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Hardware Maker Eaton Sees Strategic Power in Software

At its 2022 partner conference this week, the power vendor called management software an increasingly critical ingredient in hardware deals, and outlined forthcoming plans to roll all of its management tools together into a single, unified platform. By Rich Freeman

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.

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