Guest Column | December 3, 2013

Reasons VARs Should Consider Tapping Into Big Data

Tom Berarducci, Director of Platform Product Management, Zebra Technologies

Do a Google search for the term Big Data and an endless sea of pages flood your screen with company ads, links to websites, news reports, press releases, and blogs. You’ll also see a variety of sources attempting to define Big Data and what it really means for consumers, businesses, entire industries, and, of course, government.

But no matter how it’s defined, Big Data means big opportunity for IT channel partners. Not surprisingly, market size estimates for Big Data vary, but according to a report published earlier this year by Transparency Market Research, “Big Data Market – Global Scenario, Trends, Industry Analysis, Size, Share and Forecast, 2012 – 2018″, the global Big Data market was worth 6.3 billion in 2012 and is expected to reach 48.3 billion by 2018. Regardless of the actual market size, there’s no better time than now for VARs, independent software vendors (ISVs), managed services providers (MSPs), and systems integrators to move aggressively into what has clearly become a burgeoning market.

Whether it is retail, healthcare, manufacturing, transportation and logistics, or another industry, VARs should be thinking about products, services, and technology they can deliver that help companies in these markets generate and capture data that improves efficiency and productivity and lowers operating costs. IT channel partners can add even greater value by looking at how data can be analyzed and used to reveal deeper insights and visibility into processes, operations, relationships, and the value chain. VARs that have this capability can help transform Big Data into Better Data that drives more informed and intelligent business decisions.

So what should VARs, ISVs, MSPs, and systems integrators be looking for in a partner, and what technologies and markets should they focus on? First and foremost, VARs need a partner they can trust; one that has a strong reputation and years of experience solving complex problems in the markets they serve. When VARs evaluate potential partners, they should be assured they’ll not only have the opportunity to help companies improve visibility into their operations to gain efficiencies and grow their businesses, but will also have access to tools, expertise, training and support to grow their businesses.

Today, there are a number of existing Big Data business opportunities for VARs with more on the way. The four already mentioned — retail, healthcare, manufacturing, and transportation and logistics — all meet the basic criteria VARs should evaluate when considering their Big Data business strategy. They all have complex value chains and multiple dependencies on data both within and outside their organizations. Also, these four large industries accommodate consumers who are wildly different now than they were as recently as 10 years ago. Lastly, they spontaneously create data that has intrinsic value if captured and analyzed properly.
VARs should view Big Data market opportunities and invest in them on a case-by-case basis, balancing risk and reward. Because Big Data business opportunities come with challenges, VARs must consider them closely as they develop and implement their business strategy.

These challenges require VARs to:

  • Seamlessly knit together all of the necessary hardware components
  • Change their mindset and look at things from an end-user’s point of view
  • Understand that sometimes Big Data puts fear into organizations
  • Make a compelling business case for Big Data and sell your value proposition in a way that’s easy to understand

Of course, every business opportunity worth pursuing has a unique set of challenges. But that didn’t stop one Zebra VAR from embracing a challenge with a medical device manufacturer that requires, among other things, verification of serialized products before they leave the manufacturing faculty. Using a layered approach, coupled with an Auto ID-based machine vision system, the VAR implemented a solution that uses data more often to efficiently and effectively meet the customer’s needs. That means more frequent verification of serialized products at all stages of the manufacturing process; all the way through to boxing and shipping.

A variety of technologies are needed to enable VARs to successfully deploy Big Data services that make manufacturing operations, like the one at the medical device company, more efficient. These include radio frequency identification (RFID), real-time locating systems (RTLS), Auto-ID, GPS, and micro-servers. Mobility technology will also continue to play an important role in Big Data.

Looking ahead, technology is only one part of the answer to fully leveraging the promise of Big Data. As data volumes continue to grow and become more massive, VARs and manufacturing companies must employ proven analytics to draw meaningful conclusions from clean, filtered and correlated data to produce high-quality decisions. And then take that information to the next step and use it for modeling and predictive analysis to identify and solve problems before they happen.


Zebra now offers Zatar, which allows businesses of all sizes to generate and analyze Big Data in their operations using smart, connected devices linked to a globally-accessible, cloud-based system. Cloud-connected devices and sensors can help companies collect data on the identity, location and condition of devices, allowing them to rapidly make better business decisions.