CRN Exclusive: Tech Data Launches IoT Practice Focused on Industrial Supply Chain

Tech Data on Monday unveiled an Internet of Things practice focused on aggregating products from different vendors in the manufacturing, logistics, retail and Smart Cities spaces.

The Clearwater, Fla.-based distributor plans to differentiate its IoT offering from rivals by focusing primarily on combining finished vendor offerings rather than the silicon or chips inside the products, Victor Paradell, Tech Data's vice president of IoT Solutions for Europe, told CRN in an exclusive interview.

"Today, IoT is complex," Paradell said. "We want to make it really, really simple at the solution level."

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That simplicity will stem from leveraging Tech Data's already-robust ecosystem of vendors at each level of the technology stack, from assessing and connectivity to work equipment and big data analytics, Paradell said.

Tech Data will look to set its offering apart through value-added services, from helping partners conceptualize and design a solution, to identifying interoperability across vendors and effectively positioning these solutions in the market to establishing a reference architecture.

Solution providers can leverage Tech Data's IoT practice to help clients with predictive maintenance in the manufacturing space, case management in the logistics arena, and energy maintenance for Smart Cities, Paradell said.

"We're familiar with how our vendors are thinking around those verticals," Paradell said.

Each of these use cases requires technology spanning from the edge of the network to the center of the cloud, Paradell said, creating many different opportunities for the channel to participate. Market research suggests that IoT will have the largest economic impact in the industrial space, Paradell said, due to enormous opportunities for cost savings and productivity gains.

"Nobody will be able to play on the IoT value chain from A to Z," Paradell said. "It's too big."

Tech Data's IoT practice will tap into expertise that already exists in the distributor's connectivity, networking equipment, cloud services, application and software business units to enable partners, Paradell said. At the same time, Paradell said Tech Data will bring in solution architects who can help resellers understand how the various components that make up an IoT solution work together.

The new business practice should help partners evolve their business model from one-time transactional sales to a service-oriented relationship and position them to sell more cloud, storage and analytics to the end customer, Paradell said. It will also enable the channel to drive more consumption of services provided through the cloud and through the solution provider.

Titan Technologies has seen significant adoption of smart technology in the consumer space, and is starting to see interest creep up into the small business space, said Paul Nebb, CEO of the Morganville, N.J.-based company.

"It's a cool added service, and if I can get the product at a distribution price, it's better for me," Nebb told CRN. "It adds more stuff to the solution stack."

But given that most of Nebb's customers still see IoT as being centered around consumer gadgets, he's not sure he'll market the products as a business tool right away.

"Not too many clients are at that point yet," Nebb said.