provider, marrying mobility and the cloud was a natural evolution. With Google Apps, the ability to work in an application on one device and access that updated content from another almost instantly is a strong proposition for clients. ’The synchronization of mobile devices is key and critical,’ he said.

Paquet said the maturation of smartphones created the tipping point toward mobile and cloud convergence. Now, he said, all of G-Apps Masters’ customers are planning for cloud-mobile device syncing. ’You no longer need a laptop to conduct business not only on the creative side, but on the consumption side,’ he said.

Shaking up the market further, at press time Google revealed plans to acquire Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion. Go to Google Partners: Motorola Acquisition A Gateway to Mobility for more details.

—Andrew R. Hickey

NEXT: Components


Aside from smartphone makers, perhaps no market has benefited more from the mobility boom than the microprocessor market. The demand for small yet high-powered chips that can comfortably fit into ever-shrinking devices has exploded, and chip makers have been more than happy to provide them.

Now manufacturers are racing to develop mobile processors that are more energy efficient and produce less heat than traditional desktop and notebook processors -- without sacrificing performance. They are developing smaller, thinner form factors such as tablets and smartphones, which need to be able to run longer without recharging and stay cool without enormous fans and heatsinks. And while it wasn’t that long ago that multicore processors first made their way into laptops, dual-core chips are becoming common on smartphones (in fact, both Nvidia and Qualcomm are readying quad-core processors for phones).

The explosive growth in mobile devices has created a dramatic shift in the processor market, too. ARM Holdings has emerged as a major force with its mobile chip architectures, which have become so widespread that Microsoft said it would develop a future version of Windows to run on ARM technology. Meanwhile Nvidia, traditionally a GPU powerhouse, has shifted its attention from graphics cards to mobile processors for tablets and smartphones.

As the netbook market has cooled off, Intel has revamped its Atom platform into a tablet-friendly processor and in the spring unveiled its Atom-based architecture, code-named Oak Trail, for tablets. And AMD recently released its eagerly anticipated Fusion A-Series APUs for high-performance notebooks. The race to develop the most powerful yet cool and energy-efficient chips has altered the landscape, and the proliferation of mobile devices could be the biggest trend to influence the microprocessor industry since the introduction of 64-bit computing.

—Rob Wright

NEXT: Data Center

Data Center

Mobile apps might be the Holy Grail of data center management: wonderful to think about, thrilling to imagine using, but totally out of reach for the foreseeable future.

For now, however, solution providers and their customers have to be satisfied with mobile apps that help manage specific parts of the data center, but not the whole.

There are mobile apps for managing server infrastructures, storage infrastructures, virtualization, security, software applications, and more. But when it comes to managing the data center itself, the technology is not yet available, said William Bell, director of information systems at Phoenix NAP, a provider of co-location services.

’In a traditional data center like a co-lo facility, you won’t see a trend toward space and power providers attempting to provide space and power reports in the data center,’ Bell said. ’You see a definite lack of that transparency in general.’

The real promised land is to have an Information-as-a-Service experience in a single app, Bell said. ’If I am consuming multiple IaaS resources in a data center, I want to be able to log into my mobile device and look at all the resources,’ he said. ’I want a single pane of glass.’

The requirements for such apps are growing, but solutions or even the proxy management of those solutions are not available, except perhaps on a one-off basis from large wholesale services providers, Bell said. ’But five to 10 years from now -- I believe it will take that long for it to become the norm in the standard data centers,’ he said. ’IaaS in the data center has a long way to go.’

Denali Advanced Integration, Redmond, Wash., which recently became an enterprise iOS provider for Apple technology, is developing apps for managing parts of the data center, driven in part by customer requirements and in part by Denali’s own needs, said Chris Gerhardt, Denali president.

Customers eventually will adopt zero-client technologies for mobile devices, but it is unclear how quickly, Gerhardt said. However, he said, it is already happening at Denali, which is also developing such apps. ’The majority of our infrastructure services team is on the Mac now, or moving to the Mac,’ he said. ’That includes our storage and security experts. We’re seeing a divergence in our fleet towards choice. There are a lot of iPads around. The versatility in that platform is the primary driver.’

—Joseph F. Kovar

NEXT: Networking


So important to the networking segment is mobility that few companies see a point in separating their mobility strategies from their core networking strengths anymore. In VoIP and unified communications, for example, ’mobility’ often means how well a customer can extend the features and security of its networking technologies all the way to the mobile edge -- and not lose any flexibility.

Credit ShoreTel for being ahead of the pack in that regard: ShoreTel Mobility, launched following its acquisition of Agito Networks in October 2010, is a vendor-agnostic solution that allows companies to extend the features of their existing PBX and UC infrastructure to the mobile edge, cutting down on international calling charges and making enterprise-grade mobile communications far less cumbersome.

