Our vision for technology in 2016

Dieter Lott, Vice President, Business Development, EMEA, shares how we see 2016 shaping up in terms of technology trends.


Dieter Lott Avnet Technology Solutions EMEA

Dieter Lott, Vice President Business Development EMEA, Avnet Technology Solutions

#1: Mobility for channel enablement


Mobile interactions are continuing to evolve. There’s a massive shift in the mobile space with apps becoming the norm for any kind of customer interaction. Downloading apps is now a normal ask of customers. In 2016, this will open up new solution areas for channel partners as mobility moves more towards app-driven channel enablement where partners can communicate, receive and access information through easy-to-use apps.

Value-added distributors can help here by offering their expertise, such as mobile app development, to enhance the skills of their partners. In the vertical markets this is all the more essential as growth in those segments is driven by customer engagement which can be achieved through personalised experiences generated by the merging analytics, mobile apps and Internet of Things (IoT) data.

On top of this, the tech world is merging. There is strong synergy between IoT and mobility and this closed loop will become even more apparent into next year. Mobile is becoming just one of masses of applications in the IoT ecosystem, like social media.

 

#2: Security: a new engine to drive the transition to “the 3rd platform”


“The 3rd platform” created by the rise of mobile computing, social media, cloud computing, and data analytics is impacting and accelerating business management and IT infrastructure around the world. Although this acceleration offers enormous potential, it forces critical processes, information and shared data to operate at stellar speeds, exposing them to huge security risks.

In 2016, we’ll continue to see advancements in security and networking solutions as an integral part of every data centre. To address this transition to the 3rd platform, next year, value-added distributors will need to adopt a broader security strategy to enable the channel by providing partners with a skill set in security and networking, to place security at the core of all their solutions.

 

#3: 3rd platform big data and analytics evolution


One of the trends leading into 2016 is that all 3rd platform technologies are inter-related and one of the key strands is big data and analytics. Interconnected devices in the Internet of Things (IoT) are generating more and more data which, in turn, is forcing data analytics to become even more intelligent. We’re only now starting to scratch the surface as this vast amount of data must be interpreted to gain actionable insights. The danger is that data for customers investing in this area is being diluted through information overload. As a result, next year, there will be even more of a focus on gaining actionable insights to make the data practical and profitable.

In 2016, there will be a renewed focus on data visualisation tools to present data in digestible chunks, on any device. This will open up more doors for industry growth and deliver greater rewards for those partners helping their customers improve business outcomes through data analytics.

 

#4: Cracking the next IoT layer


It may be an exciting time in the IT industry, but what opportunities are going to unfold for the Internet of Things (IoT)? This is something that’s more difficult to grasp for the channel at the moment. The principle that ‘anything that can be connected will be connected’ uncovers vast opportunities for those willing to embrace this. The principle that smarter devices will drive smarter decision making is a core opportunity for the channel. We’ve already seen movement in the secure storage of big data, for example. Every day we use technology to gather information, check facts and gain insight to drive revenue opportunities. For the channel and end businesses to take their data to the next level, it will need agile exploration, analysis and action.

Distribution can help by bridging the gap between Operation Technology (OT) in industry and Information Technology (IT). These two markets have, in general, been operating independently for many years. The opportunity for IoT is to bring them together – on a massive scale.

The market for analytics software will open up for insights that are accurate and meaningful. The requirement to protect privacy and secure information will become even more critical too. This will also have an impact on the requirements for security, location data, secure cloud storage, asset tracking and management, and mobility. In the long-term, enterprise-focused IoT hardware and software in the manufacturing, transportation, warehousing and information sectors are where the real growth opportunities will be. That is the next layer of IoT to crack.

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Posted under Big data, BYOD; celebrating mobility, Internet of Things (IoT)

This post was written by on January 13, 2016

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How do we crack into the next IoT layer?

