As channel partners mull over business moves for the upcoming year, many executives may consider IoT as a potential play — and for good reason.
“There is so much demand for IoT within SMBs [small and midsized businesses],” said Anurag Agrawal, CEO and analyst at Techaisle, a market research firm that closely follows the SMB market. Techaisle expects nearly three-fourths of midmarket businesses to adopt some form of an IoT initiative in the next year. At least one third of small businesses, which Techaisle defines as having one to 100 employees, will launch one or more IoT initiatives within their organizations.
“There are many different benefits of IoT that the SMBs are starting to see, and they’re starting to embrace it,” he said.
That’s not necessarily the channel’s fault. For example, many firms continue to grapple with cloud computing, mobility and security, making IoT an impractical next step. Additionally, traditional vendors experimenting with IoT products opt to sell direct to customers. “[Vendors] are all experimenting, and the best experiment is to sell it themselves,” he said. “That, in turn, drives channel partners to say, ‘How do I learn by myself?’ They don’t have enough time to be able to do it.”
First steps to the IoT opportunity
The first step involves what partners “already know how to do today” — selling and installing hardware. Selling and installing sensors and data-collecting devices is a practical way to get started.
From there, partners can move up to managed services, proactively managing and monitoring their customers’ sensors and devices. “I think this could be a potential sweet spot for MSPs that start investing in that area today,” April said.
Partners can then harness and analyze the data collected from customers’ devices and advise customers on running their businesses. “That is really the cream of the crop right there,” she said, but added that the channel is “a ways off from this.” Only a segment of the channel will acquire this type of expertise, she said.
Charles Weaver, CEO of MSPAlliance, suggested MSPs may play a more vital role in IoT when security issues begin to emerge. “I think that IoT is going to be a major … problem-solver and then it’s going to be a major problem — in that order,” he said. He said we will likely see massive adoption, followed by breaches and attacks that will bring greater attention to IoT security.
But Weaver also noted that MSPs should start to explore the IoT opportunity. RMM tools in the market today can handle the task of monitoring IoT devices, he said. “If it’s connected to the internet, generally speaking, I think it can be monitored. If I was an MSP, I would be definitely looking at that for the future.”
Microsoft said it has some 20,000 partners selling cloud through the company’s Cloud Solution Provider program.
Now, Microsoft wants to get more partner personnel up to speed on cloud technology. In a briefing this week, Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Group, unveiled free Azure training. Schuster, citing a shortage of technology professionals with the skills to capitalize on the cloud opportunity, said six Azure training modules are available at no cost today and six more will be added in the next few weeks. Continued »
Aruba Networks, a networking vendor and Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, unveiled an expanded portfolio aimed at supporting IoT initiatives at the HPE Discover Conference in London today.
The new products, which include Aruba ClearPass Universal Profiler and the “IoT-ready” 2540 Switch Series, will play into HPE’s overall IoT strategy, Aruba said, while opening up partner opportunities in the IoT market.
The Universal Profiler, also a feature of Aruba’s ClearPass platform, automatically discovers and “fingerprints” IP-enabled managed, unmanaged and IoT devices on multi-vendor wired and wireless networks, according to the vendor.
Partners can use the tool to provide visibility into the number of devices connected to their customers’ networks, as well as the types of devices, operating systems, statuses and locations. The information can then help fine-tune performance and security across infrastructure components, Aruba said. Additionally, the information can be shared with ClearPass Exchange partners, which provide security and operations features such as user behavior analytics, deception intelligence and firewall security that integrate with Aruba’s ClearPass Policy Manager.
Christian Gilby, director of product marketing at Aruba, said the Universal Profiler “simplifies and lowers the barrier for our partners to get this [information] into customers’ hands and understand what’s on their networks.” He noted the tool is also a vehicle for up-selling customers to ClearPass Policy Manager.
Small organizations are a good candidate for the Profiler, as larger organizations will generally adopt ClearPass Policy Manager, added Trent Fiero, Aruba’s director of security marketing.
