IoT Infrastructure Changes Help Solution Providers Find New Professional Services Opportunities

In Internet of Things projects, much of the opportunity for services may come from back-end changes to the IT infrastructure, in addition to connecting and monitoring devices, solution providers told CRN.

Jim VanderMey, chief innovation officer at Open Systems Technologies, a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based solution provider, said that working in IoT has positioned the solution provider as a systems integrator in charge of cloud, storage and infrastructure. "We're dealing with the EVP of product design. We're dealing with digital designers. We've shifted from being a reseller to building out infrastructure in Microsoft and Amazon cloud platforms. We've adopted a strong cloud competency. It's not the typical purvue of a normal reseller," he said.

A recent survey by research company 451 Research found that the collection, storage, transport and analysis of IoT data is impacting "all aspects" of IT infrastructure.

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451 Research found that 32 percent of organizations deploying IoT are planning increases in storage capacity, while 30 percent are planning increases in network edge equipment in the next 12 months to help "manage the IoT data storm." Customers are also looking to increase their server and off-premises cloud infrastructures, the survey found.

"The majority of customers are trying to understand the business value around the sheer amount of raw data generated," Rich Karpinski, research director at 451 Research, said. "While some enterprises say that in the future they will do more analytics – including heavy data processing and analysis driven by big data or AI – at the network edge, for now that deeper analysis is happening in company-owned data centers or in the public cloud.’

More than half of the companies surveyed said they initially store and analyze IoT data at a company-owned data center. The company found that "IT-centric projects are the dominant IoT use cases" – particularly data center management, as well as surveillance and security monitoring.

Meanwhile, IoT data remains stored there for two-thirds of organizations, while nearly one-third of the respondents move the data to a public cloud, according to 451 Research's survey.

In OST's case, the solution provider has provided professional services to build a cloud architecture at the backend and design it in a way where customers could layer applications on top of it, said VanderMey said.

"We've sold storage for internally-hosted projects," he said. "AWS and Azure capabilities are amazing and increasing all the time. Keeping up with those offerings in the IoT space and helping customers stay up to date is part of our business model. The natural affinity for IoT is a cloud-based storage platform."

While there is a certain amount of data stored in the cloud, other solution providers are finding that many customers who need real-time data analysis – such as factory floors and connected car manufacturers – are finding action at the edge.

Just under half of the respondents to 451 Research's survey said they do IoT data processing, such as data analysis, data aggregation or data filtering, at the edge. Twenty-two percent said they analyze data on the device, and 23 percent said data is analyzed in nearby IT infrastructure.

"Edge is becoming much more important than I had predicted ... there's a continued push from customers to get closer and closer to the edge," said Brian Blanchard, vice president of cloud solutions at 10th Magnitude, a Chicago-based solution provider. "The largest opportunities for the channel is adding data analytics to managed service providers' stack with a data driven approach."

451 Research found that as soon as two years in the future, facilities automation will likely be the most popular IoT use case, and line-of-business-centric supply chain management is expected to gain traction as well.

"For channel partners, helping customers figure out what they should be doing with all that IoT data and how to justify that investment will help customers not just cut costs, but also drive business values," said Karpinski.