Intel CEO Bob Swan To Partners: 'You Can Count On Us'

Intel CEO Bob Swan articulated his commitment to the channel, telling solution providers in an opening keynote address at the Intel Partner Connect conference that their innovation in building solutions around Intel technology is critical.

Intel CEO Bob Swan said channel partners can count on the chip giant as they grapple with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

"Through these very challenging times, you can count on us," Swan told solution providers in a keynote address at the Intel Partner Connect conference that marked the first time in several years that an Intel CEO has appeared at the chipmaker's annual channel partner event. "We understand our responsibility to ensure that we are there for you, so you, in turn, can be there for your customers."

Swan told partners that their innovation in building solutions around Intel technology is critical to the company’s success.

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"These partnerships are so important to us. Your innovation, your ideas, your leveraging [of] technology to solve big problems is such an important part of what it is that we do, because on our own we can't do that much," Swan said during the keynote, which was delivered virtually. "We're so dependent on our partners and our channel partners to solve some of these challenges.”

[Related: Intel vPro Is Making Big Bets On Partner, Ecosystem Enablement, Exec Says]

Swan also issued a rallying cry for channel partners to embrace technologies such as artificial intelligence, edge intelligence and 5G that are driving the shift to a "digital society" as organizations seek help to make sense of data.

"When you're confronted with emerging technologies or strategic inflections, you have a choice, and sometimes that choice can be either you sit idle and get disrupted by others or you take advantage of the situation and disrupt yourself and create new opportunities," Swan said.

Messages like those resonate well with partners looking for guidance on how they can identify new opportunities and expand their business with Intel, said Kent Tibbils, vice president of marketing at ASI, a Fremont, Calif.-based Intel distributor. It's especially important as Intel's market reach has massively expanded as a result of its bid to become a data-centric company.

"Intel's always done a really good job in helping the channel identify where those next-generation opportunities are going to come from," Tibbils said. "[Partners] are going to have to identify which ones work for their business model and their strengths and target a strategy around that."

Swan, who has been the company's CEO since he was given the permanent title in January 2019, shared the virtual stage with Michelle Johnston Holthaus, executive vice president of Intel's Sales, Marketing and Communications Group. The 2020 Intel Partner Connect conference, which runs May 20-21 and will be available afterward on demand, was moved to a digital format in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In his keynote with Holthaus, Swan discussed the ways the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company has responded to the pandemic: through new work-from-home and safety measures for employees, channel relief for partners and funds to fight COVID-19 and its impact.

But Swan also underlined how the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the need for companies to adopt new technologies like AI, edge intelligence and 5G to process and analyze the increasing amount of data coming into the world so that valuable insights can be derived.

"These three technology inflections only accelerate what we characterize as a data-intensive digital economy today," he said. "That's the opportunity we have at this at this moment. COVID-19, we believe it's only going to accelerate the requirement to have more and more data and to transform your environments, regardless of where you're working."

Holthaus, a channel veteran at Intel, highlighted innovative partners like Philippines-based Wired Systems, which has transitioned from a "box builder" to a company that designs solutions around customer problems, leading the partner to IT infrastructure and IoT opportunities in a number of verticals, including government, manufacturing and finance.

"What we really found early on was that building the machine wasn't enough to differentiate yourself against the big box OEMs," she said. "And that the real advantage that ecosystem partners had was being able to really get in with their partners to understand the problems and the solutions that they were trying to deliver. And as you understood those problems, the solution and the advantage that you had, versus others, really started to flourish and show to your customers."

Holthaus also cited a partner in China that is using Intel's Xeon processors and Intel Virtualization Technology to power an edge-to-edge education platform that enables remote learning for more than 30 million students in response to the pandemic. An additional partner, NCTech, has partnered with Google and Intel to build new 360-degree camera technology for Google Street View while another, Vast Data, has built an all-flash storage solution around Intel's Optane technology that is eliminating performance bottlenecks for COVID-19 research.

"The products and services that we enable together are more essential now than maybe ever before," Holthaus said. "And I know together we will continue to create world-changing technology that enriches the lives of every person on Earth."

Jeff Dodge, director of national solutions for digital innovation at Insight Enterprises, a Tempe, Ariz.-based global solution provider and Intel partner, said his company has been able to transform from a traditional value-added reseller to one of the world's "premier system integrators" by making major investments in its services capabilities.

Those investments, combined with its development of an IoT platform, has prepared the company to provide the technologies needed to help people and organizations adapt to new requirements necessitated by the coronavirus.

"We saw a massive uptick in people saying to us, 'Hey, we know you can provide us with thermal cameras and other detect and prevent-type solutions? We know you've got this amazing platform to help us orchestrate, administer those platforms, derive data insights, drive alerts and workflows. Do those work together?' In fact, we have already been investigating that."

Jason Craig, chief technology advisor of public sector at World Wide Technology, said the St. Louis-based company's partnership with Intel has accelerated in 2020 because of the need to use AI, edge computing and 5G to capture, process and analyze the growing amount of data coming from all over the world.

That has manifested in new solutions for a mobile edge compute platform to provide Internet access to students in underserved neighborhoods and for a thermal imaging system that can automatically detect people with fever symptoms at various facilities.

"We don't think it will ever be the silver bullet," he said. "We think, like [Swan] said, it's a component of a larger solution, and that's what World Wide brings, [which] is that integration of multiple components."