Riding the Information Wave: IoT and Big Data Analytics

Max Chan, Vice President, Global Information Solutions, Avnet Technology Solutions Asia Pacific

IoT and its uses in actionThere have been a number of exciting developments around the Internet of Things at Avnet lately.  First, we kicked off the calendar year 2016 announcing a newly created role of vice president, Internet of Things in the person of Eric Williams, who will steer the company’s global IoT strategy. The previous year, Tim FitzGerald who had led Avnet’s Cloud Solutions business, was appointed vice president of digital transformation. These key appointments underscore our steadfast commitment to investing in the right resources to capitalise on the opportunities in the rapidly growing IoT market.

It didn’t stop there, however. In February, Avnet and IBM announced joining forces to accelerate IoT innovation. Having been solid partners for over 30 years, the two companies have teamed up to help customers develop IoT solutions. Built on the IBM Watson IoT Platform, this initiative will help create new revenue streams and operational efficiencies for our customers. The collaboration builds on Avnet’s successful IoT development practices; one of the recent success stories being the water safety improvement project with SPICA Technologies. We played a key role in building a solution that reduces the risk of Legionnaire’s disease by using connected devices. These devices are attached to the water pipes and provide real-time information and analysis on water temperature and flow, improving accuracy and reducing monitoring costs by up to 60 percent.

And the excitement continues! Worldwide IoT spending reached more than $643.8 billion in 2015, and it is expected to account for approximately $998 billion in 2018.[1] For the individual, what IoT really means is information at one’s fingertips, more embedded intelligence, smarter use of resources, and simply put, improved life through technology. For companies, IoT means the creation of a tremendous amount of data that can be mined not only to analyse the past, but also to predict future behaviour or actions.

Avnet’s insights on data analytics

It’s not just about technology.

Today’s technology allows companies to handle complex queries in much less time. Our priority, though, is to help businesses convert their data into manageable value that their employees and customers can use. Avnet helps organisations implement strong data governance policies and ensure the smooth execution of big data analytical tools that translate their data into insights.

Data is meaningless if not understood and acted upon. When insights are required for critical decision making, we must begin by asking the right questions. This has given rise to a new demand for data scientists, as more people start recruiting talent to aid their pursuits in intelligence gathering and interpretation. Employees also need to be aware of the changes analytics can bring to the organisation. Existing employees should be receiving training and education to help them acclimate to the realities of the new technological environment.

The role of data scientists is to work with the data they have, and create business intelligence from it, which can be brought to management to act on their insights. Something that we have observed to be very successful is the transportation of this business intelligence from data scientists to decision makers via mobile channels. In this way, decision makers can acquire, in real time, important information such as where the biggest opportunities lie, which customers have the most potential, and what are the best-performing product lines. But that being said,  these decision makers also need to get used to change on their end.

Challenges in adoption  

The common impediment for big data and analytics adoption is the price of the technology. However this has changed in the last few years. The total cost of ownership for this technology is on the decline, making it within reach for enterprises large and small. Although, even if cost remains the top barrier to adoption, I’d say in most cases that that is just an excuse.

From another perspective, there is concern around hiring in-house talent as not all businesses can afford data scientists, particularly as they have skills which are in short supply. But the truth is that organisations aren’t going to see progress simply by doing what they have been doing all along – generating more and more data – there has to be someone to work with that data.

Current and future adoption

big dataWhat we are seeing today is that a few industries are getting ahead of the rest when it comes to big data analytics. Retail is one of the few industries that is succeeding, both online and offline. This is because in retail, it’s no longer just about what the customer views or purchases – it goes to the extent of what they are saying on social networks, their preferences and psyches. All of this information is readily available across their social media accounts.

There is also geo-fencing, where advertisers, marketers and retailers specifically look at where the individual has been, and what he or she has done. They then leverage that information by placing advertisements along those historical geographical locations. It’s clear to see here that retail is an industry leading the way forward for data analytics.

Utilities and buildings are also areas where analytics adoption is increasing, primarily to drive efficiency in power and water usage. Within the utilities and buildings space, sensors are used to collect data on things such as room temperature, humidity and energy consumption. With a clear view of their electrical consumption and costs, building management can then take appropriate steps to reduce unnecessary costs. Being able to track utilities consumption will also help identify those with higher usage, and possibly higher-value customers. From here new business models can be crafted, such as shorter billing cycles which better suit high-value customers’ needs. The utilities sector is a great example of the versatility and effectiveness of IoT technologies working together with analytics to solve problems.

