Category Archives: Enterprise IT

Securing digital transformation a key opportunity for channel growth in 2019

Digital transformation offers huge growth opportunities for the channel in 2019. But recent events have also highlighted the importance of secure digital solutions, with over 59,000 breach reports already submitted to GDPR regulators since May 2018. This bears out some of the key predictions for the industry made in a new report from CONTEXT. With the right market intelligence to hand, channel bosses should be well positioned to navigate the challenges that come their way this year.

Securing digital growth
In our Technology and Channel Predictions 2019 report we point to the secure management of data as a key driver of channel growth in the digital transformation push. New stats from DLA Piper released last week confirm exactly this: that organisations are now much more aware of data security. The law firm claimed there has been an average of over 7300 breach reports each month since the legislation was introduced.

Another new report, from Thales eSecurity, reveals not only that organisations are motoring ahead with their digital transformation plans, but that they are struggling to contain the increased cyber risk that these projects are exposing them to. Complexity — for example in managing multiple cloud environments — was highlighted as the top barrier to data security. This is where channel partners can offer a real value-add, in helping their customers embrace innovation-fuelled growth but in a secure and compliant manner.

Some industry watchers, like Accenture, even believe that we’re now entering a “post-digital” world, where success will increasingly be defined by how innovatively organisations can apply technologies like AI, distributed ledgers and even quantum computing. The consultancy’s new report also highlights the importance of cyber security to the success of projects.

Brexit and beyond
As we mention in our predictions report, Brexit is the great imponderable for 2019. As I write this, the British government still seems a long way off providing the kind of orderly departure from the EU which businesses crave. As we warn in the report, a no-deal exit would cause a serious impact on trade between the UK and EU, forcing the former onto WTO tariffs and no doubt resulting in a major drop in the value of the pound. That’s why distributors on both sides of the channel who rely on cross-border supplies should have a contingency plan in place including enough stock to cover any initial period of disruption.

One distributor heeding this advice appears to be Westcoast, which recently told CRN that it had bought 3,000 extra pallet locations in two storage warehouses to stockpile a “large amount” of product. However, MD Alex Tatham appeared less than convinced about the preparedness levels in other parts of the channel. “It is amazing how many vendors have not got their own Brexit strategy organised — they haven’t woken up yet,” he’s reported as saying.

It goes without saying that Brexit isn’t the only challenge facing channel players in 2019. But although year-on-year growth in distribution won’t match last year’s 6.7%, we’ll still see positive growth for the year ahead. By tapping secure digital transformation and Industry 4.0 trends effectively, firms stand a great chance of weathering the Brexit storm and other factors like slowing demand in EU economies.

by Adam Simon

 

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New for the IT channel in 2019: a look ahead with CONTEXT industry predictions

It’s been another fascinating year in the IT channel, and one characterised to a large extent by stability and reseller optimism. Distribution revenue was up 5.7% year-on-year in the nine months to 30th September, 2018, and the number of resellers partnered with distributors on the CONTEXT panel changed little from last year, with an increase in average spend per reseller. What’s more, in our ChannelWatch survey we recorded only four countries less positive about the next 12 months than when the survey was performed a year ago.

So, what can we expect of the year ahead? We asked our expert market watchers in three key categories. Continue reading

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Black Hat Europe takes centre stage as security spending rises

It was Black Hat Europe time again this week. For anyone in any doubt about the scale of the cybersecurity challenge facing organisations today, I’d encourage them to read up on the latest insights into forward-looking threats. What you will find out may be rather unnerving.

The good news for the channel, however, is that organisations appear to be responding to these challenges, in part thanks to the regulatory drivers of GDPR and NIS Directive compliance. CONTEXT data reveals that enterprise security revenues for IT distributors in the first ten months of 2018 were up 10.1% year-on-year.

Safety first
As the name implies, Black Hat Europe is unremittingly tech-centric: a show by and for cybersecurity professionals. But the very fact that it’s able to fill out a large part of the cavernous ExCel every year, and hold sold-out events in the US and Asia, is testament to how far the security industry has come since the show’s inception in 1997. In their opening keynotes, Black Hat founder, Jeff Moss, and Marina Kaljurand, chair of the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace, echoed these sentiments. No-one was talking about cybersecurity in 2004, she said, but 14 years later it’s very much at the centre of governments’ national security plans and corporate risk management.

