IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Embracing the Edge: The Obstacles and Opportunities for Channel Partners

Channel pros proficient in all aspects of edge computing can build enduring relationships with customers. By Alison Webb

Worldwide data volume is projected to grow 61% by 2025, according to IDC, and the way that information is stored, managed, and moved is evolving to meet demand for it closer to where it’s used. Networks are becoming more decentralized and pushing more computing to the edge to meet the need for advanced applications, many of which enable or are enabled by the Internet of Things. 

Consider: Vertiv recently surveyed more than 800 global data center specialists for our 2019 Data Center 2025 Report, and results show that the edge migration is real and accelerating. Survey participants who have edge sites today or expect to have them in 2025 project an average 226% increase in the number of sites they will be required to support in the next five years. It’s happening, and no one is impacted more than solution providers.

Resellers have been selling into small spaces like those at the edge for years. The difference now is the increased complexity and connectivity of those sites and what that means for customers. Channel partners who can understand and simplify this new edge will become trusted collaborators and far more than simple equipment providers. To get there, though, channel partners must understand IoT and be proficient in all aspects of these sites—from servers, storage, and networking to software applications, service, and maintenance. 

Channel Opportunities at the Edge
One of the challenges with these distributed networks is deploying and managing complex, connected IT resources in locations without IT personnel on-site. Channel partners can provide expertise in such areas that many decision makers lack. 

Remote management tools are also incredibly valuable in these spaces, and an important growth opportunity for channel partners. IT management tools provide in-band and out-of-band access to and monitoring of equipment across multiple sites, increasing the productivity of IT staff while maintaining the availability of critical systems. Having remote out-of-band connections through secure gateways to infrastructure systems, including cooling and UPS systems, KVM switches, service processors, and accessories connected through USB and serial ports, complements in-band tools to create a more complete remote management solution. This unified approach enhances security and enables faster diagnosis and reconfiguration or restoration of equipment to meet service-level agreements and minimize downtime. 

Specific benefits include:

  • Faster provisioning: Accessing multiple devices through a single switch or console enables those devices to be provisioned from one location in much less time than it would take to provision each device separately. This practice, which is common in data centers, can save even more time when applied to remote locations.
  • Simplified management: Enabling access to multiple devices through switches or consoles also streamlines configuration, troubleshooting, monitoring, and routine maintenance tasks like software updates.
  • Reduced mean time to repair (MTTR): IT management tools that provide both in-band and out-of-band access have proven their ability to reduce MTTR in the data center by enabling faster issue identification, and in some cases, remote resolution. These savings are amplified when applied to distributed locations that, without remote access, would require technician travel time just to identify the issue.
  • Enhanced security: Today’s IT management tools minimize the need to physically access IT systems and include support for smart card/common access card (CAC) readers and other physical security systems, enabling centralized management of access to critical facilities.
  • Lower operating costs: Faster provisioning, improved management, and reduced MTTR all translate directly into lower operating costs while freeing resources to focus on strategic initiatives.

Bottom Line
The edge is here to stay, and it’s only going to expand in the coming years. Channel partners must have a thorough understanding of edge architectures and technologies and how those technologies can be applied to today’s emerging IT challenges. Those who do will become trusted collaborators to their customers and build relationships that endure through whatever challenges are to come. Those who lack that expertise will be left behind. 

Training is the key to being able to provide value in this evolving environment. Partner programs can help channel partners become experts on the edge and these new network architectures. Vertiv’s categorization of 24 top use cases into four edge archetypes, based on their performance requirements, is a good place to start when seeking information on today’s edge deployments. These categories can be a helpful way to better understand the bandwidth, latency, availability, and security needs at various edge sites.

It’s a new world full of new opportunities for channel partners. Embracing this new landscape is the first step in becoming a trusted expert and valued resource for customers.

ALISON WEBB is director of channel marketing for Vertiv. With a focus on digital transformation, Webb has provided leadership at the intersection of product and digital marketing in the IT channel for more than 10 years. She has worked with Fortune 500 companies and owner-operated startups and possesses proven expertise in managing B2B channel programs. Webb also has experience in B2B ecommerce, brand and marketing communications management, digital marketing, campaign development, and account-based marketing. She has a bachelor's degree in political science and French from Western University and a master's in marketing from Heriot-Watt University.

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