BYOD, MDM and the Fate of Servers: Q&A with Tech Data's Mobility Chief

A discussion with Tech Data's Joe Quaglia about the distributor's new BYOD platform and the state of IT's most explosive sector.

Joseph Quaglia is effectively chief mobility officer at Tech Data Corp. With the distribution giant since 2006, Quaglia a little over a year ago was named president of TDMobility, the joint mobility effort of Tech Data and Brightstar Corp. Quaglia holds that position in addition to his role as senior vice president of U.S. marketing.

TDMobility has been on a tear lately. The unit recently landed Verizon Wireless -- the largest of the U.S. carriers, rounding out TDMobility's ability to offer the four big U.S. carriers -- as an option for its partners to activate mobile devices on behalf of their customers. It's a high-margin opportunity in the expansive mobility space. TDMobility has also been adding partners at a good clip, ramping up to more than 700 authorized partners over the last few months.

Now, Tech Data is rolling out a much broader mobility framework for its 60,000 partners. Called TD BYOD, for Tech Data Bring Your Own Device, the framework includes partner portals and collects products from across Tech Data's catalog in a way that's logical for partners wanting to deliver complete mobility solutions to their customers.

Redmond Channel Partner magazine caught up with Quaglia at Tech Data's Channel Link event in Orlando, Fla., in mid-April for a conversation about TD BYOD and Quaglia's views of the mobile opportunity. (Questions and answers have been lightly edited for readability and continuity.)

BEKKER: You've rolled out a lot of enhancements with TDMobility lately, between adding Verizon Wireless and adding iPad activations on the network. How is that going?
Quaglia: Great. We're doing activations today. We've got a nice pipeline and there are thousands of activations ready to go. We probably got another 50 partners that came on board in the last two weeks just because of that.

Do you expect interest to keep building in that component of TDMobility?
Yes, it's going to keep building. But let's say a partner comes in because of the iPad activation opportunity. They'll start to see the bigger, broader mobility opportunity that exists outside of that. When you get additional tablet platforms, and when you add carriers and you start to look at the entire mobility stack all the way from the device to the datacenter, then you start to bring in a much more robust mobility solution to your customers. You might be the guy that just sells the device and the rate plans and does the activations, and that might be fine. Or you might be the guy that does the security or puts in the mobile device management and you're the infrastructure guy. Or you're a little bit of everything. It's so broad, and it covers so many categories all lumped into a single mobility category. It's quite robust for everybody.

How does the new TD BYOD strategy compare with what you've already been doing with TDMobility?
TDMobility tucks into that overall BYOD. It's one component of it where you have the activations, the devices, the carriers. That's just one piece. Then you've got all this other stuff that's part of that entire stack -- security, mobile device management, infrastructure, accessories. When you think of TD BYOD, you're thinking more of a higher-level strategy, which TDMobility falls under. TDMobility has a business all by itself, but it also feeds our overall BYOD strategy.

"It won't be long before IT gets totally out of the IT equipment business. They won't be issuing us PCs and laptops anymore. They're going to say, 'Here's a stipend, here's whatever, $400. That's going to cover your notebook, and if you need a tablet, here's another $300 or $400.'"

Joseph Quaglia, President of TDMobility and Senior VP of U.S. Marketing, Tech Data Corp

All those products you're talking about in TD BYOD are things that are currently offered. What are you bringing to it? Is it a framework? Is it marketing resources?
First, it's announcing what support we have across all those different categories. Identifying what those categories are and what they need to be.

So, framing the market and what it needs to consist of?
Yes. If I'm a partner and I've got a customer that has been trying to solve the mobile device management need, then they know that they can come to Tech Data and I've got a point product for them. They don't need to know the whole BYOD strategy, but they need to know that Tech Data can service them across this honeycomb of requirements for BYOD.

And then if somebody wanted the full end-to-end solution and to take it to their customer base, then what we're doing is the enablement piece to help our partners. So partners will sign up for our BYOD community. We'll take them through and we'll put them in an assembly line of certifications and enablement to make sure that they and their sales reps can go into a customer and speak to all of the components of BYOD -- and know that Tech Data can service them. It's not like we can talk about it and then we don't have anything to sell. If we want to put it under a managed service, we could do that. Or the partner could set up the portal for a customer, and tee that up for their employees so they can control the buying and use and what's brought into the network right off of their own buying portal. So it's flexible, but it's a cohesive strategy.

With all these mobility pieces, is there still a partner opportunity in server sales? Or are those servers going into carrier datacenters and datacenters for huge cloud vendors? Where are the servers going in?
It's both, because corporations are still buying servers to build private clouds. It doesn't mean that their old server technology that runs their applications has gone away. So it actually creates a multiplier effect for us, because they're not getting rid of the old, but they're buying new for new applications. At the same time, server farms are being built all over the place for these third parties -- call them aggregators or MSPs -- who are hosting those clouds and then serving those up. Microsoft is a good example, Google, Facebook. They all have server farms. But MSPs, guys like Rackspace and even our solution providers, if you asked the question, a lot of hands would have gone up. Many of these guys are MSPs themselves, so we're selling servers to them.

Meanwhile, mobility is adding a huge requirement for server capacity. For every 120 tablets you add another server. For every 600 smartphones you add another server. So, as you can imagine, tablets and smartphones take an [enormous] amount of content and consumption of IT resources. They didn't exist in the enterprise three or four years ago. Now you've got all these devices. If the average employee is consuming two or three hours more of content per day, imagine what that's doing to your infrastructure. It creates opportunities all the way down the stack.

What's the MDM piece been like? What's your impression of how much penetration there is?
It's early adoption right now, and it's in infancy on the maturity scale. RIM was the first to really bring MDM to the market. IT used to buy BlackBerry [devices], and they'd manage that. Now there are more offerings out there from guys like AirWatch and MaaS360, MobileIron and Microsoft. It's still relatively immature technology, but it really helps IT managers get their arms around all these devices that are proliferating in these networks.

It won't be long before IT gets totally out of the IT equipment business. They won't be issuing us PCs and laptops anymore. They're going to say, "Here's a stipend, here's whatever... $400. That's going to cover your notebook, and if you need a tablet, here's another $300 or $400."

If people are just buying from Best Buy or wherever, how do you and your partners stay in business?
That's where you always have to stay in front of the curve. We still have a pretty robust activation business, and when you do mobile rollouts of Ultrabooks, for example, to a mobile sales force, you still go through the channel. So a B2B rollout [won't be] "individual liable." Pharmaceutical companies are big there with their agents and their nurses and pre-sales people that go out to doctors. So there's still a pretty big opportunity there, but as the market changed it went from "corporate liable" to individual liable. That's why your BYOD platform with our portal helps out, because now a reseller can go to a customer and say, "We're going to give you the feed from Tech Data. We'll brand it as a reseller and your company. Put it on your intranet and allow your employees to buy whatever mobile product they want under one umbrella." It's as if I put T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T and Verizon all together under one store inside of an IT environment. Now you as the IT leader can set policy and say, "For every smartphone that you bring in that you buy, we're going to put a container on it that's going to help us secure the corporate data or we're going to have our reseller load these corporate apps that we want you to use." And we do all of that configuration.

The compute used to be with desktops and laptops. Now compute is moving to these other devices. The same paradigms exist. You still have to secure them. You still have to get them in the hands of end users. You still have to provide enough control and management. They still are an asset. Even though they're not a corporate liability asset, they're an asset because they come into the building, they come onto the network and corporate data flows through them. There's got to be some sanity to it, and it's a big nightmare right now.


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