The significance of certified training in a competitive partner landscape

Stephen Ennis, Director of Services, EMEA

Stephen Ennis, Director Education Services, Avnet Technology Solutions EMEA

 

Stephen Ennis, Director Education Services, Avnet Technology Solutions EMEA discusses how training certification is fast becoming a necessity

 

The channel must understand just how vital IT training and certifications are – not only for its own success, but also to the end-users it serves. A recent survey conducted by Analyst house IDC found that almost all respondent had been certified in some form of IT training in the past two years. This represents a significant shift towards comprehensive education to address the blossoming skills gap in many IT professions.

Modern IT environments can be complex, often requiring different skills and levels of expertise. Successful partners are recognising the need to invest in IT certifications and digital teaching methods are fast becoming a popular choice for millennials entering the job market.

But what should partners consider in order to get this right?

 

Find the right delivery method for your audience

When satisfying the digital appetite of millennial employees, it’s important to understand that IT learning is shifting from static classrooms to virtual environments. Traditional, instructor-led training (ILT) is changing rapidly to encompass the style most commonly demanded. Lessons are moving out of static classrooms to virtual environments, delivering content either fully interactively or in an ‘on-demand’ manner. Creating virtual classrooms and offering blended learning allows employees the opportunity to receive ‘just in time’ training, making them the most skilled and knowledgeable of their peers.

 

Keep up with newer technologies to offer the right kind of certification

Vendor certification remains important for the channel but has moved from being a differentiator to a must-have. Having an industry or technology certification is much more attractive to end-users keen to grow their skill set in a particular technology. As a plethora of next-generation technologies such as security and cloud computing are entering the mainstream, it’s vital that end-users are able to attain specific and non-vendor certifications. For example, it is clear that the Internet of Things (IoT) will require industry certification to help identify experts who will drive innovation forward, and training on them needs to take on a more digital approach.

 

Protect enterprise investment

While some might see YouTube tutorials as an easy and cheap option to getting the required information, the value of the data being processed or handled typically has immense value to the organisation and therefore its imperative that implementation, management and support during the course prevents possible risks and threats. Keeping data safe protects the organisation’s brand and reputation. Cutting corners is not a suitable or viable option when compared to what is at stake.

Think of the following scenario when deciding whether to invest in IT certification: you wouldn’t let your GP work on your teeth having only watched a short video on YouTube. You’d go to a dentist instead.  In the same vein, organisations should insist IT professionals have the right certifications for the technology they are working on.

Recognising the need for effective training and certification in the channel is beneficial for the entire partner eco-system. By delivering training in the most suitable manner, be that ILT, virtual classrooms or a catalogue of ‘on demand’ tutorials, partners have the chance to remain competitive and provide a much better service to customers.

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Posted under Training

This post was written by on January 10, 2017

Avnet’s 2017 Predictions

Marcus Adae, Vice President Strategic Suppliers, Avnet Technology Solutions EMEA

Marcus Adae, Vice President Strategic Suppliers,
Avnet Technology Solutions EMEA

 

2016 has been an exciting year for technology, and 2017 will be equally as fast paced.

 

This is how we see the next year shaping up in terms of technology trends:

 

 

 

  1. Advance machine learning: The next stage in IoT and connected technologies

This year, much has been written about the power of the Internet of Things (IoT). Advanced machine learning is the next stage in generating real value from intelligent, connected devices. Leveraging machine learning and cognitive computing with connected smart devices allows humans to interact with technology and their surroundings in ways which will drive innovation forward at an unprecedented pace. Prominent examples include self-driving cars and delivery drones, as well as products that will increasingly make up the smart home such as smart meters and other home automation products.  As the gap narrows between the physical and digital world, the door opens wider for companies to explore new and innovative products and services both in the commercial and consumer sectors, which will ultimately enrich the way we interact with our world day to day.

Advancements in machine learning and cognitive computing will greatly benefit the technology sector. As this kind of technology becomes more reliable and trusted, companies will start to use it to explore entirely new business models, gaining hidden insights to their markets and operations which previously may never have been discovered. In October 2016, Uber used a self-driving truck to make its first autonomous delivery of 50,000 cans of Budweiser beer. There are still many regulations to work through, like insurance and accident liability, but in 2017 we will see many more disruptive businesses start to deploy these technologies into real-world scenarios. Only those who can demonstrate innovation by developing solutions that complement IoT and machine learning will benefit, and 2017 will see a significant rise in the number of initiatives being invested in.

Connected technologies can help nearly any industry, but are becoming more popular within logistics. IoT will support shipments and cargo, allowing them to be constantly monitored and all the information gathered can be sent back to HQ, enabling the industry to become more reliable and dynamic. We’ve already seen Amazon piloting the usage of drones for rapid and premium delivery services, but we can expect to see many of the traditional logistics companies such as UPS and FedEx starting to get into the connected technology game throughout 2017.