According to Optiv, a security solution provider based in Denver, Aruba’s decision to offer the Universal Profiler as a standalone product, separate from the from the ClearPass platform, was a smart move. “I think it will allow [Aruba to] get into customers a little bit easier and allow people to grow organically and naturally over time” because they can pay only for what they need, said Charlie Koehler, Optiv’s Aruba enterprise architect. He added he thinks the separation will allow Aruba to put the Profiler in the cloud, making it even more accessible to customers.
Koehler said that Optiv recently used ClearPass to do device segmentation and profiling within healthcare telemetry environments. Apart from healthcare, he added education and retail are poised to be strong vertical opportunities for Aruba IoT technology.
The Universal Profiler will be available in the first quarter of calendar year 2017, with pricing starting at $150 for profiling up to 100 devices, Aruba said.
In addition to the Profiler, Aruba launched its “IoT-ready” 2540 Switch Series, which “fills out” the Aruba’s switch portfolio, Gilby said, allowing the HPE Aruba partner community “to build a solution across large campuses as well as distributed enterprises.” The switches offer user- and port-based wired traffic tunneling to an Aruba Mobility Controller so an organization can apply policies, extend advanced services and encrypt traffic to secure the LAN.
The 2540 Switch Series is available now with pricing beginning at $2,589.
The vendor today also rolled out enhancements to ArubaOS-Switch, which works together with the 2540 switches to support unified role-based access across wireless and wired networks with capabilities for identifying and assigning roles to connected IoT devices.
To get an idea of where channel trends may be heading next year, take a look at where distributors are investing and hiring today.
Ingram Micro Inc., for example, is putting time and money into training programs. The company this week obtained Authorized Learning Partner status from Cisco. That designation means Ingram Micro can deliver Cisco Authorized Training as part of the networking vendor’s Global Learning Partner Organization.
According to Cisco, Learning Partners are authorized to educate and train other partners within the company’s partner ecosystem, focusing on “Cisco products, technologies, architectures and solutions.”
Ingram Micro‘s training investment is part of a broader trend. Distributors are diversifying, cultivating a range of services in addition to their traditional role in product fulfillment. According to the Global Technology Distribution Council, distributors, as a group, now offer more than three dozen service lines — including education and training. Continued »
Most organizations have developed cyber security measures for battling today’s mounting threats, yet many admit their businesses remain seriously at risk.
That’s according to new research published last week by NetEnrich, an IT infrastructure and operations management services provider. NetEnrich collected data for its study in October, polling 150 IT professionals on their companies’ cyber security measures for handling potential strikes. While the study revealed 82% of the companies have a plan for handling attacks, about a third of the surveyed respondents noted critical vulnerabilities in their hardware and software systems.
“I always say, ‘Security is not a sprint; it is a marathon,'” said Vikram Chabra, solution architect at NetEnrich, based in San Jose, Calif.
Although NetEnrich found that cybersecurity readiness plans were prevalent among respondents, the objectives of these plans varied. Half of the respondents said attack prevention was the main goal of the plan, while the other half cited a mixture of recovery of loss from attacks, organizational response to attacks and business continuity throughout attacks.
The research findings also highlighted that companies are trying to safeguard their organizations against multiple threat sources. The most likely instigators of cyberattacks were employees, rogue or otherwise, according to 53% of respondents. Additionally, 18% cited non-employees working as part of a “group” as a likely source of cyberattacks, while 15% pointed to non-employees working alone. Four percent indicated state-sponsored organizations as potential threats.
In addition, more than 40% of respondents said they have been victims of a cyberattack, a finding that Chabra said stood out.
The causes behind these breaches were wide-ranging. The top three causes that respondents indicated were stolen or weak passwords, cited by 26%; followed by testing and monitoring systems failure (21%) and advanced persistent threats (15%). Respondents also attributed breaches to employee error, cited by 14%, and lost equipment such as laptops and mobile devices, by 7%.