Miriam Murphy, senior vice president, Avnet Technology Solutions, North region, EMEA discusses the next phase for IoT and the channel opportunity

In the tech world, we seem to thrive on the phrase: “There’s never been a more interesting time in the industry.” It’s no wonder why. There have been so many transformational phases over the past two decades. We’re in an industry of constant change yet still it’s hard to imagine we’ll continue to see this happen at the same pace in the coming decade.

On the other side of the coin, when you consider the Internet of Things (IoT) and the opportunities that such a market will open up, suddenly the next phase of change doesn’t seem as difficult to envision. The roll out has already started but what does it looks like really? It can be a little bit overwhelming to think that ‘anything that can be connected, will be connected’ but we can’t ignore that this very concept will uncover vast opportunities for those of us willing to embrace this new world of IT.

This next phase isn’t just about enhancements in personal mobile and home devices. The opportunity that IoT opens up for enterprise connectivity is immense. Enterprise is being touted as the largest of the three main IoT markets next to government and connected home. Employee productivity, increased asset utilization and supply chain efficiencies are just some of the key benefits the enterprise space will enjoy.

So, what does this mean for growth opportunities? Smarter devices in the enterprise space, connected to the IoT ecosystem, mean data analytics solutions are employed to help frontline staff and power players in industry make more informed decisions based on greater accessibility to organisational and operational data. In this way, the world of work has already started to embrace analytics and information from the ‘edge’ of enterprise IT infrastructure such as sensors and gateways.

We use this data everyday too, like when we check the weather forecast and make the simple decision on wearing sunglasses or holding umbrellas, we’re using information based on complex mathematical models driven from enterprise level analytics engines. These are making sense out of huge amounts of sensor-driven edge data. This more effective use of data mining in the enterprise space alone is already having knock-on effects like creating a market need for big data storage solutions and services, not just data analytics and business intelligence (bi) products.

In the next phase, there’s a requirement for the channel to crack the next layer of IoT. This needs agile exploration, analysis and action around IoT data. The market for analytics software will open up even further. Whether ‘predictive’ or ‘reflective’, analytics will need to be optimised to adapt to data streams, in near real-time, and maintain a quality of insight that is accurate, integrated and can be interpreted easily.

Additionally, as we’ve seen on a regular basis in the news headlines, the requirement to protect privacy and secure information, whilst remaining compliant to regulations across EMEA, becomes absolutely critical. Both security software and services are already in high demand to manage data transfer and analytics without leaking information of being hacked. Data derived through automated responses from remote sensors requires a more advanced level of security. The location of data also adds to the complexity of security. For example, transmitting data remotely from an oil rig floating in the North Sea requires secure cloud storage which is capable of handling millions of small data packages securely from multiple devices and locations.

Mobility adds another dimension with the requirement for asset tracking and management, as well as secure data transmission over public networks. This mobility trend highlights the issue of security again as enterprises will need to be able to remotely identify faults in sensors to protect against sensor tampering, which allows hackers to ‘spoof’ data . This market need widens the scope for implementing access management solutions and services to verify data sources. All of these examples help to create an image of the next phase for IoT in terms of security requirements. This opens up another layer of IoT opportunity for the channel.

The moral here? Don’t simply think of IoT as a blinkered future where your coffee machine is connected to your alarm clock and your mobile is connected to your smart meter at home. It’s much more than that and we’ve witnessed the start of this. The edge solutions already in place around safety, compliance and facilities management have created the first phase of the IoT opportunity. The opportunity to connect ‘the edge’ enterprise systems to drive automated maintenance, for example, could be the first to realise real commercial value. For the next layer though, enterprise-focused IoT hardware and software in the manufacturing, transportation, warehousing and information sectors are where the real growth opportunities will be.

