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Next-Gen 250: Competitive Advantage

The cloud, IoT, big data, digital transformation, artificial intelligence, software-defined networking, and cybersecurity -- solution providers that have built practices around these technologies are in high demand. Our Next-Gen 250 list gives a shout-out to these thought leaders.

Smart businesses today are leveraging advanced and emerging information technologies to operate more efficiently, improve communication and collaboration among their employees, and gain insight into their customers. And they rely on their IT solution providers to help them implement those technologies and get the most out of them.

That means solution providers and strategic service providers that have built practices around next-generation technologies have a competitive advantage. There’s growing demand for expertise in cloud computing, digital transformation, the Internet of Things, big data management and analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, software-defined networking, DevOps and advanced cybersecurity.

“When you bring to your customers new technologies, new ideas and new innovations, you become a thought leader to them,” said Rob Thomas, co-founder and CEO of Zilker Technology. “Innovative thinking always differentiates a solution provider from other companies that are just executing.”

Zilker Technology is one of the 250 solution providers on this year’s CRN Next Gen 250 list of companies that have developed solutions and practices around these leading-edge technologies.

Austin, Texas-based Zilker Technology launched in 2014 with a focus on providing digital transformation consulting and systems integration services for mobile, web and ecommerce systems. Under the umbrella of “Enterprise solutions for a digital world,” the company offers services in digital platforms, cloud computing, managed services, DevOps, application integration and security.

More recently Zilker Technology has been expanding into blockchain, IoT and AI/machine-learning services. The company has developed a blockchain system prototype for an organic food distributor/retailer to manage organic certifications through its supply chain, with plans to implement the system in 2019. And Zilker Technology just engaged with a health insurance company to develop a blockchain-based hyperledger system to manage data coming in from health-care providers.

River Point Technology, also on this year’s Next Gen 250 roster, provides cloud automation and orchestration solutions for companies implementing multi-cloud systems, working with such vendors as DriveScale and HashiCorp. River Point also develops solutions for big data management and analytics and was an early Cloudera partner.

River Point, founded in 2011 and based in Pittsburgh, often serves as a bridge between the IT and business operations of its customers, said Jeff Eiben, the company’s principal owner and sales vice president. On the data analytics side, for example, the company’s focus is on “enabling domain users to leverage data without having to become data scientists,” he said.

People with expertise in emerging technologies can be hard to find, Eiben noted, which also creates demand for solution providers with emerging technology practices.

But selling next-generation technology solutions can be tough. “The challenge is you spend more time educating than selling,” Eiben said.

And prospective customers rarely ask for leading-edge technologies. They are looking to have their business problems solved and it’s up to solution providers to develop processes incorporating emerging technologies like AI and blockchain that do just that.

Zilker Technology is an IBM Platinum Business Partner and also sells solutions in conjunction with Magento (now part of Adobe), MuleSoft (now part of Salesforce) and other vendors. Those customer engagements generally involve Zilker Technology’s digital transformation, cloud computing and application integration services.

But once inside, Thomas said, Zilker Technology can identify projects where technologies like AI, blockchain and IoT can be applied. “We’re finding opportunities to bring emerging technologies into those engagements,” he said. River Point sometimes partners with other solution providers, Eiben said, bringing its cloud and big data expertise to broader IT projects.

The solution providers on CRN’s Next Gen 250 list are selected through research, vendor and analyst interviews, and CRN editorial coverage.

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