When NetEnrich asked respondents if the attacks could have been avoided, respondents identified a few different measures they would have taken. Forty-three percent said a better cyber security policy would have thwarted the attack, while 37% cited better tools and methods for testing and monitoring. Twenty-one percent believed they could have prevented the attacks if they had better communicated security policies to their employees.
One of the drivers compelling organizations to adopt cyber security measures, the study suggested, may be the high costs of falling victim to cybercrime. The majority of the survey-takers said the average cost of a breach today is between $50,000 and $100,000.
Other findings of the NetEnrich study included that 66% of organizations contract with third-party consultants or managed security service providers to develop or implement security plans. Sixty-nine percent said the services were “very helpful.”
Chabra noted that companies may have some cyber security measures for managing attacks but many aren’t thinking beyond prevention. Companies should increasingly focus on continual monitoring and detection, he said.
Additionally, he advised that all channel partners, whether value-added resellers or IT service providers, ensure they include security capabilities in all their offerings.
The rise of software turned out to be a key theme at last week’s Cisco Partner Summit 2016.
Indeed, software is at the center of Cisco’s push to virtualize traditionally hardware-based functions and provide more complete offerings through its channel partners. Offerings such as the Cisco ONE Software licensing program bundle a range of capabilities that customers can switch on as needed. Channel partners can consult with customers on Cisco ONE’s software components and deployment. Other Cisco software moves include cultivating relationships with ISVs and encouraging developers through its DevNet program. Coverage of those developments is available here.
But that’s not the entirety of Cisco’s software gambit. Antone Gonsalves, news director for TechTarget’s Networking Media Group, covered a different software angle in his Cisco Partner Summit coverage: network automation tools. The article, Cisco pledges a quicker rollout of network automation tools, discusses Cisco’s bid to have software absorb the day-to-day networking chores that many companies currently undertake manually on hardware. Continued »
Cisco is changing up its professional services delivery, a move company executives said will give partners more selling options and lessen the potential for channel conflict.
The company’s Cisco Services organization provides a range of offerings, including optimization, advisory and support services. Cisco partners can sell those services to their end customers.
Joe Cozzolino was named senior vice president of services in June 2015 and has been restructuring the group since then. “There’s been a lot of work [and] lots of changes,” he told attendees at Cisco Partner Summit 2016.
Those changes include an updated roster of optimization services. To wit, Cisco has built upon its well-established network optimization services to now include security, data center and collaboration optimization services. That expansion puts more items “in the bag for everyone to sell,” Cozzolino said.
In another expansion, Cisco has increased the number of solution support SKUs offered via Cisco Services from 12 to 22.
But while Cisco adds services, it is has also decided what service businesses it doesn’t want to pursue. Cozzolino said a decision was made about a year ago to not participate in the business process consulting space and emphasize technical advisory services instead.
Overall, Cisco Services has modified its approach to professional services and will refrain from “going everywhere” with its services, Cozzolino added.
“My goal is not to be a systems integrator or a large managed service provider,” he said.
Instead, Cisco Services will focus on providing specialized capabilities around its architecture, while looking to scale through its channel partners.
And to keep everyone on the same partnering page, Cisco is in the process of updating its partner engagement policy for its sales force. Cisco officials suggested that’s a timely step, given the integration of Cisco service and product sales in the field.
“This is really to educate our sellers on those policies and give a clear governance path,” said Wendy Bahr, senior vice president of Cisco’s Global Partner Organization.
The revised partner engagement policy will be out by the end of November, Bahr said.
Alibaba Cloud, the cloud service arm of China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., rolled out a wide-ranging partnering initiative in 2015. The ins and outs of partnering with Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google and other U.S.-based cloud providers are well documented. But what is it like to work with the cloud operation of China’s e-commerce giant?
Jason Singh, head of marketing, APAC, at Datapipe, a managed service provider (MSP) and cloud services provider based in Jersey City, N.J., can shed some light on that question. Datapipe recently announced that it is an Alibaba Cloud Managed Service Provider partner. The MSP said it will plan, build and operate cloud environment for Alibaba Cloud customers, tapping into AliCloud’s computing, storage, database, big data and content distribution network assets. Continued »
Facebook last week launched its Workplace Partner Program to back its newly released social and collaboration platform for the enterprise.