This has been driven in part thanks to a steady stream of major cyber-attacks and breaches over the years: originating from both nation state operatives and financially motivated cybercrime gangs. Most recently, incidents affecting half a billion Marriott International customers and 100 million Quora users have hit the headlines. The former could be on the receiving end of a major GDPR fine.

As CONTEXT noted a fortnight ago, the data protection legislation will continue to be the biggest single driver for increased security spending in the months to come. We can also expect a bump in spending after the first major fines are issued. So far, just one regulator has imposed a financial penalty, when €20,000 was levied against German chat app operator Knuddels. This is likely to change soon. Although it has garnered less publicity, the NIS Directive is also important: maximum possible fines levied under the regime go as high as the GDPR. We can therefore also expect to see firms in certain critical infrastructure sectors like water, healthcare, and transport to increase spending.

Where is spending targeted?
In the meantime, we noted growth in IT distribution revenues across all major cybersecurity categories. The biggest came in data protection and recovery products (62%), albeit from a much smaller base. Endpoint security (11%) and enterprise network security (6%) spending accounted for most sales. These are likely to continue to increase going forward as organisations look to get ahead of current threats and stay compliant.

The growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) will help to drive this spending, as security teams look to gain visibility and control over an expanding number of smart endpoints. Research from Trend Micro at Black Hat highlighted serious vulnerabilities and security shortcomings associated with two of the most common M2M protocols, MQTT and CoAP. Over just a fourth-month period the researchers claim these channels exposed over 219 million messages globally, putting firms at risk from targeted attacks, industrial espionage and DoS.

To manage this kind of risk effectively going forward, security bosses will need to make the right investment decisions to support a comprehensive security strategy fit for the new regulatory regime.

by AS

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Blockchain – Real-world applications springing from the ashes of recent hype

In recent years the Middle-Eastern nations have been at the forefront of new technology adoption. An early indicator of the visionary adoption of new ‘smart’ technologies was announced in 2014, as Dubai’s leader and local government announced the Smart Dubai strategy. The aim is to “provide seamless services to the public” over 6 key pillars: Transport, Communications, Infrastructure, Electricity, Economic Services and Urban Planning. Hundreds of individual initiatives are now underway, many of which are seeing great success and rapid implementation, such as electric car charging stations, free public WiFi and monitoring stations for weather and pollution. Such huge successes in the project over the last 4 years have been repeated in other cities globally, and now many of these technologies are becoming common-place in the world’s technology capitals.

One initiative in particular, however, truly is ground-breaking and, once fully operational, will allow Dubai to call itself the world’s Blockchain capital. Through collaboration with tech giant IBM, the Smart Dubai team recently announced the Dubai Blockchain Platform – the enabler for many of the paperless, frictionless initiatives that form part of the 6-pillar strategy. IBM will build and manage the platform, which will be hosted locally in the UAE, based on their latest LinuxONE technology. This infrastructure will allow for super-high bandwidth performance and will pave the way to make the city’s systems centrally managed though a “united portal” in the coming years. As an early win, the Smart Dubai team announced that the ‘Dubai Pay Blockchain Settlement and Reconciliation System’ has already been embedded onto the platform, with the target of being the first applied initiative which will reduce friction in inter-department payments and automate many of the existing settlement processes.

Additionally, the platform will be opened up to businesses who wish to adopt Blockchain services and solutions. Until today the barriers to entry have been vast, from lack of knowledge and data science skills to the upfront cost of hardware and software required to develop a specialised system. IBM plan to create options for using the platform under a blockchain-as-a-service model, reducing those barriers and allowing for wider-spread experimentation and application. In the case of the IT channel in the region, the platform could be used as a testbed for a number of business initiatives, such as:

  • Partner Programme Management – Centralising the process of tracking purchases between a distributor and their resellers, and enabling them to rebate effectively through their loyalty programmes.
  • Through-Partner Marketing – Understanding the successfulness of marketing campaigns, through direct tracking of response rates, click-through and location information.
  • MDF Optimisation – Managed via smart contracts to ensure that funds are used appropriately, with an added bonus of tracking the ROI more efficiently.
  • … and many more

Therefore, Smart Dubai and IBM are opening up a centralised, relatively barrier-free and cost-effective method for testing the true potential of the Blockchain, beyond the hype which followed the spectacular rise and fall of cryptocurrencies in 2017/18. It goes to show that sticking with an initiative and quietly executing on it, whilst the rest of the world rides the wave of hype, really can pay off.