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Posted under Internet of Things (IoT), IT infrastructure

This post was written by on December 21, 2015

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Technology without the right skills and training is like buying a plane without a pilot’s licence

Richard Whitson, Academy Business Development Manager, Avnet Academy

Technology should create a better business outcome to make the world a better place to live, work and play. No enterprise organisation invests in technology without a purpose, i.e. it needs to perform a function. But to use technology as intended, IT teams need the right skills to install, configure, manage and support.  Much like planes, IT hardware and software from different vendors work differently and need different skills to get the most out of them. Plus as the technology evolves, IT teams need to refresh their skills.

There is no way you would take a plane up in the air unless you had the right training and knew you were going to be able to land it again without any problems. Introducing new technology into the heart of a data centre carries similar risks. Do it wrong and you could find the business grinding to a halt whilst you pray that the back-ups can restore missing data. Development environments obviously help and take out some of the risk. But even then, it’s not all that efficient to ‘play’ with the technology.  It is far more effective to know how to get the most out of the technology in the first instance. This is where good quality training and education has an important role to play.  You should have the option to customise the training to your team’s requirements. There is no point putting a team through hours of tutorial on things they already know.  Plus people have different learning styles.  Sometimes people learn better at their own pace, or they find it difficult to travel and want to learn from their office or home.  Training should also be credible.  If the vendor has appointed the training provider, this is usually a good sign that the course content is going to be of decent quality. The fact is, organisations spend large sums of money on technology to give them a competitive advantage. They need to invest their training budget wisely to leverage this investment to have maximum impact.

I have been working recently on a new brochure for our IBM focused partners to help them offer their customers IBM authorised training, which you can see by clicking here. For more than 25 years Avnet has provided product, skills and services for the complete range of IBM hardware and software solutions for Cloud, Big Data & Analytics, Security, Social & Mobility, and Systems & Systems Software. Plus as IBM’s appointed Authorised Global Training Provider, it should come as no surprise to you that we are passionate about training and education. In the same way no one wants to see a plane crash because of pilot error, we hate to see down time or wasted investment because the IT teams in charge of managing the IT infrastructure we sold, didn’t have the right skills. Our success is directly related to helping ensure the best business outcome. And whilst technology is becoming more intuitive, at the enterprise level, artificial intelligence has not yet replaced the need for skilled IT teams.

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Posted under IT infrastructure, IT Software, Training

This post was written by on December 18, 2015

Time to get smart with our training budgets

Richard Whitson, Academy Business Development Manager, Avnet Academy

When people tell me training is expensive, I am quick to point out that it’s not as expensive as ignorance and unused training budgets.

When it comes to some of the data centre technologies, you just can’t afford the risk of ‘learning on the job’. If things go wrong, the consequences don’t bear thinking about. A training budget is a precious thing all too often taken for granted. In a knowledge economy, our ability to acquire and purchase knowledge is what gives organisations a competitive advantage.  IT training helps you leverage your investments in IT to get the technology to do more.  Unspent training budgets represent wasted opportunity and put an organisation at risk from falling behind its competitors.  Here are two things all organisations should be considering.

Firstly, maximise flexibility.  Most training budgets are set around financial years rather than when and where the training is needed. Often these two things are mis-aligned and companies end up sacrificing training budgets at the end of a financial year because they are unused, or worse they get spent on things that aren’t going to drive the right results. Organisations need to find training providers that allow them to park a training budget with them and then schedule the training as and when it’s needed. This flexibility means organisations can ensure training budgets are spent on the right things at the right time. This might mean waiting until the employee, project or customer is ready.

Secondly organisations should be looking at ways of getting more training days for their money.  If you bought a stack of training credits, you should be looking to save up to 25% off the cost of training. This is a smart way of using your training budget. Remember training equals competitive advantage.  If you can increase that by up to 25%, this can only be a good thing for your organisation.

At Avnet we recognise that training is an important factor in employee engagement, because it helps them stay interested and maximises their potential. Partner with the right training provider, be smart with your training budget and suddenly you’ll find it far easier to accelerate your success.

