It’s been in development — and operation — for a while now, but Wednesday saw the coming out party for Ingram Micro Canada’s Internet of Things (IOT) business as it hosted resellers and vendors at its IOT Evolve event in Toronto.
The distributor has quietly been putting together a line card of vendors that don’t fit in the typical IT-centric Ingram profile over the last 18 months, said Savio Lee, IOT lead for Ingram Micro Canada. That includes most prominently vendors of the array of sensor types needed to develop IOT solutions, but also includes beefing up vertical application and analytics software vendors. Lee said Ingram’s play in IOT is about offering complete solutions, building on and expanding the kind of integration services the distributor has traditionally offered in a number of other areas, such as systems building.
“We have a solutions-based approach with our vendors and partners. We’re stitching the pieces together, bringing together hardware, software, and analytics pieces to do a whole solution,” Lee said.
Dave Mason, vice president of advanced solutions for Ingram Micro Canada, said the distributor “is in a great spot to bring a ton of value to everyone in the ecosystem” around IOT, “the fourth industrial revolution” around which “the opportunities are endless.”
Indeed, presenters from Cisco, HPE, Microsoft, Intel, and Zebra Technologies offered their own quantifications of that endless opportunity, dazzling solution providers with figures ranging from the billions of devices and other things that will be Internet-connected, to the economic impact of a mere one per cent improvement on a key metric in many major industries, something easily attainable through more intelligence and analytics on machines, systems and processes that are today not connected.
David Allen, director of platform and distribution sales for the Americas at Intel, captured Ingram’s role in IOT as that of a “general contractor,” bringing together a variety of players to offer customers — in this case resellers — a variety of packaged solutions to meet a variety of customer needs or requirements.
“Your job is to to your customers, speak to them about the whole of the solution, address the obstacles they may see, and meet their business needs with your solutions,” Allen said, noting that he sees the need for more solution providers to move into a space he describes as “IOT solution aggregators.”
Lee outlined four main areas that run across many verticals in which Ingram sees the biggest opportunities for IOT solutions today, and thus, the areas in which it is focusing its business today. In fact, he said if a customer solution does not hit three out of four of those areas (asset tracking and monitoring, environmental monitoring, resource management, and security), it’s not a good fit for what the distributor is looking to do.
He describes three types of customer opportunities, each requiring a different type of solution. “Greenfield” opportunities come from customers, largely in SMB that don’t today collect data from devices, machines and systems in their operations, and require mostly repeatable, packaged solutions. In “brownfield” opportunities, businesses have the sensors and data they need, but that data is underestimated or underused, leading to solutions that focus on gateways that networks that connect and extract the data captured within the customer’s business, and then the analytics to bring that data to life. And finally, the company sees great opportunity around asset tracking and geo-location.
As for its service, Lee said Ingram will offer three tiers, each building on the one before. The first tier centers on real-time monitoring and alerts, bringing in sensors (or connecting those in place) and getting the foot in the door for IOT in customer environments. In the second tier, the distributor focuses on application integration, making sure sensor findings are “plugged in” to the core of the business. The third tier tacks on cognitive and predictive analytics, working on getting deeper insights from the data which has been collected and aggregated.
“This is the end goal of IOT. It’s what you do with the data that matters,” Lee said. “Monitoring is great, but it’s the analytics that will enable business transformation, so that’s where we’re going to focus.”
Lee outlined a variety of types of partners with which Ingram sees opportunities.
VARs and systems integrators, he said, have the opportunity to “leverage the infrastructure opportunity,” focusing on core IT portions of deployments, while Ingram offers the integrated vertical solutions on top.
To carriers, Lee said, the distributor will help them get more connectivity embedded into more technology solutions.
For IT and OT vendors, respectively, Lee pitched the opportunity to “be the IT of IOT” and “be the OT of IOT.” Essentially, that is to say by working with the distributor, vendors will be able to focus on their expertise in their chosen realm, with Ingram bringing “the other side” of the equation to the table, either through its own services or products, or through connections with vendors on “the other side” of the table.
And finally, Lee told ISVs building vertical solutions that the distributor will “work with you to create a unified complete solution to present to end customers.”
Lee also provided some preview of an Internet of Things-as-a-Service offering the distributor is going to start offering later this year, packaging a number of IOT-centric packages of hardware, software and services into a monthly subscription model.
“IOT is so operationally-centric that it’s a critical need to measure ROI, and by breaking it down into a monthly services subscription, it minimized the cost, boosts the rate of adoption, and shortens the sales cycle,” Lee said.
To help solution providers build their own IOT games, the distributor has launched a new web site at ingrammicroiot.ca, which will catalogue the distributor’s current and upcoming IOT solutions offerings, but also contains partner education and enablement information and tools, and perhaps most importantly for customers looking to educate their customers about IOT solutions, a library of use cases.
“The missing link between IT and OT is use cases,” Lee said.
In many engagements, he reported, after installing sensors, rather than knowing what they want to do with the data they’ve collected, customers turned to their solution provider to seek advice on what to use the data for. The library will provide industry-by-industry examples of what customers are doing or can do, to provide inspiration for customers on what they too can do.
“It’s all about making it relevant to the end users,” Lee said.