HPE Looks To New Breed Of IoT Partners For 'Pioneering' IT-OT Convergence

HPE is hoping to flex its industrial IoT muscle as a "pioneer" of the convergence between operations technology and traditional IT, Dr. Tom Bradicich, vice president and general manager of Servers, Converged Edge and IoT Systems at HPE, told CRN.

As part of this strategy, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company is appealing to a new type of channel partner – operational technology (OT) resellers who have experience working with the components that make up connected industrial and manufacturing spaces.

"Today we are pioneering the convergence of OT and IT. We're fusing the operational technology world, which has been separate from the IT world, and that's really key to our approach in this intelligent edge and IoT," said Bradicich. "[As part of that] we have channel partners we've never had before because we're in the OT convergence space and we're selling things out of the edge. We have sold things out of the edge, but not in the significant way that the IoT is developing."

[Related: Dell Announces New Cheaper IoT Gateway 3000 To 'Accelerate' Channel Focus]

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HPE has increased its efforts around industrial IoT over the past year, in June announcing it was creating Intel Xeon-based converged IoT systems – the Edgeline EL1000 and Edgeline EL4000 – designed for the network edge.

Bradicich, who was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the converged systems product category years ago, said that understanding operational technology plays a pivotal role in bringing these converged solutions to the industrial space.

"We took the OT technologies – control systems – and the data capture systems, and converged them and integrated them inside our EdgeLine systems," said Bradicich. "For the first time, we combined computing and storage with control systems all in the same box. This is a trendsetting move, to have OT convergence out of this intelligent edge."

Channel partners who understand the terms and language behind industrial technology play a large role in integrating HPE systems into customer markets. HPE has been pushing for partners, including solution providers, system integrators, technology partners and service providers. Currently, the company is building up its partners around IoT and has grown to over 35 partners who expressly work on IoT solutions with HPE, according to Bradicich.

The number of OT-focused partners is growing, said Bradicich. Currently, the company works with other vendors like National Instruments, Schneider Electric, and PTC to deploy IoT solutions in industrial markets, but the company is on the hunt for other OT partners as well.

"We have all these things connected now, and so we have new channel partners helping us there," said Bradicich. "National Instruments has become the first reseller of EdgeLine converged edge systems, and are the first OT company that has not been a reseller before. They became our channel partner because of the converged systems, and they're an OT company, not an IT company like an Avnet or another reseller."

More vendors are focusing on the convergence between IT and OT as the Internet of Things becomes more prominent in the industrial market. A recent Gartner survey found that organizations are keen to integrate IoT and IT technologies – such as sensors, data stewardship, security and analytics – into OT systems.

However, IoT deployment is still in the early stages, and most organizations don’t yet have the skills, expertise or time to drive the IT and OT alignment requirements.

Despite these challenges, solution providers like Luis Alvarez, president and CEO of Alvarez Technology Group, a Salinas, Calif.-based solution provider, see more vendors building up their operational technology capabilities.

"I'm seeing a channel push from vendors with an entrenched traditional OT channel – more OT companies are building a sizable operation in building controls and want to also get into IT, while the traditional IT vendors are also looking at building controls," he said.