Full disclosure: I write about green technology issues on a daily basis, so my decision to write for SearchITChannel about how IT solution providers are becoming involved with e-waste services was a very self-motivated and self-interested one.
But just in case you need more validation of the fact that businesses do, in fact, care about technology energy efficiency, materials make-up and so on, consider that massive technology distributor Ingram Micro has just signed a deal with EPEAT, the system that the federal government and an increasing number of companies are using to gauge the green credentials of the hardware they are interested in buying.
In case you don’t know EPEAT, the name is actually short for the Electronics Product Environmental Assessment Tool. The system covers a number of IT categories, including displays, integrated systems, notebooks, desktops, thin clients and workstations; in the future, it will cover things including printing and imaging devices, servers and mobile phones. There are more than 3,200 products covered in the database (from 48 different manufacturers).
EPEAT designates the green-ness of a given product, by looking at things such as energy efficiency, the materials used within the equipment, and the services that are offered around the product in terms of end-of-life management (including reuse or recycling). The system is used to help determine which products in a given category have a better story to tell with respect to some of those metrics.
Ingram Micro has already been integrating EPEAT information into its solution provider catalogs. Under the extended relationship, starting the fourth quarter, the distributor will be able to help solution providers become EPEAT Channel Partners. That means they will be officially qualified to “sell” the value of the EPEAT information. They will also be featured on the EPEAT Web site.
Whether or not your organization has a green agenda, some of the metrics covered under EPEAT such as energy efficiency and lifecycle management policies are more general issues of interest to a growing number of buyers. This alliance is a smart move on both the part of Ingram Micro, which can help provide a differentiator for some of its reseller customers, and for EPEAT, which can continue pushing its visibility out of government agencies and into the business world.
The BlackBerry mobile device may have gotten its start in the enterprise world, but Research in Motion is determined to help small and midsize businesses perceive its technology as indispensable.
The Canadian company signed a deal this week with distributor Tech Data to better support IT solution providers selling BlackBerry solutions into SMBs. Tech Data and its partner in this mobile venture, Brightstar, will facilitate the activation process, which can be a hang-up for solution providers seeking to include BlackBerry devices as part of a mobile solution but that haven’t previously been able to handle the transaction process very easily. The process is supported by TDMobility, a new service offered by ActivateIT (a joint venture of Tech Data and Brightstar).
Joe Quaglia, senior vice president of U.S. marketing for Tech Data, described the offering:
“RIM is a strategic vendor partner for our launch of TDMobility into the channel, and ActivateIT is key to making the complete solution possible. We formed a strategic alliance with Brightstar to enable just this kind of offering, and we’re excited to offer our reseller customers the opportunity to increase their footprint in the channel by making complete, end-to-end BlackBerry solutions more easily available.”
I have to admit, as cool as this announcement sounds, I find myself wondering: what took so long?
With due respect to Tech Data, RIM hasn’t seemed much interested in the value-added channel before, so I feel sort of cynical about its intentions. Especially given its recent travails. Still, TDMobility is definitely the sort of service that I hope the channel hears a lot more about as mobile device management becomes an increasingly complex proposition for SMBs.
VARs interested in VM backup and hosted services may want to keep an eye on Veeam and its ProPartner Service Provider program.
Veeam specializes in virtualization backup and management and the program has been in existence for 18 months and now has 1,000 partners.
According to Dan Timko, Director of Hosted Services for BlueWave Computing, an Atlanta-based VAR and IT services provider, a big draw for partners is the Veeam Backup & Replication product that’s included in the program. Timko said that the product, services and upsell capabilities it provides was BlueWave’s primary reason for joining the ProPartner Service Provider program.
The Backup & Replication product allows BlueWave, an Infrastructure as a Service company, to back up entire VMware deployments, take full snapshots and replicate VMs at its off-site facilities in Arizona.
“It helps reduce operating costs, and having better disaster recovery and backup has increased our revenue,” Timko said. “With [Veeam’s] licensing, there are no big, up-front purchases and we can sell per-customer VMs. If you don’t back up a customer’s VMs well, you won’t have that customer for very long.”
These VM backup and hosted services for customers have been a big growth area for BlueWave.
“Cloud services have been the fastest-growing part of our business and will be our biggest source of income over the next two-to-three years,” Timko said. “Customers are starting to ask more and more about hosting and the cloud.”
Mike Waguespack, director of emerging market development and global hosting for Veeam Software said that because of how easy the program is to join and the flexibility of licensing has helped it gain popularity.
“[VARs] can choose between CAPEX or OPEX models or have a combination of both where they use CAPEX for long-term customers and OPEX for the variable parts of their business,” Waguespack said.
As reported on SearchDataRecovery.com, Waguespack also said that Backup & Replication 6 will include Hyper-V support.
The latest version of the N-able Technologies managed service automation toolset adds remote monitoring for VMware, under the virtualization developer’s “VMware Ready” program.