by TP

 

 

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Trump’s tariff war – the challenge for IT procurement departments

As the tech world prepares to take on the threat of an increase in US tariffs from 1st January 2019, we look at how the procurement function deals with macro-economic events which impact the cost of IT products. 7 years ago it was the Thai floods which caused a worldwide shortage of hard drives. The Thai market was the second largest producer of hard drives after China, and the floods impacted the supply of 30% of global production. The result was a large hike in prices, and delays in the production of PC’s. It was not all necessarily bad news for the manufacturers who were able to reset expectations and raise prices in a competitive market. But how do procurement departments navigate in a time of increasing IT product costs and how they can assess how real and long-lasting these changes are?

There is no shortage of such issues. Currently there is a shortage of Intel processors due to unexpected growth in the PC industry, according to Intel CEO, Bob Swann. For the earlier part of this year, (as can be seen on the graph showing ASP’s) the cost of RAM has increased significantly due to shortage of supply only stabilising in recent months.

RAM

Source: CONTEXT SalesWatch Distribution – Europe + Russia + Turkey

And last year there was a large increase in the price of graphic cards due to the increase in gaming PC sales and the use of graphics cards in bitcoin mining in Russia.

ASP

Source: CONTEXT SalesWatch Distribution – Europe + Russia + Turkey

In each of these cases the root of the price increase was a shortage of components. So the parallel with the threat of tariffs is very relevant, as the major impact of the currently announced tariffs is on components and raw materials – leather (the new HP Spectre Folio), glass envelopes and fans used in computers, screws, stainless steel, printed circuit assemblies, certain monitors, and, the item which has caused Cisco and Juniper to increase their prices, switching and routing apparatus. What no procurement department wants to hear the IT vendor say is “Sorry, the tariffs are causing increases in the cost of components which means we have to put the price up by 10%”.

So, we expect that there will be standoffs and all parties will try to work round these issues.

  • IT manufacturers will get creative in the coming months to plan as effectively as possible for the next round of tariffs and return to practices from another age which in an era of ever increasing free-trade may have been forgotten. Tariff engineering is one such term – the “adapting of an item [being imported] so that [the importer doesn’t] have to pay any levy.” Is this the time to engineer out the need for fans in a computer and to find another way of achieving the same goal?
  • Switching the place where a product is manufactured may also be a choice, but this needs long-term planning, and in all likelihood, the endgame of President Trump is not to create a long-term trade war but to get a new deal with China on their level of imports from the US, and with Mexico and Europe for revised car trading deals. Apple is one of the companies potentially under threat as 100% of their smartphone production is based in China. So far, through successful lobbying they managed to get the Apple Watch out of the first wave of tariffs. But will they be as successful with the second wave in January 2019 or will they have to consider relocating smartphone production?
  • IT procurement departments will be pushing for more and more visibility into underlying component costs. This will involve both open book cost visibility of vendors sharing their own procurement data, as well as recourse to 3rd parties who provide independent verification of price indices.
  • IT procurement will also want to track closely the impact of price movements over time – increases do not flow through the supply chain immediately whilst there is inventory at the old prices. Visibility into the supply chain is vital from sell-in to distribution (for those products which go through the channel) and then to end-user. When new prices flow through, the impact should be clearly identifiable at each stage. Then in the case of tariffs, which are likely to be short-lived, transparency about the removal of the price constraint is necessary for procurement.

One of the unintended consequences of the Trump tariff war, may be a greater collaboration and transparency between procurement departments and the manufacturers of IT products, and a consequent increase in efficiency.

by MK

For more insights, please join our webinar on the 6th December, titled Technology and the trade war – navigating your way through the tariffs

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Why using the right type of Analytics is the most important factor in gaining true insight

Everyone in the market research industry knows that we’re drowning in data. But the mere fact that there is lots of it, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more useful than back in 2013 when there was only about 1/8th of today’s total available amount [1]. The key is whether that data is A. ‘analysable’ (i.e. databased, processed, categorised and readily available), and B. analysed well. Continue reading

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35 Years and counting… stories from the IT frontline

In this latest post, CEO and co-founder Jeremy Davies reflects on the IT infrastructure challenges during the first few years at CONTEXT.

One of the reasons why working at CONTEXT in the early days was exciting, was that our work combined the business side with deep interest in emerging PC technologies. Balancing budgets and wanting to keep ahead of the curve was both challenging and fun. Continue reading

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