Think about the last time you bought a smartphone, suggests Sean Graham, director of digital sales at Eaton Corp.’s power quality unit. Was the first decision you made the device you want or the operating system you prefer?
Increasingly, he notes, the same dynamic is driving the sale of power infrastructure equipment. Far from being an afterthought or add-on, management software is what businesses evaluate before deciding which UPS, PDU, and other devices they buy.
“Software is driving the hardware sale,” said Graham during a breakout session at Eaton’s 2022 Partner Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., yesterday. “That’s the strategic value of software.”
It’s also why Eaton, a vendor most channel pros associate first and foremost with hardware is making serious investments in the steadily growing family of solutions its partners and customers use to administer that hardware.
Today that portfolio, which was officially united under the Brightlayer brand in 2020, includes Intelligent Power Manager (IPM), an administration tool for UPS and other devices; Visual Power Manager (VPM), a distributed power infrastructure management tool; and Visual Capacity Optimization Manager (VCOM), a full-blown data center infrastructure management (DCIM) solution. By the end of this year, those systems and others, including Eaton’s Foreseer electrical power management system, will be fully merged, integrated components of a unified, all-encompassing management application also named Brightlayer.
“It’ll be a single solution, but will still have the same breadth of what we can provide today,” says Herve Tardy, vice president of marketing and strategy for Eaton’s critical power and digital infrastructure division.
In many respects, the new Brightlayer will offer greater breadth than the stand-alone tools it replaces. IPM’s ability to gracefully shut down VMware-based virtual servers during power outages, for example, will finally be available to VPM users, just as VCOM users will gain access to VPM integrations they don’t currently enjoy.
Eaton plans to add management capabilities for the hardware it acquired along with power and peripherals vendor Tripp Lite to the platform as well by early next year if not sooner. When that functionality is in place, technicians who can monitor Tripp Lite products and handle limited management tasks via SNMP through Eaton software today will be able to perform firmware updates and mass configurations as well.
“Most users and partners don’t want to necessarily have two panes of glass to manage two fleets of product,” notes Steve Loeb, Eaton’s vice president of distributed infrastructure sales. “They want one experience.”
In the meantime, Eaton will soon introduce new sales incentives aimed at inspiring partners to attach software to power projects more regularly. Beginning next month, members of the PowerAdvantage partner program who register deals valued over $10,000 will be eligible for a stackable 10% discount on VPM and VCOM licenses, as well as Eaton’s PredictPulse predictive analytics service. Registering a deal valued above $25,000, meanwhile, will qualify partners for a 20% discount.
And those are just short-term benefits, Eaton emphasizes. Adding software to hardware sales pays off in the long term as well by tacking recurring management fees onto projects that would otherwise stop fattening a partner’s top line after implementation and acceptance.
“We definitely see it as something where they can capitalize on a revenue stream that wasn’t there before,” notes Graciano Beyhaut, Eaton’s commercial integration leader.
Eaton hopes the growing power of the Brightlayer platform will make partnering with it more appealing to channel pros who already appreciate the value of recurring revenue—managed service providers. That’s an increasingly strategic segment of the channel that Eaton plans to attract more of by introducing an MSP partner program later this year.
“It starts with the software for them,” Beyhaut notes. “It’s definitely the tip of the spear.”
To make adopting its software even more tempting for MSPs, Eaton has created an integration linking IPM to RMM tools from ConnectWise. Pending approval from ConnectWise, which is expected within days, the new feature will enable technicians to manage power infrastructure through the same interface they use to manage PCs and servers.
“Being able to just plug the Eaton software portfolio into that existing [ConnectWise] infrastructure would make things, obviously, a lot easier,” says Osman Aziz, a business development manager at Questivity, an Eaton partner and infrastructure solution provider in Santa Clara, Calif.
According to Tardy, more such integrations are likely to follow in the future. “We’re evaluating the market right now,” he says. “We want to go beyond ConnectWise.”
Graham, meanwhile, points to one last reason why management software is increasingly important to Eaton, and should loom larger for its partners well: it’s invulnerable to supply chain snarls.
“Software,” he says, “is always in stock.”