How 4 Distributors Are Helping Solution Providers Scale IoT Projects

CRN outlines how Ingram Micro, Tech Data, Arrow Electronics and Synnex are helping solution providers build IoT businesses with a variety of strategies, ranging from the aggregation of pre-packaged solutions and partner matchmaking to value-added services and workshops.

'The Single Largest Opportunity That's Available In The Market Today'

The Internet of Things may prove to be a massive business opportunity, but the problem is that many solution providers have struggled to find ways to create sustainable businesses in the field so far.

That's where distributors hope to provide a helping hand. Some of the leading distributors in the United States are looking to seize on the growing IoT market — where businesses are projected to spend $745 billion this year alone — by making it easier for solution providers to build their own practices.

[Related: 5 IoT Companies That Should Be On A Solution Provider's Radar]

"When we think about the opportunity for IoT and analytics in the market, it's huge right? It's the single largest opportunity that's available in the market today," Andrea Miner, the head of Tech Data's IoT consulting services team, said. "So we were wondering why partners weren't embracing that in the way that it seems like they should since it is such a large opportunity."

It turns out that while some solution providers could create IoT solutions on their own, they struggled with scaling them into repeatable projects, according to Miner. Meanwhile, there were others who wouldn't even bother getting into IoT because the path to scalability wasn't clear enough.

To help solution providers overcome these issues, Tech Data and other distributors are using a variety of strategies, including the aggregation of pre-packaged solutions from vendors, partner matchmaking, value-added services, workshops and business intelligence.

As part of IoT Week 2019, CRN is looking at how four distributors — Ingram Micro, Tech Data, Arrow Electronics and Synnex — are helping solution providers implement and scale IoT projects.

Ingram Micro Uses Business Intelligence To Help Partners Identify IoT Opportunities

Ingram Micro, based in Irvine, Calif., has been selling Internet of Things components for years, but last year the distributor started a new practice specifically focused on helping solution providers accelerate projects and build their own practices around IoT.

The practice includes IoT Marketplace, which consists of pre-packaged kits, which consist of sensors, gateways and other components, giving solution providers up to 90 percent of a complete IoT solution. The marketplace includes solutions for things like fleet management, data center infrastructure monitoring and commercial refrigeration monitoring just to name a few.

"A lot of times they don't know where to start, so our marketplace is vertically aligned with various use cases and solutions," said Eric Hembree, director of IoT at Ingram Micro. "So that's a good starting point for them just to understand what's out there."

Another important aspect of the practice is IoT University, which provides solution providers with training and a three-day certification course that gives them the opportunity to build their own IoT project and stand it up in a cloud IoT platform.

"We've developed an IoT process that allows them to fully understand all of the areas that they need to be mindful of when going into an IoT project," Hembree said. "So that deals with the clear starting point and the end game of what that looks like from a managed Services standpoint."

To help solution providers grow their IoT business, Ingram Micro is using its own business intelligence capabilities to identify potential IoT opportunities with existing customers.

"We understand who's in hospitality, healthcare and various manufacturing environments, and we're messaging those partners directly, saying, 'hey, you already have front of house operations. Look at the back of house operations. And these are the solutions that you should be engaging them with for incremental revenue opportunity,'" Hembree said.

To help solution providers deliver these solutions and services, Ingram Micro can help them build their own IoT business with the distributor's practice builder program, which provides them with a report card of their capabilities and where they have gaps. The distributor can also use its IM Link program to find partners for solution providers for assistance with solutions delivery. Lastly, Ingram Micro can provide its own in-house services for solution providers.

"Wherever our partners have gaps or whatever they need help, they can come to Ingram Micro, and we can help them give them the tools to do it in-house or build up the capabilities internally, Hembree said.

Ingram Micro's IoT practice includes both brownfield vendors like Cisco, HPE, Dell, IBM and Intel, as well as greenfield vendors whose businesses are solely dedicated to IoT.

Tech Data Helps Partners Build Business Plans For IoT Solutions

Tech Data, based in Clearwater, Fla., is helping solution providers build scalable solutions around the Internet of Things with its recently launched Analytics and IoT Solution Factory.

The new program combines market-ready solutions from vendors like Intel as well as one-off solutions Tech Data has built with partners that are then expanded for additional use cases and verticals, according to Andrea Miner, director of consulting services for analytics and IoT at Tech Data.

For partners who have an idea, use case or business problem, they can approach Tech Data to build a solution, which will then be available for the distributor's wider partner base.