There is additional information on our website about Avnet training credits: https://academy.avnet.com/uk/training/pre-purchase/

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Posted under Training

Avnet on the ground at NetApp Insight, Berlin

Evan Unrue, EMEA Converged Infrastructure Technical Lead, Avnet Technology Solutions

WHAT PROBLEMS IS FLEXPOD™ SOLVING?

Avnet ships pre-engineered Flexpod systems all over the world for NetApp; call it Trade Show Flexpod as a Service. Our primary purpose in this endeavour is to maintain, ship and deploy these Flexpod units into the various trade shows NetApp attends for demonstration  and display purposes, and then to educate whoever wants to understand the nuances, architecture, features and benefits of Flexpod. This year, however, was slightly different.

That’s because a solid proportion of people approaching the Flexpod were customers who had deployed Flexpod recently – or not so recently in some cases. This gave me the opportunity to ask a few questions:

  1. Why did they buy Flexpod?
  2. Did it deliver what they expected?
  3. What were they expecting it to deliver?
  4. How does Flexpod factor into their technology roadmap?
  5. What pain did it ease, if any?

One recurring theme was that many were so inwardly focused on what they were looking for when they bought the Flexpod, that this fixed reference point shaped how they leveraged the platform. As a result, they hadn’t fully explored the possibilities of what they can now do, with Flexpod on the ground.

What problems does Avnet solve?

Many of these reference points were re-enforced simply by “how they had always done it”. When I walked through the full extent of what they had invested in with Flexpod – things it can do, ways it can be deployed, managed, automated and the strong complimentary technologies from Cisco and NetApp that tie into Flexpod – some really interesting conversations developed around what customers could do next.

For context, the types of organisations I was speaking with were as follows:

  • A large media and publishing group with multiple divisions
  • A global mining company
  • A few service providers
  • A company that provides vertically-aligned managed IT to pharma and a few other verticals.
  • A number of typical commercial SME outfits (averaging a few hundred to a few thousand users).

CHALLENGES WHICH DROVE THESE COMPANIES TO LOOK AT FLEXPOD™

Why did these organisations buy Flexpod in the first place?  The reasons ranged from being fed up of managing failing infrastructure and easing management pain to delivering on a more strategic IT roadmap.

Below are some of the reasons Flexpod customers I spoke with came to explore Flexpod™ as a solution:

Managing an “Accidental Architecture”

Dealing with increasingly unmanageable infrastructure born through sweating assets for too long, tactically replacing failing kit, plugging resource gaps, and in some cases through acquisition of other businesses where they have new infrastructure which has to be stitched into an existing platform.

This cocktail of diversely-branded old and new kit in many cases results in a seemingly endless struggle to keep critical applications up in the face of failing hardware or a constant flow of troubleshooting tasks, as the thin veneer of interoperability grows ever thinner. For the customers I spoke to, the resulting “accidental architecture” consumed so much time to maintain, innovation seemed to be off the table.

Supporting/deploying platforms and applications in the field

One thing was clear. A lack of standardisation was causing real issues around time-to-resolution of support issues, and time-to-deployment of applications and infrastructure. These customers had many platforms out in the field which weren’t necessarily poorly constructed, but the lack of standardisation in configuration, vendor technology and even the way the infrastructure was racked, patched and managed made it hard to apply a procedural approach to conducting a root cause analysis of issues and resolving them in good time.

A few of the companies I spoke with likened deployment of any significant applications to playing Jenga, in that stacking new workloads on creaking and overly-agnostic infrastructure was compounding the “accidental architecture” issue. They had to stitch resources together in increasingly creative ways and tactically deploy infrastructure on the fly. This process is not a quick one and the time it takes to prep everything for these new applications often takes weeks or months.

