For the last couple of years, partners have been bombarded with the IoT message. It’s where the future lies: big data, analytics, connectivity. But we’re only just now beginning to see technology come together in a way that enables practical application of IoT technology, even for small to midsize partners.
This week at Discover London 2016, HPE Aruba released a suite of products designed to reduce the barriers that have kept many resellers and service providers from fully exploring the opportunity that IoT offers. HPE has built a Mobile Virtual Network Enabler and a Universal IoT Platform, and Aruba released the ClearPass Universal Profiler and the latest 2540 Series of enterprise switches. The VAR Guy sat down with Christian Gilby, Director of Product Marketing for Aruba, and Jeff Edlund, CTO Communications & Media Solutions for HPE to talk about how the new releases are enabling widespread IoT adoption by the channel.
“I was at HP's Global Partner Conference about a month and a half ago. And the feedback that I was getting from the channel was they didn't see a way to address the opportunities that were going past them,” says Edlund. Resellers and service providers couldn’t find solution partners, and didn’t have the cash to stand up a platform on their own. Connectivity, when it goes off the LAN, is incredibly difficult.
“All of those are things that we've tried to bring to bear so that the channel partners of ours, who really have this intimate relationship with our customers, have a very low cost entry point to start dipping their toe in the water and bringing end-to-end solutions for IoT to their customer base.”
The releases aim to address three main barriers for partners wanting to move into IoT services: Cost and connectivity, complexity and security.
Cost & Connectivity
Many devices on the IoT have a high degree of mobility or need to be deployed on a global footprint, and one of the big challenges partners face is having to establish carrier relationships with operators in every geo they want to work in. Utilizing its communications and media solutions software, HPE built the Mobile Virtual Network Enabler (MVNE) platform. Edlund explains that by purchasing data from carriers around the world, they’ve been able to eliminate the complexity of establishing different relationships, compiling different rate cards, and maintaining compliance with tax and regulatory standards.
“We do all of that,” says Edlund. “We provide them the connectivity on a platform for a single known rate that's very low cost. It's on the average revenue per use per month of like a dollar versus the fifty dollar rate you would see in a smartphone kind of environment.”
The Universal IoT platform manages the MVNE devices and essentially allows partners to sell IoT as a managed service. Rather than having to buy servers, software, support and the resources to integrate it all, UIoT packages these elements and provides a scalable solution with as much or as little support as partners need.
“That's really the second part of the announcement, is the standard spaced IoT platform that has this mobile connectivity that we can really give the VARs access to the tools at a price point that makes sense,” says Edlund. “They can go address these use cases that they've been hearing from their customers, that they really didn't have a mechanism to go do anything about it before.”
In the past, IoT solutions had to be cobbled together from disparate technologies and often configured separately for each customer. The new HPE Universal IoT platform lets partners build a template they can replicate between customers, avoiding the time-consuming and complicated work of building verticalized solutions, something Edlund cautions partners against.
“Beware of the trap,” he says. When partners develop a solution for one specific customer use case, they wind up building completely vertically integrated silos for each application. So whenever another opportunity presents itself, the work has to be done all over again. HPE Aruba has focused a lot of time and resources on complying with and participating in standards, particularly oneM2M. They then built a horizontally-focused platform that can support multiple industry vertical applications.
“Because of the horizontal nature of the platform, all of the data gets put into the platform in one data model, and it allows you to start to monetize value across all of the vertical use cases that you implement upon it,” he explains. “And you don't get into this situation where you're building a new platform for every vertical you want to address.”
Gilby says the variety of deployment options makes the solution scalable. Partners can deploy with Aruba’s on-premises management systems or leverage its cloud solutions.
“We've extended our switches now to be managed by Aruba Central, which is the cloud offering that partners can actually sell on a subscription basis,” says Gilby. “Back in our September release we added a managed service provider portal to that cloud offering. So now, for example, a partner can actually build a business where they can do a lot of the setup and management and replicate it, and then customers can manage their portion of the network. It allows the partners to scale that out, especially for their smaller customer base.”
The first IoT platform HPE released addressed very large enterprises through the CSP, Edlund says, companies with tens of millions of smart devices under their management. With the UIoT release, it’s hoping to simplify the platform.
“We've built a lightweight model of it that's much easier to deploy, manage and operate. We've on-boarded some of the new IoT protocol support. And so we're really trying to bring this platform down-market to a place where it can start to address more use cases through our channel partners, through VARs, through SIs, where we haven't been able to really engage with those partners the last couple of years,” says Edlund.
We only have to look at the recent attack on the Dyn network to see the vulnerability of IoT connected devices and the security risks they pose. HPE Aruba has introduced the ClearPass Universal Profiler, a software solution that’s deployed on a virtual machine or server that monitors traffic, analyzes patterns and assigns security profiles to each device it detects.
In addition, the new Aruba enterprise switch, along with driving down the cost per port for deploying IoT, also enables policy enforcement for IoT on the LAN. It’s a product of the work Aruba has done to integrate its technology with HP legacy solutions. The 2450 series can identify any device that plugs into it and assign a policy to enable QS, policing and even firewalling.
“For example, there's no reason a light needs access to my data center where I put my corporate data,” says Gilby. “We're able to identify that device and then assign a security profile so we can limit the access so we can only get to the control systems. It really reduces the exposure for risk from these IoT devices.”
HPE Aruba hopes the ClearPass products will enable a new generation of down-market channel partners to build and implement IoT solutions into their portfolios.
Charlie Koehler, Enterprise Architect at Optiv, says the ability to write broad definitions in policies is going to significantly simplify the management of data that IoT devices bring in.
“We no longer have to go in and do a bunch of manual classification, so we're able to go through and move through those processes a lot faster. There still are a few one off devices that come in that are brand new, but they've actually made it very easy to classify those devices,” he says. “I think it's actually made it to a point where it doesn't have to be verticalized.”
The new product suite may be an important first step to making IoT solutions accessible to average partners, but it’s still a scary step to take. Koehler says the most important thing is for partners to just jump in and get their hands dirty.
“It's not going to be something that's just easy right out of the books. It's actually diving into it for a little bit, playing with it in the lab and building some standardized deployment processes for your guys. It'll become a whole lot easier and a whole lot more repeatable, and be better for our customers in the long run.”