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Tech Data Allies with Advantech and Keonn on Microsoft Azure-Based IoT Solutions

The distributor plans to combine products from its newest strategic partners with hardware and software from other vendors, plus its own services, to form complete solutions for retailers and the industrial Internet of Things. By Rich Freeman

Tech Data Corp. has forged strategic alliances with Advantech Co. Ltd. and Keonn Technologies to deliver vertical IoT solutions based on the Microsoft Azure public cloud.

The Clearwater, Fla.-based company timed word of the two agreements to arrive during Microsoft’s Inspire partner event, which is currently taking place in Las Vegas. Earlier this week at Inspire, Microsoft announced that its Azure IoT Central solution, which is designed to help businesses build, provision, and manage Internet of Things solutions combining multiple hardware and software assets, is now available to members of its Cloud Solution Provider program.

A Taiwanese company with U.S. headquarters in Milpitas, Calif., Advantech makes embedded and automation products designed for use in industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) solutions.

“Industrial is really big right now,” observed Colin Blair, vice president of analytics and IoT solutions at Tech Data, in an interview with ChannelPro outside the Inspire show site earlier this week.

Tech Data plans to deliver comprehensive IIoT solutions that combine Advantech offerings and Microsoft Azure platform technologies with hardware, software, and services from itself and other vendors. Manufacturers and other industrial businesses can use those solutions to bridge the gap between programmable logic controllers and other data collection devices on the one hand and cloud-based analytics and monitoring applications on the other.

“One of the biggest opportunities and challenges that clients have right now is how do you get that data off of that device,” Blair notes.

The Advantech agreement makes that company’s products available specifically to Tech Data resellers in the U.S. and Canada.

Keonn Technologies, Tech Data’s other freshly added alliance partner, is a Spanish maker of radio frequency identification (RFID) hardware and software products as well as an inventory management solution hosted on Microsoft Azure. Tech Data will use those systems in end-to-end solutions for the retail industry designed to improve inventory accuracy and provide reporting data that store owners can use to study trends, isolate problems, and spot opportunities.

“There’s a lot of intelligence there that you can put it into your merchandising,” Blair says of the item-specific, location-based data Keonn solutions collect and record.

Vendors like Advantech and Keonn with specialized, industry-specific expertise play a key role in Tech Data’s ongoing efforts to transform itself from a mere distributor of shrink-wrapped products into an aggregator of full-blown solutions in “3rd platform” markets like the Internet of Things.

“What we’re doing is bringing those solutions together and then filling in the gaps” with services in areas like needs analysis, deployment, integration, and support, Blair says.

Those solutions have mostly been cobbled together by Tech Data and its partners on a one-off basis in the past, but are increasingly available in pre-assembled, all-inclusive formats as well. Examples include a recently introduced video surveillance offering developed in collaboration with QPCS LLC, of Ceres, Calif.

“It’s literally a boxed solution that you can deploy pretty much anywhere,” said Michelle Curtis, director of IoT solutions in Tech Data’s North American specialist solution sales group, in an interview with ChannelPro last month at the company’s Channel Link conference in Austin, Texas. “We also sell the cameras that tie into it, so it’s a full, complete solution that’s ready to go.”

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