"We have a solutions development team that takes the one-off solutions that we create and looks at where else that could fit in a vertical market," she said, describing how Tech Data scales the solutions.

Using Tech Data's Practice Builder methodology that was introduced in 2017, the distributor can also help solution providers build a business plan and go-to market plan around IoT solutions in addition to creating and vetting the solutions as well.

"It's very consumable, and it's very executable, and it takes the heavy lift out of IoT and analytics and lowers the barrier to entry," Miner said.

Another important aspect of the new Solution Factory program is that Tech Data helps solution providers vet which vendors are the best fit for the solution they're trying to build.

"When you think about the hundreds of vendors that are part of the IoT ecosystem, it's very difficult for a partner or an end customer to figure out which of these vendors make the most sense to go to market with," Miner said, "but for us we've been doing that for a long time, so we were able to figure out what the most channel friendly vendors."

Vendors participating in the Analytics and IoT Solution Factory through Intel's IOT Market Ready Solution program include IBM, Cisco, Hitachi Vantara and Dell EMC.

Arrow Provides Solutions And Services For The Entire IoT Lifecycle

Arrow Electronics is helping solution providers address the entire Internet of Things lifecycle through its "sensor to sunset" strategy by aggregating solutions from vendors and providing a variety of services.

"It's really about, 'how do we help customers create, connect, analyze, manage and sustain secure connected devices throughout their lifecycle," said Ashish Parikh, vice president of IoT platforms and solutions at the Centennial, Colo.-based distributor.

An important part of Arrow's partner strategy is providing them with pre-packaged solutions that include gateways, sensors and IoT software that can help solution providers kickstart deployments. The distributor has more than 60 solutions from vendors, including Intel, Cisco and Microsoft.

Parikh said Arrow is taking a segment-focused approach with the solutions its aggregating.

"If you take smart cities or industrial or retail as segment examples, the [systems integrators] and [value-added resellers] are looking for things that are more packaged easier to deploy, even if it's for that first proof-of-concept or pilot," he said. "They have a place to start where they can actually connect the physical world to the digital world and then start really getting value from that data."

Arrow goes through a "rigorous process" to onboard the solutions, market them and enable partners to use them to help drive demand, according to Parikh. But the distributor can also provide solutions architects and business development specialists to solution providers who need help determining which solutions will best address their customers' business problems.

Beyond providing the solutions themselves, Arrow can provide additional services to solution provider, including assistance with IoT connectivity and physical installation. Parikh said these services can be provided in-house or through another partner in Arrow's ecosystem.

"Where the partners have the capabilities, we want them to take the lead. If there are gaps in their capabilities and they're looking for help, either with deployment or post-deployment managed services we're there to complement them," he said.

To educate solution providers about IoT opportunities, Arrow holds events throughout the year, including the Arrow Technology Summit, to discuss the available solutions, the skills needed to provide the solutions and the messaging to sell them.

"A lot of the problems that partners have is they don't know where to start. It's almost like a blank sheet of paper," Parikh said. "So we're helping them with proof points that they can then articulate back out to their customers and get the conversation going faster."

Synnex Helps Solutions Providers Address IoT Complexities Through One Platform

Synnex, based in Fremont, Calif., is helping solution providers build Internet of Things practices with Stellr, its program previously known as CloudSolv that addresses solutions for IoT, cloud and mobility.

"Synnex is highly invested in and supporting IoT now, and this investment will only become more significant in the future," said Rob Moyer, senior vice president of cloud services, mobility and IoT at Synnex. "Our vision for the Stellr platform is one in which the complexities of IoT — cloud, mobility, software, hardware, services — can be consumed through a single platform."

Moyer solution providers can use Stellr's marketplace and community "to access enablement tools, simplify solution building and automate operational workflows."

The Stellr marketplace includes solutions for IoT platforms, connectivity and hardware from a wide range of vendors and carriers, according to Moyer.

"By simplifying the vendor landscape and pulling together all the pieces for end-to-end solutions, Synnex partners can ramp up their IoT practices more efficiently and effectively, giving them competitive advantage in the market," he said.

Synnex's strengths include designing and supporting smart city projects, which Moyer said "can represent a wide range of horizontal and vertical IoT solutions and use cases."

To incentivize involvement, Synnex simplifies vendor processes and partner programs, which Moyer said helps solution providers "reap the most benefits from discounts, rebates, and special programs."

"Under the Stellr program, our goal is to work collaboratively with channel partners to identify and create scalable solutions," Moyer said. "Often, we are able to guide partners to what’s next before their customers even know what questions to ask."