I would say that analytics has become an inevitable part of any organisation, especially those where the public is involved and there is strong demand for products or services. To return to the example of utilities, organisations will want to find out how to use the M2M data generated to drive efficiency in their power and water supply operations. Real-time data for the utilities sector is made possible through on-demand metering, enabling more accurate insights as to how customers are being billed.

All these activities are driven by analytics, made possible as a result of all the technology that is available today. IoT as well as M2M will be responsible for a large part of the adoption of analytics.

Final thoughts

To remain ahead of emerging technology trends, Avnet consistently builds upon and aggregates our collective resources, capabilities and multiple elements of technology from the edge to the enterprise. As our CEO Rick Hamada puts it: “The pace of technology in today’s global business environment demands agility and imagination.” I believe Avnet is perfectly positioned to develop and optimise IoT as well as data analytics, among other solutions, because we have a 360-degree view of market from the heart of the technology supply chain. We will continue to invest in our organic growth initiatives in next generation technologies.

 

[1] Source:  Avnet Business Intelligence Office estimates based upon Gartner and IDC industry data. Excludes modules and sensors.

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Posted under Big data, Internet of Things (IoT), IT infrastructure

How to meet Senior Business and IT Executives’ Expectations of Hybrid Cloud

Alex Ryals, Director, Technology Solutions at Avnet Technology Solutions, shares his methods for meeting executive expectations of the hybrid cloud

Cloud computing, overall, is now well-established as a viable, even essential, element in how organizations use technology to achieve business goals. Challenges such as meeting the needs of users, deploying solutions to business needs faster and increasing demands on badly stretched internal IT teams are driving the discussion surrounding cloud computing.

As VARs and solution providers aggressively embark on their journey with hybrid cloud solutions, it’s important to keep in mind the different discussions their customers are having based on their roles within the organization. We pulled a piece from a recent Tech Target whitepaper on Hybrid Cloud that discusses the varying expectations of hybrid cloud solutions as they apply to Line of Business and IT executives.

Meeting Customers’ Expectations

Who actually “buys” or influences the purchase of hybrid cloud services? In most cases, you’ll find that hybrid cloud purchase decisions are highly collaborative between business executives and IT organizations, especially at very high levels. Customers looking to move to the cloud for the first time or perhaps expanding their initial cloud efforts do so because they expect tangible business benefits—not just to find a way to reduce capital expenditures in the IT budget.

Senior Business Executives

Senior business executives and other line-of-business managers tend to view hybrid cloud’s attraction through dual lenses: competitive benefits and financial improvements. One of the big reasons that organizations are rapidly adopting a cloud based model is to move quicker in deploying new products and services for their own customers, rather than having to wait for an overworked and typically understaffed IT department to build, test and deploy new solutions. This quest for “speed to market” is one of the key drivers for organizations; the ability to quickly pilot new capabilities through affordable public cloud systems has driven even technically limited business managers to move to cloud initiatives without the IT department’s knowledge or direct support.

Hybrid cloud solutions, in particular, are attractive here because it allows organizations to maximize their legacy systems as well as any initial cloud capabilities they may have implemented. By tying both on-premise and cloud solutions—as well as linking public and private clouds—organizations can more easily test new initiatives and deploy them faster.

Business leaders also like hybrid cloud solutions because they provide maximum flexibility in selecting the operating model that works best for an organization, rather than forcing them to change the way they work to align with the technology constraints of a specific approach to IT infrastructure.

Finally, business leaders see great value in the financial benefits of hybrid cloud. Since this architectural approach doesn’t require companies to continue buying significant amounts of new hardware, it lets them cut capital expenditures while giving them a predictable way to forecast IT on a subscription-based model.

IT Executives

IT executives see hybrid cloud as an attractive approach because it has the potential to dramatically and quickly extend their ability to support end users’ requirements. This allows CIOs and other internal IT executives to spend more time focusing on transformative applications and services rather than on relatively mundane, “keep the lights on”-type of activities such as help desk inquiries, onboarding new users and refreshing software and hardware.