 

  1. Mobile technologies in the ever changing tech world

With mobile technology now ubiquitous as it is, it has become more or less an extension of our very selves, often acting as the voice and eyes into the digital part of our existence, be it our online social interactions, our work emails or our EBay addiction. Interacting with a mobile device, especially for the younger generation feels natural and intuitive.  As this technology advances, the opportunities for mobile technologies to improve workflow become limitless. Mobility has become a life and work style, and is an accelerator of cloud adoption enabling increasingly more flexible approaches to collaboration, sharing of data and time management. At the same time, the rapid move to the cloud for core applications such as ERP, CRM and other productivity tools is accelerating the adoption of mobile solutions, empowering the mobile worker.

Who will benefit the most from the other and grow faster? It is certainly not an easy call but one thing is sure, in 2017 mobility will be an even bigger opportunity for the channel, especially for managed services and mobile security.

 

  1. Analytics are becoming fundamental to the distribution sector

Analytics is an increasingly critical part of any business and is one that will certainly become more important and prominent in 2017. Analytics offers more insight than ever before to help organisations make better business decisions in real-time. Partners that service the supply chain will be aware it has never been more important to know more than simply what your customers are buying. These organisations are embracing advanced and cognitive analytics to understand what their customers are thinking and what motivates them, as well as insight into what supply is needed and where it is in the warehouse. Data is very much the new oil, the value of putting your data to work to empower multiple lines of business, from operations, to marketing, to sales, will unlock untold potential for many organisations. One example of this is the Industry 4.0 and the smart factory. This involves the coming together of a number of technologies, but analytics will play a big role in modelling the wealth of sensor data in a factory to determine output, machine health and production quality in conjunction with using analytics to determine demand and predict issues. The smart factory is expected to contribute to an economic boom, which many refer to as the 4th Industrial Revolution.

This is obviously a very grand example, but in 2017 the channel will see more customers becoming heavily reliant on detailed business insight from their data to gain competitive market advantage. Cognitive computing will give them competitive edge and deep customer understanding and become the basis for how and where they grow. The substantial growth in cloud as a platform for innovation will provide new routes to market to support this.

 

  1. The cloud will become a starting point for business transformation

This year we have seen cloud adoption and trust in cloud technology move forward at orders of magnitude far greater than previous years. The ways in which it has been adopted ranges from the born in the cloud start-up companies benefiting from the mobility and low investment risk that cloud brings, to the enterprise leveraging new and interesting approaches to B2B connectivity, streamlining cross company operations and collaboration. Another big driving force of cloud is the sheer volume of consumers that services can address today and the unpredictability of demand around those services. Organisations need cloud to be agile and flexible in handling that demand while also ensuring continued availability of service and facilitating ease of access to those services through any manner of devices. Cloud, when used correctly, addresses all of these challenges.

The cloud will also become an enabler for new security solutions, especially data security, as its perceived disadvantages transform into advantages. The European General Data Protection Regulation that will be adopted in May 2018 will put pressure on companies to ensure the security of data collected. Companies wishing to move to the cloud quicker in order to outsource these responsibilities will benefit from a better quality of IT infrastructure, provided by companies with a clear focus and mandate around data security in the cloud. This will dramatically reduce capex spending, allowing organisations to invest in local security products and services for their current on-premise IT networks.

Cloud technologies and businesses’ attitudes toward the cloud are maturing daily, with less companies seeing it as a rogue element (or shadow IT, as it’s often referred to). As more companies are stitching it into the fabric of their core IT strategy, it has become more trusted than ever and in many senses has become a data and services fabric bringing new levels of agility to those organisations that embrace it.

With the cloud likely to take over in 2017, other sectors may feel a bit of a hit. The cloud is beginning to be seen as the most reliable storage, security and business transformation solution on the market, and IT departments will need to undergo a digital transformation in all of these areas to stay ahead.

The key for the upcoming year will be to ensure partners tap into both data centres and cloud expertise, combining all their strengths to become the ‘one-stop-shop’ for technology solutions, and creating a fool-proof way to succeed within the cloud in 2017.

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Posted under Big data, Cloud Computing, Internet of Things (IoT)

This post was written by on December 16, 2016

Why engage with Amazon Web Services through Avnet?

AWS and Avnet Logo

Amazon Web Services (AWS) provides a highly reliable, scalable, low-cost infrastructure platform in the cloud that powers hundreds of thousands of businesses all over the world. Add to that Avnet’s successful solution-driven strategy and deep channel knowledge, and the result is a winning combination all around. AWS gives instant access to worldwide storage and compute options, as well as additional services. Even better, you only pay for what you use and for the time you use it.

