Dell Set To Double IoT Partner Ranks, Focus On 'The Guts'

As Dell pushes into the burgeoning IoT market, the company says it will double the number of partners it works with in that space through a ’matchmaking’ system that aims to help customers partner with the right solution providers for their specific needs.

Dell launched its IoT unit last year, and has introduced a series of IoT gateways and purpose-built PCs. Today, the unit works with about 50 partners, according to Jason Shepherd, Dell’s director of IoT partnerships and strategy. ’We’re going toward 100, and it’s all about matchmaking customers with the right solution providers, starting with the customers’ needs. It’s not just about the word ’IoT.’ We’re trying to create an entourage.’

On Sept. 8, Dell expects to turn on services for the first systems integrators working with the company’s IoT unit. ’Through those relationships in the midmarket, we can build customization’ for customers in what Shepherd called ’a market of niches.’

[Related: IoT Checklist: 5 First Steps For Solution Providers Breaking Into The Internet of Things ]

The matchmaking takes the form of a new portal that allows Dell’s IoT people to search for partners with expertise in very specific niches. ’I can literally type in ’solution providers in the Northeast and vineyards,’ and get partners in that region who have that expertise,’ Shepherd said.

Shepherd was in New Bedford, Mass., this week at INEX Labs, a Dell-sponsored organization that focuses on using IoT to help small businesses become more profitable and sustainable. INEX’s other sponsors include GE, Analog Devices, PTC, Intel and law firm Foley Lardner.

The visit included a tour of area businesses – New Bedford’s fishing fleet, a greenhouse operation and a vineyard – using Dell IoT solutions as part of an INEX program. Through deeper understanding of things like weather patterns, water temperatures and soil conditions, those businesses have been able to make adjustments that allow for greater efficiency and profitability.

Still, despite all the promise the IoT market holds, and the rave reviews from the fishermen and farmers in southeastern Massachusetts this week, Shepherd said Dell has to take a measured, step-by-step approach. The company also has to be careful to stick with its strengths rather than trying to take on all aspects of IoT itself.

’You take an initial step,’ Shepherd said. ’You can’t try to build out too much at once. It changes the type of products you build. The guts are very similar, but the product is industrial grade, from there, we’ll need lots of operations-focused partners instead of trying to compete with our partners. Someone has to build the guts; we’ll bring the IT, and the partners bring the OT.’

Stephen Monteros, vice president of development at Sigmanet, an Ontario, Calif., solution provider that works with Dell, said it’s important that Dell in particular realizes that it needs the channel to make its IoT business a success.

’They had a tendency to do things themselves, and that’s not something you can do in this space because you need a huge technical bench. It’s not just devices, but enablement of ecosystems that work with software OEMs and hardware OEMs like Bosch. You need to work with the channel to make solutions to leverage strengths across the board instead of trying to build your own stack.’

’The space itself is still in its infancy stages, but it’s going to get huge,’ Monteros said. ’Making investments in the space is really a smart thing to do, and as partners, we’ll be the ones who really enable it.’

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