’This is a game-changer for us, and the reason is we can now sell into people who have another PBX,’ said Don Gulling, president of Verteks Consulting, an Ocala, Fla., ShoreTel partner. ’You hear, ’Oh, I’m sorry, I already bought a Cisco so in seven years I’ll call you back.’ But we say, ’Great, awesome. We’ve got something that they don’t have that we’d like to show you.’ It’s a sales revenue stream that we didn’t have before that we can sell into now. That’s huge.’

Cisco is also flexing serious mobility muscle with its Cius tablet, an Android-based mobile device it sees as a UC endpoint, capable of doing everything from videoconferencing to virtual desktop infrastructure in a business-grade tablet form factor.

Most of the wireless vendors, from Meru Networks to Ruckus Wireless, also have good mobility stories to tell. Aruba Networks, for example, continues to go wide and deep with its Mobile Virtual Enterprise, or MOVE, architecture, which offers a slate of mobilityfocused wireless networking products designed for context-aware networking. Among other vendors with ideal mobility solutions for SMB is Digium, whose latest release for its Switchvox open-source VoIP-PBX platform added fixed mobile convergence.

—Chad Berndtson

NEXT: Peripherals


The mobility craze has taken bulky peripherals off the desktop and put them into the hands of smartphone- and tablet-wielding professionals. Not only that, it has made cloud-connected, mobile-aware peripherals ubiquitous.

Among the red-hot peripherals are the Visioneer Mobility Color Cordless Scanner for Android-based smartphones and tablets; the Motorola CS3000 bar-code scanning device, which fits into a shirt pocket; Kensington’s Keyfolio keyboard for iPad; and Cloud Engines’ Pogoplug personal cloud device.

But no vendor has done more to bring the power of peripherals to mobile devices than HP, which has an installed base of more than 5.6 million cloud-aware, Web-connected printers. And HP has introduced AirPrint in conjunction with Apple so users can print from any Apple smartphone or tablet to cloud-aware HP printers.

Keith Moore, HP fellow and chief technologist, said the cloud-aware printer movement is simply one of the breakthroughs that completely changes the printer market every five years. ’This round of transformation is occurring around mobility,’ he said. ’There are two Wild Wests out there, one is the mobile client and the other is cloud content. There are a bunch of people who no longer have laptops. They are living with smartphones and now we’re seeing tablets enter that space.’ Those users want to print with the ’printer they are standing next to, not necessarily to the one in the office or the home,’ said Moore. That’s where HP’s ePrint comes into play. ’If you can e-mail it, we can print it,’ he said.

The ability to interact seamlessly within the cloud is at the heart of startup Cloud Engines’ Pogoplug, which lets users create their own ’personal cloud,’ providing seamless access to content through the Web. Cloud Engines also has a small-business product, Pogoplug Biz, aimed at providing secure access to content in the Web for the SOHO market.

’This concept of private cloud is becoming top of mind with people,’ said Cloud Engines President and CEO Daniel Putterman. ’Our breakthrough is this is the first online, fully secure accessible product that sets up in 60 seconds.’

Meanwhile, Visioneer once and for all makes scanning from bulky scanners connected to USB ports on desktops or laptops a bad memory. With the Visioneer Cordless Scanner, a real estate agent can now scan a signed offer document in the field to a smartphone or a tablet. The Scanner can also upload documents wirelessly with a Wi-Fi card into the cloud, said John Capurso, vice president of marketing. ’There are so many applications we haven’t even thought of,’ he said. ’This has so much potential they will find applications that make this more valuable. The core product and technology is ready to go.’

—Steven Burke

NEXT: Security


The myriad disparate and largely unprotected mobile devices now used in the workplace have added a whole new dimension to solution providers’ portfolios, which almost overnight has seemed to explode into a viable business division.

One big area of growth for solution providers has been in the consulting arena, creating comprehensive mobility plans and policies for SMBs overwhelmed dealing with a host of new issues.

Rob McMillen, president of All Tech 1, a security solution provider based in Portland, Ore., said that his mobility business has expanded by incorporating mobile device security into existing contracts with many of his SMB customers. ’That will be the vulnerable spot where they get hacked. In order to be our customer, you need to have a mobile security plan,’ he said.

McMillen said that his mobile business has gone from zero to 30 percent by handling smartphone and tablet issues, and he anticipates it growing.

Meanwhile, Gary Fish, CEO of Kansas City, Mo.-based FishNet Security, is already seeing expansive growth in the company’s mobility business, which has evolved into business division. Unlike other segments of his business, the explosive growth of mobility was largely consumer-driven, Fish said. The challenges reached a critical mass when his customers complained that employees were bringing iPhones, iPads and Android devices into the workplace, unleashing a slew of security and compatibility issues.

’Mobility is so different. It’s consumer-driven,’ Fish said. ’There are these great new devices, and the end user was bringing these to the corporation and finding ways to use it by getting around security policies. It had to be addressed.’

—Stefanie Hoffman

NEXT: Software


More than 17 billion mobile applications will be downloaded worldwide from online application stores this year, according to market-research firm Gartner. By 2015 the global mobile application market will generate $25 billion in sales, according to a forecast from Research and Markets.