The beauty of Avnet’s relationship with AWS is that partners can use and resell AWS through the Avnet Cloud Marketplace bringing a range of new opportunities to all parties.

Here we have highlighted 10 reasons why purchasing AWS through Avnet is the best and simplest option.

  1. Avnet’s local cloud team helps you build cloud solutions and become proficient quickly  on AWS
  2. ACM offers simple monthly billing, account management, dashboard with cloud spend, optimised resources, and more
  3. Create your own branded Cloud Marketplace
  4. Avnet offers additional services, providing skills that may be lacking in-house
  5. Avnet Academy provides authorised AWS training courses
  6. Get instant discounts leveraging Avnet AWS Partner status
  7. Avnet can help you consolidate yours or your customer’s spend for additional discounts
  8. Avnet invoices you in local currency
  9. Avnet offers AWS services on a credit line (subject to availability)

…. And if that’s not enough

  1. Partners also receive £20 free spend on their first AWS invoice through Avnet in 2016!

Avnet’s Cloud Solutions team provides quick AWS account setup and access. Under the program, partners maintain all of the benefits of being an AWS reseller plus a number of Avnet-provided benefits including account provisioning support, discounts with no volume commitments, monthly reporting and no annual program fees.

With Avnet, our partners are able to take their cloud management to an entirely new level and help drive rapid cloud adoption across the market.

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Posted under Cloud Computing

What’s next with security and cloud? Can the channel benefit?

Danny Yeowell, Security and Networking Business Unit Manager at Avnet

Danny Yeowell, Security and Networking Business Unit Manager at Avnet

Cloud. Security. Two words that can polarise debate as some channel leaders see opportunity while others see issues and for every cloud sceptic there is a cloud convert.  All too often the debate is about how secure is “cloud” whereas the focus should really be on understanding what it has to offer and how it can support an organisation’s business priorities.

The likelihood is that your customers are already utilising cloud-based services in one form or another.  According to research by Cloud Security Alliance, customer relationship management (CRM) represents the most widely adopted cloud-based solution with over 36% of companies having made the migration. The survey further highlighted that 64.9% of IT leaders think the cloud is as secure or more secure than on-premises software. This finding contrasts significantly with a global survey conducted for BT in 2014, which revealed that more than three quarters of IT decision makers (82 percent in the US; 76 percent globally) said security was their main concern about using cloud-based services.

Whilst confidence is growing, customers should not feel compelled to make the giant leap to the cloud. Public cloud isn’t a panacea and it’s important for organisations to understand their options when developing a cloud strategy. Not all data is equal and this fact is paramount when deciding where it resides. Just like traditional storage and data sharing methods, cloud computing comes with its own set of characteristics that introduce a new set of risks. Data governance is one of the primary concerns when moving to the cloud as organisations relinquish some control over their data. New assurances are needed to ensure that organisational security policies and legal obligations continue to be met.

Cloud computing offers organisations many significant benefits including:

  • Flexibility
  • Accessibility
  • Potential cost savings
  • Increased capacity.

Organisations can maximise these benefits by understanding the implications of handing over their data to a third party and by assessing the additional risks that this move creates.  Once these risks are identified, organisations can ensure that the necessary controls are in place to enable them to meet their information security and data governance objectives.

A move to the cloud has challenges and this presents an opportunity for the channel. For every organisation keen to dive head first into a cloud only environment, there will be others wanting to adopt a more considered approach and explore private or hybrid cloud environments. Every organisation has a different tolerance to risk and the channel is best placed to help them select the optimal solution that delivers the benefits of cloud computing whilst mitigating threats with the most secure solution.

Danny Yeowell has 30 years’ experience within the IT industry working for manufacturers and systems integrators.  The past 20 years’ experience has been gained within the solutions and pre-sales environment across many market sectors.  Yeowell has a breadth of knowledge spanning networking, security, data centre and unified communications, among other associated technology and service areas. 

 

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Posted under Cloud Computing, IT infrastructure, Security

This post was written by on November 22, 2016

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“NOT another dashboard!” and “No more alarms either!” – The case for visualisation in utility companies

Visualisation is a catch-all term for displaying data, usually via web or mobile, in a graphical, conversational and an intuitive way.

David Hartwell, Business Development, Digital Transformation, Avnet Technology Solutions EMEA

David Hartwell, Business Development, Digital Transformation, Avnet Technology Solutions EMEA

Nowhere have I seen a more urgent need for visualisation than in utilities. There are tens, or even hundreds of thousands of sensors in a typical water utility company’s network, and the increased need to understand their network better, with the ever-closer promise of practical smart metering, means there is going to be an explosion in the number of sensors connected to their systems and consequently, the amount of data they’ll have to deal with.

