Channel technologies

Big Data? Actually, the Channel Needs Business Insights

When it comes to the four big IT waves -- mobile, social, cloud and big data -- the IT channel is seemingly way behind on the big data conversation. But here's the twist: Data is the easy part. The channel -- vendors and their partners -- have plenty of data from which to work. The real challenge involves transforming big data into real, actionable business insights.

A growing list of players is attacking the problem. Four prime examples...

1. LogicNow LogicCards

Dana Bullister

LogicNow, which offers a growing suite of MSP automation tools, last week introduced LogicCards -- a big data and machine learning platform. Based on data from millions of managed nodes worldwide, LogicCards can predict which IT services a small business will need next, according to Data Scientist Dana Bullister.

"It's an intelligent notification engine for MSPs," Bullister mentioned during the Max 2015 conference last week in Washington, D.C. "To draw the data from millions of devices worldwide, you need to do more than transform it into more than analytics. It has to be actionable knowledge."

Do LogicCards work as advertised? I have no idea. But I'll be watching.

2. Clarity Intelligence Platform

Jim Lippie

Jim Lippie is a channel-friendly guy who helped to build Independence IT and Thrive Networks -- the MSP formerly owned by Staples. Over the past several months he's quietly focused on Clarity Intelligence Platform. The big data dashboard culls financial data from accounting systems like Quickbooks, and technical data from MSP management systems.

The net result? Lippie claims Clarity allows MSPs to give end-customers the total picture -- analyzing the financial and technical performance of an organization. Will MSPs and their customers sign up? Lippie certainly generated some great buzz at LogicNow's conference last week. But I'll be curious to see if customers will share their financial data with MSPs, and if MSPs can offer real insights on the data.

3. Corelytics

Frank Coker

When it comes to predictive analytics and visual business intelligence, Corelytics CEO Frank Coker has been preaching to the small business masses for several years now. Analytics for service providers? Coker was ahead of the curve on that one. Still is.

4. Service Leadership Inc.

Paul Dippell

Service Leadership Inc.'s platform gathers data from multiple service providers, creates benchmark results, and allows the participating service providers to measure their performance against the broader industry.

CEO Paul Dippell is a service provider veteran -- having worked on M&A deals for All Covered and several other players. While I wouldn't call Service Leadership's approach to be a big data platform, Dippell certainly is a data hound -- and he understands the value of big data systems.

Who's Next?

For several years now, I've openly wondered if or how PSA (professional services automation) software providers will leverage the big data wave.

When Dell killed off its PacketTrap PSA system, for instance, I wondered if Michael Dell understood the system's true value -- the ability for a cloud system to capture and analyze small business IT spending patterns, product reliability and so many other metrics. The type of metrics that would have simplified how Dell -- and its channel partners -- drove cross-sell and upsell opportunities in the small business sector.

I've also wondered how big distributors -- particularly Ingram Micro Cloud -- will glean insights from all the data they're gathering. Ingram, after all, has a data system behind the curtains. But I haven't heard much about the insights that the system offers.

I'm not alone in my curiosity. During a keynote last week at LogicNow's partner conference, Dippell raised very similar questions about existing small business systems -- and their ability to adapt for big data.

We're starting to get more answers -- through launches like LogicCards. But I suspect more answers will emerge -- a lot more -- before 2015 closes.

The data is everywhere across the channel. In some cases, you can call that information big data. Next step: True business insights. And increasingly, those insights will come from machine learning.

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.