N-central 8.1, which was released this week, can now be used to monitor the hardware components of ESX and ESXi servers, including power supplies, fans and RAID-related hardware. The platform also reports about the condition of disk subsystems. The idea is to ensure that the hardware underlying virtualized servers are in tip-top shape, lest an outage seriously impact performance.
The feature is being billed as an industry first among managed services automation platforms.
With another new N-central 8.1 enhancement, managed service providers (MSPs) can now control N-central via a mobile application for Android-based devices. (You can download the mobile app on the Android marketplace.)
The third big change in N-central 8.1 lies in the scheduling component. The platform includes a much broader range of scheduling options. What’s more, it can now be used to collect warranty information and create expiration alerts for equipment from Acer, Apple, Dell, Gateway, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and Toshiba.
The attention to automation should help MSPs focus staff on higher value technical services that could benefit from the attention of a human and not on routine concerns that can be automated. Said Karl Samborski, operations manager for Dynamic Strategies, an MSP in Cranbury, N.J.: “Using N-central, we’ve been able to lower our administrative costs, which means there’s more time to focus on customer service.”
MSPs that already use N-central and that have a current maintenance and support contract will receive the upgrade for free.
News has spread that Microsoft will delay the LAR deal registration program launch that was slated for on Oct. 1, 2011 until March 2012.
While some LARs who rushed to get trained on T-36 online certifications by Oct. 1 may be irked by the late notice, some think this is good news, and that Microsoft may even be responding to channel feedback.
“The thing is the processes behind all the registration programs for incentives and proofs of concept are not easy,” said Josef Hans Lara, business development manager at LAR Long View Systems. “Microsoft needs to develop the process to make it smoother for partners.”
Lara explained that the amount of paperwork required for opportunity registrations with Microsoft is a full-time job, and welcomes any effort to smooth out the kinks. Interestingly, Microsoft has not made any official announcement to its channel partners about the change yet.
“We haven’t received any official notification per se. They have to prepare a nice email,” said Lara, who relied on a colleague’s discussion with a Microsoft executive for confirmation following news from Channel Register.
While it certainly is one component, the deal registration program goes beyond getting LARs not to compete for big clients. It’s asking the LARs to offer services, which is a big portion of this new incentive program.
“Microsoft wants to make sure the LARs offer services so the clients can actually use what they buy,” said Lara. The deal registration program ensures that the Microsoft partner is actually promoting all of the products while providing services. For companies like Long View Systems that have their roots in services, this is a win.
Lara also said, however, that partners in Europe may struggle the most with this new regime. This is mainly because of the high costs associated with T-36 online training, which is required to get their shops up to speed on providing customers services.
After announcing in August that it plans to spin off its Personal Systems Group, Hewlett-Packard is making more moves. HP confirmed that it plans to lay off more than 500 webOS Global Business Unit (GBU) employees from its soon-to-be-discontinued webOS hardware business.
HP wants to do away with the hardware portion of webOS, but possibly salvage the software part. Based on HP’s decisions so far, it looks like the mobile operating system has no future at HP and the company’s eventual plan for it remains to be seen. There has been talk of licensing the OS to third-party vendors or players such as Google or Facebook.
Though PSG head Todd Bradley said back in August that HP should spin off PSG, HP executives have been short on details so far.
What will Mike Parrottino’s promotion mean to PSG?
HP hasn’t announced long-term PSG plans yet, but it did say last week that Mike Parrottino will be the new head of the solution partner organization within PSG, meaning he will lead U.S. PSG channel sales.
Parrottino has put in 24 years at HP, most recently as the vice president of PSG sales and business management, and is a stabilizing influence at a time when PSG is in turmoil. HP thinks highly enough of Parrottino to put him in such an instrumental channel role, but one has to wonder whether PSG, and his role within it, will be intact even a few months from now.
HP is banking on PSG senior vice president and general manager for the Americas Stephen DiFranco and Parrottino’s leadership to guide the PSG through uncertain times.
I’m not sure when uninterruptible power supplies (UPSes) got so sexy, but the fact is they are one of the most important products in the ongoing transition to greener, more power efficient computing infrastructure.
Little wonder, then, that a new market prediction from Pike Research suggests strong growth for the product category over the next four years. The research firm points out in its report (“Next Generation Uninterruptible Power Supplies”) that higher standards for reliability and more concerns about the quality and efficiency of energy across the data center will push a growth rate of 12.2 percent between 2010 and 2011, which is clearly much faster than most other segments of the IT market. Sales should reach $8.2 billion by the end of 2011, with revenue of $13.2 billion anticipated by 2015.
Said Pike Research President Clint Wheelock:
“Leading UPS vendors are addressing the evolving needs of the market by focusing on greater efficiency, including more transformerless designs. Advances in battery technology are also benefitting UPS products by reducing cost and floorspace requirements.”
Large-format UPS systems actually grew faster than small-format systems during the first half of 2011, on a global basis, the research firm reports.
I believe you’ll also start hearing more about the intersection of UPS technology and broader energy storage options, as companies look to increase all their options when it comes to distributing power across data centers.
PC shipments in the second quarter of 2011 trailed expectations, which has prompted market research firm International Data Corp. to revise its full-year forecast downward slightly to 4.2 percent.
