CRN IoT Roundtable: Solution Providers Need To Step Up And Provide The 'V' In Value-Add

Solution providers are key when it comes to building customized Internet of Things solutions for vertical markets, executives from Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Cisco Systems and Forescout Technologies said during an IoT Roundtable held by CRN.

The executives said they need the channel to bring together the array of products, services and specialized vertical knowledge required for IoT solutions.

"I think that IoT is a huge growth opportunity for the channel partners that get it right, so it's worth investing in," said Bryan Tantzen, general manager of Cisco's connected industry and manufacturing business unit. "And they're going to need to invest because if they don't invest, they're not going to be successful."

[Related: CRN IoT Roundable: Cisco, HPE And Forescout Execs Use Channel Partners To Deploy IoT Solutions]

Forescout's Todd DeBell, vice president of worldwide channel sales, said that the company is trying to carve out a bigger portion of the services IoT market by moving its services channel model from partners selling 70 percent direct ForeScout Delivered Services and 30 percent channel led services model to a 40 percent direct services and 60 percent channel led services model.

"We moved from a traditional model of product resell incentives to also include a proof-of-concept incentive model as we enter the new program. And essentially what we've said is, 'Look, the "v" in value-add, we want you to step up and actually provide that “v” and ForeScout will pay for the the V and VALUE you deliver.  One added value for the partner is they become ForeScout certified and enabled and through the process. Partners are adding more value on that front end," he said.

Cisco, meanwhile, is focused on encouraging its partners to build up their vertical expertise in markets where IoT will bring in the most money, like manufacturing and health care.

"We're very much focused on enabling our traditional channel into the IoT space, and we have a solution practice builder helping them build vertical practices, helping them build solution practices on these new domains," said Tantzen. "We have the solution incentive programs and things like that, that give an extra margin incentive for them to move up the stack with us as well."

That vertical expertise is essential for solution providers – and that's why partners with a deeper understanding of these issues will succeed in the market, according to DeBell.

"I think the piece that is missing is that knowledge about -- like a gaming customer, someone who has casinos – what are the regulations from a state and federal standpoint? What other items are there? So, understanding the compliance piece as well [is important]," he said. "And that's where I would take it a step further. Knowing the piece in the back end, from a channel partner perspective, how to put all the pieces together, is important."

One vertical market that is particularly lucrative for IoT is in manufacturing, and HPE is looking to its partners to target the industrial IoT space.

Tom Bradicich, vice president and general manager of servers, converged edge and IoT systems at HPE, said the manufacturing space will open opportunities for solution providers to use their knowledge base and connect IT and operational technology on factory floors.

"Right now there's companies, and I'll pick one, a partner of ours is Tech Mahindra, that is a channel partner, and they have expertise in IT and OT, but they don't necessarily … work together. Now's the time. They can leverage that asset together."

Tolga Tarhan, founder and CTO of Sturdy Networks, an Amazon Web Services partner based in Irvine, Calif., said the channel is not just reselling products with IoT – they need to look at custom solutions that are part of a larger platform, also involving analytics.

"The opportunity is huge… someone is going to help deploy those 20.8 billion predicted connected devices by 2020," he said.

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