The IT vs Business Expanse

As NetApp Insight is primarily a technical conference, it was of course mainly attended by engineers, IT Managers, IT Directors and CTOs rather than customer CEOs and CFOs, so admittedly I only heard one side of the story here. However, this side made for an interesting story. A lot of these guys had become accustomed to feeling like “the help”: they were rarely invited to discuss the topics which influenced the demands being pushed onto the IT business; they weren’t asked what IT could do for the business; and the topic of making IT a profit centre rather than a cost centre was completely alien. The business attitude around old and hard to maintain kit is often to let to sweat because “it works, it’s fine and nothing has broken yet” – this divide forces IT into reactive mode.

The Battle with Shadow IT

The group IT Director of one company was faced with a situation where there were three distinct parts of the business, and each had aligned themselves to deploying applications with a different cloud provider for dev and non-critical/non-core applications. This was a struggle for IT as they were losing visibility of the business’ application landscape, competing with external IT providers and at real risk of breaching certain regulations if data was being dealt with on cloud platforms outside their sphere of control.

Flexpod Services by Avnet

DID FLEXPOD™ FIX THESE ISSUES?

Flexpod isn’t a magic box with the answer to all companies’ IT struggles, but it does give customers a platform they can leverage to address their issues. There has to be an appetite for business to address the people and process aspects around IT, and most importantly the business attitude towards IT, before any technology is going to offer a long-lasting solution. To put it bluntly, you can buy a new car, but if you’re a bad driver, a new car isn’t going to stop you having car crashes. Much like the relationship between driver and automobile, the driver needs to know where he or she is going, have full control of the vehicle and listen to the engine to know when it’s going wrong. These same rules apply for the relationship between the business and IT.

Starting from the bottom and working up, one thing Flexpod gives many of these organisations is control. Standardisation of hardware and software makes lifecycle management of IT simpler and less painful. Less diversity in the infrastructure means they can manage firmware levels across platforms with decreased risk, hardware interoperability is a non-issue as the components are all certified to work together, no questions asked. Adding new resource aligns to the set standardisation around Flexpod, meaning infrastructure deployments and application roll outs are massively accelerated.

Flexpod converged infrastructure

Another by-product of Flexpod’s standardisation is that with everything being a known commodity within the datacentre or across sites, companies can start to apply more efficient root cause analysis procedures with less guesswork around how they troubleshoot issues within their infrastructure.  This benefit is compounded further when you consider Flexpod is supported as a single platform, meaning you’re not spending half the day trying to get one vendor to take ownership of the issue as they point fingers amongst themselves.

Ultimately gaining control over your infrastructure means less downtime, less time troubleshooting alerts, and less of your time wasted. This allows more time to deploy people on tasks that actually improve, and don’t just “fix” things.

When the IT organisation moves out of a purely reactive state and has time to be pro-active, they can start to look at how to align closer to the business. In reality, this works both ways – they have to be met in the middle. But without the need to be purely reactive, there is at least time and breathing space to have the important conversations and start to make changes.

Something that one of the organisations I spoke with was looking to deal with was their shadow IT issue. Their roadmap involved leveraging Flexpod to regain some control around their core IT, and over time implement automation elements, such as UCS Director, prime service catalogue and a few others, to start developing a service-oriented and policy-driven approach to how they deliver internal services. Then over time, they could standardise on a set of cloud providers and leverage these same policy-driven approaches to manage how and where things go into the cloud. This would allow the business to consume from their own IT in much the same way they had in the cloud, but IT regains control of the application landscape and ensures they remain compliant where needed.

In summary, Flexpod offers a mechanism to help IT get control of a business’ infrastructure and free up time and money to do things better. Getting to the hub of it, doing things better means delivering services more quickly and seeing faster returns, or rationalising how you do things today and easing operating expenses both in time and man hours. The business is certainly responsible for implementing fundamental changes, but Flexpod is helping many customers execute faster, with less risk and with less pain.

 

If you’re a partner looking for more information on our Flexpod solution, visit our website: http://avnet.me/fsa

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Posted under Converged infrastructure, IT infrastructure, Storage