The update to its Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker reports that shipments grew by 2.7 percent in the quarter, off from the 2.9 percent forcast. The research firm cites a number of factors, including sluggish sales in mature markets, cannibalization from devices including media tablets and smartphones, and an overall environment of economic malaise, especially among small and midsize businesses (SMBs).
Notes IDC senior research analyst Jay Chou:
“With the excitement of mini notebooks largely past, the PC industry has struggled to come up with compelling features to keep buyer interest, and has subsequently suffered some budget-competition from smartphones as well as media tablets, which sold more than 107 million and 13.5 million units, respectively, in the second quarter of 2011. The proposed spin-off of HP’s PC business has also contributed to uncertainty in the market as the channel and corporate users re-evaluate their next steps.”
That’s the bad news. The good news, in my opinion, is that the United States is holding its own relative to other mature markets. Sure, sales dropped by almost 5 percent in the second quarter, compared with the previous year. But in Western Europe, they fell by more than 20 percent.
IDC also believes the long-term trends are positive. Here is the growth in percentage shipments that it anticipates for mature markets over the next several years:
2012 – 5.1 percent
2013 – 5.6 percent
2014 – 6.5 percent
2015 – 5.9 percent
Mature markets include the United States, Western Europe, Japan and Canada.
I believe that IT solution providers need to watch these numbers in context of how other client devices are doing — including media tablets and smartphones, both of which continue to post extraordinary growth. Consider that IDC believes vendors will ship a total of 472 million smartphones in 2011, which is a 55 percent growth rate. Media tablets are posting an even faster growth rate, although that growth is obviously coming off a much smaller base. IDC just reported that worldwide shipments for the second quarter were 13.6 million units, up about 304 percent year over year.
Long term, there will be very different sorts of client devices relying on your IT services firm’s skills. Will your team be up to that challenge? It won’t, if it keeps focusing on desktops and notebooks as the only client devices worth worrying about.
The crossover to more flexible Wi-Fi technologies will accelerate during the next three years, according to some new data out from ABI Research.
The firm reports that the 802.11ac format will emerge as the dominant protocol by 2014, with a sharp increase in shipments during the 2013 crossover year. The primary format within the platform will be chipsets that combine the 802.11n and 802.11ac formats, according to ABI Research.
Notes Philip Solis, the research director for mobile networks at the firm:
“With the exception of a small and dwindling number of 802.11g chipsets, everything has already shifted to 802.11, and it has happend faster than most people expected. This is a clear indication of what will happen with 802.11ac.”
The more flexible the chipset in terms of its ability to accommodate multiple bands, the more likely it is to be adopted.
The research dovetails with another report out this week from IDC that predicts that by 2015, more people will access the internet via mobile, wireless devices than via wireline connections. I just want to note that wired broadband connections sit behind the wireless access points that we use. So, technically speaking, the statement is true but there is a wire behind it all. Somewhere.
The IDC report, called the Worldwide New Media Market Model, predicts that the total number of internet users will grow to 2.7 billion in 2015 from 2 billion in 2015. The compound annual growth rate of mobile internet users will be approximately 16.6 percent during that time period.
If that doesn’t get IT solution providers thinking about the sorts of managed services they offer for their clients, nothing will. The fact is that the personal computer’s influence as the central point for access is continuing to decline, probably at a rate faster than most VARs or systems integrators have expected.
Raise your hand if you’ve heard this before: Vendors want VARs to focus on specialization.
Whether it’s IBM seeking specialized partners or Autodesk honing in on partner specialties, this isn’t a new trend. But Access Markets International (AMI) recently surveyed 650 SMB VARs, and it would appear that vendor desire for specialized competencies will be a factor in the cloud computing services market.
Based on the types of solutions partners offer, growth areas, margins and skill sets, AMI came up with five high-value competencies (HVCs) that VARs can be judged on: Business analytics (BA), unified communication and collaboration, business process management, mobility and infrastructure alignment. These competencies are then rated. So for a partner to get a BA competency, they have to offer a substantial amount of on-premises and cloud BA solutions (about 25-30% total, according to AMI).
AMI queried each respondent for 35 minutes on their experience with the competencies and maintains that because these competencies provide higher growth and margins, they will help partners have cloud success.
Of the 650 respondents, 45-50% had at least one competency and 15-20% had two or more. Avinash Arun, director of channels at AMI, said that these numbers are a continuation of a changing landscape and a sign of the all-in-one partner’s demise.
“Once partners have isolated competencies, offering cloud services becomes easier,” Arun said. “One-third of respondents with at least one competency offer some form of Software as a Service (SaaS) whereas only one-tenth of partners without competencies provide SaaS.”
Arun said that 15-20% of SMB VARs are presently getting revenue from the cloud, but over 25% with one of these competencies are getting cloud revenue.
Competencies have always been important to vendors, not customers, and some SMB VARs have said that their work in the field should take precedent over competencies. But as cloud services become more prominent, VARs who didn’t value specific competencies before may need to need to adjust on the fly.