So far, we know the program involves 13 service partners that Facebook says will guide customers “every step of the way to bring Workplace” to their organizations. CSC, Deloitte Digital and SADA Systems are among the IT services providers and professional services firms participating on the service partner side.
The Workplace Partner Program also includes a tier of “Identity Providers” that integrate with Workplace. Those partners are G Suite, Microsoft Azure Active Directory, Okta, OneLogin and Ping Identity. Continued »
IT documentation, explored recently in contributor Esther Shein’s feature, has proven to be a vital yet sometimes neglected aspect of running a managed services business.
For Jonathan Broyles, senior systems engineer at CisCom Solutions, a managed services provider (MSP) based in Louisville, Ky., maintaining documentation is as crucial to MSPs as backups. “If you don’t have a good backup or if you don’t have good documentation and the customer calls you because of a disaster in the middle of the night, you’re in [trouble] right there,” he said. “It’s not a place where I ever want to find myself.”
That being said, Broyles has seen MSP environments that range from having little or no IT documentation to excessive documentation “in some form or fashion.” IT documentation is “one of the things I think everyone in the industry probably realizes [they need], and they preach about how important the documentation is. But do they practice it? I couldn’t tell you that.”
CisCom, which has about 30 employees, adopted IT Glue’s documentation software shortly after Broyles joined the company in June 2015. At the time, the MSP had minimal documentation, Broyles noted, adding that he had had to shoulder-tap managers and co-workers for the information he needed, such as passwords to log into customer networks. “There wasn’t really a lot of documentation at that point in time. So [we] identified we needed a documentation solution, and we then investigated IT Glue and [several other products].”
Broyles said CisCom was interested in finding an IT documentation product that would integrate with ConnectWise, its professional services automation software, and LabTech Software, which CisCom uses for remote monitoring and management (RMM). “[IT Glue] allowed us to start having a unified platform … that is going to be pulling in information from … our RMM and ticketing system and then … create more customized documentation that fits a particular need,” he said.
While ConnectWise provides similar functions, IT Glue has more powerful features, he added, including a “pretty sophisticated tagging system.” Techs can use the software to pull up customer-specific information from one page, “which really has power for existing technicians as well as technicians on their first day.”
Deploying and setting up the IT Glue software was easy, particularly because CisCom had no IT documentation system to migrate from. Building a culture around documentation presented more of a challenge. CisCom, however, had a compelling rationale for getting its staff to adopt a new documentation culture: If a staff member was “run over by a bus tomorrow,” what knowledge do they have that would have to be either recovered or recreated? “Granted it’s a morbid way of looking at it, but it has allowed us to build this culture of, ‘Hey, things change. Now we’ve got to update documentation,'” he said.
Since adopting IT Glue, CisCom has created roughly 10,000 pieces of documentation, “all of which has significant value to us,” Broyles said. Its employees use the software “pretty much by default” now.
The benefits of having IT documentation software like IT Glue may not instantly be apparent to MSPs, said Phill Claxton, COO of IT Glue, based in Vancouver, but over time, MSPs will realize time savings, efficiency gains and the security of having a depository of important information – all of which enables MSPs to scale their businesses.
Claxton also pointed to one of IT Glue’s capabilities for inviting customers into the tool to share information, which he said offers a way for MSPs to differentiate themselves from competitors. Broyles, who is now a member of IT Glue’s partner advisory council, said these capabilities have allowed CisCom to save time by providing customers with step-by-step instructions for resolving minor issues on their own. “Sometimes there are incidents … where it would be great to be able to send a customer a piece of documentation that is step-by-step with photos and words and all that jazz to help them work on their own time to be able to solve the issues,” he said.
Claxton also said IT Glue will roll out a gamification feature in its software in the near future.