There’s no question the demand for software for smartphones, tablet computers and other mobile devices is exploding -- everything from Angry Birds for consumers to sophisticated operational and analytical mobile applications for road warriors. Angry Birds aside, solution providers say the opportunity to provide applications and services to business users with mobile devices is huge.

’Our challenge is keeping up with demand and making sure we’re keeping up with the pace of change in the mobile world,’ said Bill Hoggarth, a divisional director with CQS Technology Holdings, a Johannesburg, South Africa-based solution provider. CQS partners with SAP and its Business Objects operation, as well as with MeLLmo, developer of the Roambi software that provides a mobile front end to corporate business intelligence systems.

Noting that virtually every decision-maker owns a smartphone and/or tablet computer, CQS recognized the opportunity. ’The future of business intelligence is, by definition, mobile,’ Hoggarth said. CQS has developed a range of business intelligence-related services, including helping customers design their business intelligence systems and connect mobile and desktop devices to corporate business intelligence platforms.

’I think the tablet revolution is what’s really driving this,’ said Bill Harrison, president of Epicom, an Austin, Texas-based solution provider that focuses on CRM system implementations. ’Smartphones are fine for communications, but tablets are better suited for information-rich applications like CRM.’

Epicom partners with SugarCRM, implementing its CRM mobile client application on customers’ mobile devices. While mobility usually isn’t the driver behind customer projects, Harrison estimated that it’s among the top three requirements in 70 percent to 80 percent of contracts.

While Epicom is largely a systems integrator, the company is investing more in developing applications that can be easily ported to iOS, BlackBerry and Android systems. ’Business is shifting and we’re becoming more of a product company,’ he said. ’I think we’re going to get more requests for custom applications that are tailored around people’s specific businesses.’

—Rick Whiting

NEXT: Storage


Monitoring and managing storage infrastructure directly through mobile devices is difficult for the simple reason that none of the tier-one storage vendors have suitable apps, except for NetApp, which worked with a solution provider to develop one.

Instead, solution providers depend on traditional indirect tools, including using a notebook PC logged in through a VPN, or a mobile device configured as a virtual desktop via apps such as Wyse PocketCloud.

More common are apps designed to monitor and manage backup jobs or cloud storage.

Remote storage management apps could be useful, said Sonia St. Charles, CEO of Davenport Group, a St. Paul, Minn.-based solution provider and Dell Compellent partner. ’It would provide ease of use, much like the ability to check bank accounts without stepping into a bank,’ St. Charles said.

St. Charles said she is trying to prod Dell to offer such an app, which would offer many benefits above the existing Dell storage portal. ’Others could do it, but they’d need the API and the ability to develop it and get it approved,’ she said. ’But Dell really needs to do it.’

One solution provider, Reston, Va.-based Powersolv, couldn’t wait for its primary vendor, NetApp, to do it. Instead, it worked with NetApp to build its own Android app for NetApp storage, said Madhav Deshpandi, Powersolv’s senior vice president of technology. ’As a value-add strategy, we need to fill in gaps,’ Deshpandi said. ’And remote management is a big gap.’

The new app is important when mission-critical functions need to be done immediately, Deshpandi said. It is just becoming available to the VAR’s customers and may be developed for sale to other NetApp solution providers within the next six months, he said.

Solution providers are mixed about the benefit of such apps. Greg Knieriemen, vice president of marketing at Cleveland-based Chi, said mobile devices might work for simple tasks, but they would be difficult to get ready for use with more complex operations. ’People do it,’ he said. ’I guess if you work hard enough, you could hack your Wii to do remote management.’

—Joseph F. Kovar

NEXT: Virtualization


Virtualization solution providers have been dealing with slow uptake of the technology on the desktop, but that’s changing as the iPad begins to make its mark on the business IT landscape.

In some cases, seeing the iPad in action as a desktop virtualization end point has had a sudden and dramatic impact on a customer’s IT purchasing decision. Case in point: Mainline Information Systems, Tallahassee, Fla., recently inked a deal with a Northern California hospital that had been evaluating VMware View for the better part of a year but had yet to pull the trigger.

However, the customer fence-sitting ended quickly when Mainline gave an on-site demo of VMware View for iPad. A week later, Mainline started a $1.2 million project to enable 800 seats of VMware View at the hospital, with iPads as the primary client device for doctors, according to Chris Minnis, Mainline’s virtualization services manager. ’The moment we brought one of our employees into the environment with an iPad and a doctor saw it, everything fell into place,’ said Minnis.

There’s a certain irony in the fact that the iPad, a device seemingly designed for consumers, is having such a significant effect in the enterprise data center. Most virtualization solution providers don’t even sell the device, preferring instead to tap into the services opportunities it creates.

Keith Norbie, vice president of sales at Nexus Information Systems, Minnetonka, Minn., said iPad and tablet desktop virtualization currently accounts for a small amount his business, but he’s bullish on the future revenue stream it will generate. ’When you look at the sphere of influence this type of work puts you in—that’s where the strategic value lies,’ he said. ’The IT services drag with this work is significant.’

—Kevin McLaughlin