Information overload

Water utility control rooms in most large utilities are typically handling well over a million alarms a year and someone is supposed to look at, and make a decision on, every one of them. If we ever get smart water meters, which promise to allow flow, temperature and pressure measurement at every customer, then the problem gets much bigger than it is now.  If the water network looks like branches of a tree, then they’ll be measuring down to leaf level. Will all this data help understand the network better? I really don’t think it will until the way network data presentation changes. The benefit of such granular data is clear, as it will enable the water companies to manage their networks in a more pro-active and efficient manner, but it carries the considerable downside of being “Data rich but information poor” and overloading the operations teams.

Better network knowledge

The three main operating costs for water companies are: electrical energy, chemicals and labour. Taking the largest cost item, electrical energy as an example; water is heavy, therefore, water companies consume huge quantities of it to transfer this essential liquid to our homes and industry. If average and peak pipe pressures could be reduced in order to save energy; there’ll also be less leaks, which means a double benefit. Treatment of sewage also requires energy intensive processes to clean it to the high standards required before being discharged; this is an area where process improvements and optimisation can again reduce energy costs. If the behaviour of the network and treatment plants can be better understood and optimised in more detail, then the companies can reduce this major cost, and maybe bills will even go down. Everyone will be happy, especially customers and regulators. This is just one example of a concrete business case for visualisation.

Knowledge is not systemised

However, there is an easy trap to fall into: just measuring more doesn’t make you understand better; in fact it can be quite the opposite, as there can often be quite contradictory measurements in a complex system like a water network. An operations manager will have an innate understanding of the system and how it is behaving – they balance, optimise and cope with emergencies; the model of the network behaviour seems to be hard wired in their brains, but even they cannot do justice to all the information available from the network sensors and optimise the network as a whole, for the multitude of parameters required from temperature, pressure, flow, water quality and others.

Single system view

As yet more systems are brought in to monitor an ever-increasing range of parameters, more screens need to be reviewed, maybe with more alarms (certainly the case with IOT). A common cry from both IT and operations is – “Not another dashboard” or “Please, no more alarms”. What’s needed is an integrated, single graphical view that combines graphical information system views, system topography, disaster planning and many others into a single whole. This is not some massive systems integration project that will require huge investment and unable to show any benefit for years, but an over-the-top visualisation that draws data from current systems, but even more importantly, has the ability to learn rules from real people (e.g. operations and maintenance staff) and for itself (machine learning). Such an implementation would reduce the amount of alarms by a large factor. Couple this with predictive analytics, where, for example, weather predictions could be used to set the network up for maximum resilience to flooding, for instance pumping out all the wet wells (small reservoirs) in the affected area in advance of a major weather event, or to predict when garden sprinklers would be used and for how long.

More systems equal more silos

It’s a fact of life that information systems will be replaced and more of them will appear in the operations environment; each one of course adds value, but at the same time adds workload and another silo of information. However, the value of the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts if they could be seen as a single entity: “The network”. Visualisation of data is a good place to start; I have long held the belief that everyone in a water company should have access to a mobile app that would tell them the health of the network at least at summary level. I can think of a few operations directors who would shake my hand if I could give them an app for their Smartphone that informed them, in real time, what was happening in their part of the network; showing outfalls, water quality issues, burst mains, unplanned outages, and other key network parameters.

It’s not so hard to start if you think “Agile”

So, what to do? I recommend starting with the users who have to make the most complex operational decisions and discuss in a workshop environment, how they’d like their dashboard to look; then build a “wire frame” (non-working prototype), which should be completed in days, not weeks and constantly iterate the design and build with the users involved every step of the way. This is known as agile development and is the de facto standard for implementing quality visualisation projects. I’d make sure some machine decision making capability, however basic, was also included, as rules development is a key skill. An agile approach to IT implementations is novel in the utilities space, but where I have helped implement it, it has created users who embrace these new systems because they feel ownership, want to make it work and know how to get it improved quickly. With some help, most utilities have the internal resources to be able to do this themselves, they just need to be shown how.

 

David Hartwell started his career in the UK Ministry of Defence and spent 21 years in the nuclear industry primarily engineering control and safety systems for various production and experimental nuclear processes. Since leaving the MOD, he has lived and worked in various countries from China, United Arab Emirates, Hungary, Netherlands and the USA implementing engineering software solutions. He joined Avnet just over a year ago to join the then new IOT division. Previously, he was UK sales leader at IBM for the MobileFirst mobile platform products. His career has spanned engineering, project & programme management, pre-sales, business development and sales disciplines.

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Posted under Internet of Things (IoT)

This post was written by on November 11, 2016

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