While 2020 has been a highly disrupted and unpredictable year, businesses are proving to be resilient, dynamic, adaptable and see opportunity in the recovery beyond COVID-19. As one KPMG report has noted, revenue growth over the next three years will come from digital offerings and operations at a massively accelerated scale (80 per cent). Capitalising on this opportunity means digital transformation, and there is a big role for the channel to play in facilitating this.
“Over the last six months we’ve seen that some companies were more prepared for having to react to the situation than others,” Mark Fioretto, Senior Vice President of Enterprise, Dell Technologies, said. “Those who were further down the path of digital transformation have been able to pivot a lot faster.”
Schneider Electric ANZ VP of Secure Power, Joe Craparotta, agreed, and said that the success in the channel will be focused on being able to deliver certainty of outcome and technology. “Going forward, providing certainty in an uncertain world, certainty around what an outcome might look like, that's the key in the partnership going forward.”
Dell Technologies, in partnership with APC by Schneider Electric, has been actively working at supplying customers with edge computing solutions as part of the transformation journey. As computing environments have become more disperse, agile, and flexible, and as demand for low-latency and real-time data applications has increased, edge computing has been a cornerstone of many technology deployments.
“The collaboration between APC and Dell Technologies is a longstanding one,” Fioretto said. “We've long provided for the ability for customers to protect and extend their IT capability, whether that's in a data center, or at a device level. Over the last six months, we've really seen that partnership strengthened… because the need now for that ability to protect and extend the environment is increased.”
These ways of working that have been established through the pandemic is not going away. The accelerated focus on edge solutions and hybrid environments combining local datacentres, cloud and on-premises technology has centred on resilience and “keeping the lights on” across 2020, however, going forward, organisations and individuals will want to leverage these new ways of working strategically. Skillsoft research shows that with nine in ten people are now returning to a “normal” working life across the APAC region, 89 per cent of employees want at least one COVID-19 practice adopted permanently.
For businesses in the channel, this means ongoing engagement around further deepening transformation strategies. “The real benefit that the customers have been able to get from the partnership is they've been able to plot out a strategy now that enables them to extend their capabilities,” Fioretto said.
As Craparotta noted, all sectors have been impacted on by events of the year. Some have struggled, such as tourism and traditional bricks-and-mortar retail. Others have found new opportunity, such as logistics, online retail, or home entertainment. Regardless of the sector, however, the technology needs have changed, and adoption of transformation and innovation has been moved forward, in some cases by many years.
In healthcare, for example, in April and May of 2020 alone, CSIRO data shows that there were close to six million telehealth consultations conducted in Australia. For a country that was previously a laggard on telehealth (pre-COVID-19 there were just 8.8 telehealth consultations per 1,000 people), the push to telehealth has helped Australian healthcare modernise rapidly.
While healthcare may have been the clearest use case for the ability for organisations to rapidly leverage technology to achieve COVID-safe environments, there were other sectors that were equally successful, Craparotta added. “Education is a top-three employer in this country, and we saw it there, too,” Craparotta said. “We saw education investing in edge devices so they could push down courses and stream video and do online learning practically. I see retail in the whole world of omni-channel, really investing hard on multi-channel coming together, between the social media, digital, and bricks-and-mortar. We continue to see these edge stories coming in.”
The looming reality of 5G wireless technologies will further facilitate transformation and innovation, particularly where edge solutions are, in offering greater speeds and minimal latency. At a time where enterprises will be otherwise risk-adverse with budgeting, it will be up to the channel to articulate the benefits of 5G and champion solutions that help businesses meet their transformation objectives.
“5G facilitates artificial intelligence, IoT and other technologies, and you can multiply that by whatever volume you decide,” Fioretto said. “However, the amount of data that needs to be transported at the edge of the network is going to increase significantly. And so, we see 5G and edge server technology, as compute technology, both feeding each other but being co-dependent.”
“Our industry has always consumed all the capacity that's ever available,” Craparotta added. “It's important to note that it will saturate at some point, and so it's important to continue to build architectures that can work to the limitations that will exist and also the capacity that's coming onboard as well.
“5G is about making sure that the architecture in the channel is providing to the end user, also connects that edge to the telecommunication's conversation as well.”
With businesses upbeat about emerging from the challenges of 2020 in a strengthened position thanks to the technology investments that they are making, the ongoing role of the channel will be to highlight the value of technology as solutions. No single point solution will deliver the kind of agility, innovation, and resilience that the modern enterprise is looking for. Being able to build holistic solutions from top-tier vendors in collaboration will be key for driving transformation success.
For more on edge computing, 5G, business resilience and innovation, watch this exclusive interview moderated by Nextgen Distribution Director, Susan Searle, between Mark Fioretto and Joe Craparotta here.