Another key benefit for IT: Hybrid cloud preserves existing infrastructure and applications investments, rather than requiring “forklift” deployments that rip out old systems and replace them with new ones. Hybrid cloud also supports the key IT requirement of scalability that quickly and affordably reacts to sudden, even unanticipated shifts in business volume that would otherwise require investment in new systems in order to keep up.

Finally, hybrid cloud can be an attractive and reliable way to address some of IT departments’ biggest nightmares: security and compliance. By working with VARs, solution providers and cloud service providers, IT organizations can leverage best-of-breed knowledge and experience in new security threats, perimeter defense and applications availability, as well as ensuring that organizational data is protected according to a variety of tightly mandated regulatory requirements.

What’s Next?

Providing the technology and business expertise necessary to deploy and manage hybrid clouds often means that VARs and solution providers of all profiles need to be an experienced, reliable and well-resourced partner that can help companies come up to speed quickly.

Although this wraps up my Tech Target White Paper series on Hybrid Cloud, you can download the full white paper here for more information: Leveraging Business Opportunities for Hybrid Cloud Solutions.

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Posted under Cloud Computing, IT infrastructure, SolutionsPath

Effective security is more than an insurance policy – it’s a business enabler

Christian Curtis, sales director at Avnet Technology Solutions UK takes a look at how to sell the business benefits of IT security

Security is vital; the threat landscape has evolved beyond lone hackers or small groups breaching networks. Cyber crime is organised, it is big business and has spawned a huge underground economy. Attacks are often targeted, sophisticated and inherently malicious.

We understand and recognize that security is essential and that not everyone who wants to access a corporate network has good intentions, however, the doom mongering can be overwhelming. Security solution companies and channel partners could and should adopt a more positive approach to selling IT security. It is not an easy task and regular stories in the industry and by the media around high profile breaches tend to reinforce the fear and dread message in people’s minds. That said, selling security only on the merits of negativity seems counter-productive and unnecessary.

Security opens opportunities

IT security has changed the dynamics of the workplace.  It is a crucial component to companies embracing mobile working and acknowledging the cost saving and productivity benefits it brings in allowing employees to do their job anytime, anywhere and on the right device for the task. With security solutions such as endpoint encryption, organisations can reap the benefits of mobile productivity whilst maintaining a secure position.  Where security was once a barrier it is now at the forefront of digital transformation.

In the past security was seen at best as an expense on the balance sheet and at worst a business inhibitor.  Security procedures were restrictive and applied in a coarse and blunt way with systems and processes becoming inflexible and locked down in an attempt to mitigate any breaches. Organisations shaped their business practices around what the security system permitted, stifling innovation and causing employees to feel frustrated at the restrictions that were preventing them interacting with customers and suppliers.

Much has changed in recent times and security is no longer viewed as a costly insurance policy but a business enabler. With the increasing popularity of online mobile commerce coupled with customer expectations to interact with organisations seamlessly, whether via smart phone, tablet or laptop, IT security has had to respond proactively to business needs and deliver a flexible and accessible environment that is also safe and secure.

Network activity provides insight

Modern security applications don’t just look for potential intruders on the organisation’s network they observe activity and this insight can help organisations prioritise future investment. Network monitoring systems can show where website visitors are located and what devices they are using.  This insight is invaluable to business planning, for example, if a national company is seeing an increase in web traffic originating in Manchester rather than London and these visits are mainly via mobile devices, this information enables the company to adjust its sales and marketing strategy accordingly, based on real-time data.

Security is about visibility into the network and gaining insight into how resources are being used.  By gaining a better understanding of what applications are used, by whom and when, the IT department can make informed decisions on future capacity planning. Additionally, by looking at what is actually happening on the network, IT managers can identify infrastructure that is no longer required. With this insight organisations can optimise and rationalise their IT estate while improving security and speeding up processes.

According to the latest forecast from Gartner, worldwide information security spending across all industries was due to grow by almost 4.7% to reach $75.4 billion in 2015. This presents an opportunity for organisations to direct their budget towards solutions that not only protect their valuable information and assets but also deliver the wider business-enabling benefits and insight that security solutions can bring.

It’s time to see IT security as a business growth strategy, not just a defensive technology tactic.

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Posted under IT infrastructure, Security

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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