The COVID-19 pandemic is highlighting the importance of faster development as channel partners race to build systems for clients dealing with the economic fallout.
Approaches for accelerating critical application development include employing low-code technology, using pre-built frameworks and making design decisions that save time. Service providers and systems integrators in recent weeks have been tasked with rapidly creating systems for public and private sector customers combating COVID-19.
In one example, ThoughtWorks, a software consultancy based in Chicago, was able to harness a Microsoft chatbot framework to create a chatbot for the Department of Veterans Affairs in about four weeks. The VA needed a chatbot to handle an uptick in veterans' inquiries regarding COVID-19. Industry executives predicted increasing interest among government agencies in chatbots and virtual assistants even before the pandemic hit.
"We looked at a couple of different chatbot frameworks," said Mike McCormack, senior client principal for North America at ThoughtWorks, and a product manager on the chatbot project. "With the VA's help, we concluded Microsoft was the best fit for getting something done very quickly."
The VA chatbot uses the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's COVID-19 symptom checker, which also uses Microsoft's chatbot framework, the Health Bot Service.
The use of existing components reduced the amount of development needed to put the bot into service. "A lot of the functionality was built in," said Ramya Ramesh, product manager at ThoughtWorks. "There wasn't really much from a customization perspective that you had to do."
McCormack noted that the VA chatbot is based on a decision-tree approach versus free-text input. Decision-tree, or rules-based, chatbots are typically faster to train than free-text chatbots that use machine learning to understand and respond to users' questions.
The decision-tree prototype was also more likely to lead users to the desired information without a mismatch of expectations between the chatbot and user when tested against free-text input, Ramesh said. She added the chatbot has answered nearly twice as many queries that VA contact centers answered in the same period of time -- from late April when the chatbot launched through the week of June 22.
Low-code technology meets COVID-19
Low-code development is another approach supporting faster development for COVID-19 uses cases. Vantiq, a low-code development platform for real-time applications, is teaming up with systems integrators and technology partners that are building pandemic-related applications.
Vantiq last month entered a partnership with RoviSys, an integrator based in Aurora, Ohio. Under the arrangement, RoviSys is using Vantiq's platform to create COVID-19 detection and containment applications for manufacturing plants, among other customers. Also last month, Vantiq launched its Back-to-Work Accelerator, which the company said provides pre-built components and device integrations to help developers build applications for symptom detection, virtual queueing and access control.
"We are focusing on working with systems integrators," said David Sprinzen, director of product marketing at Vantiq. He said those companies are learning how to use Vantiq's technology to build applications for customers.
Vantiq CEO Marty Sprinzen said about 40 customers have deployed or are designing or developing COVID-19 applications using the company's platform. Partners work with about 90% of those customers, he said. He added that the same holds true for other types of client projects.
"Our go-to-market is through partners," Sprinzen said, noting the exception is large IT departments that build their own systems.
He said benchmark tests have shown applications built, tested and deployed using Vantiq in one or two weeks would take six months to a year to build using a combination of other technologies. The Vantiq platform incorporates an event broker, a screen designer and the ability to distribute logic to multiple locations -- capabilities that would normally require developers to use a series of discrete products, according to Vantiq.
HPE expands GreenLake partner opportunities
Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) launched new partner offerings and initiatives at its virtual Partner Growth Summit this week.
The expanded partner offers centered largely on HPE GreenLake cloud services and software. GreenLake cloud services can now be procured in small, medium and large configurations, using a pre-integrated building block approach that makes it easier to provide quotes to customers and speed up delivery, HPE said.
HPE also introduced a catalog of new HPE GreenLake products for distributed environments, including cloud services for containers; virtual machines, storage and compute; data protection; and networking. The catalog is available on HPE GreenLake Central, an operational console for monitoring GreenLake cloud services.
HPE noted it will add partner functionality to the HPE GreenLake Central platform in 2021, with plans to give partners a unified view of customer data and insight into how to engage customers or sell additional services.
Additionally, the vendor expanded its HPE GreenLake for Partners Program with more selling options. Partners can now sell scalable object storage with Scality RING, consumption-based data protection with Veeam, and HPE GreenLake Management Services through the program.
HPE claims more than 700 partners actively sell HPE GreenLake products today.
Other updates targeted HPE's partner e-learning resources, via the HPE Pro Series communities for technical, sales and marketing professionals.
New enablement resources include education on building container practices and skills. Container and software competencies will be added to the HPE Partner Ready program. HPE said new content on the HPE Ezmeral Container Platform will be introduced to the HPE Sales Pro and HPE Tech Pro communities.
Security vendors launch, update channel programs
Several security vendors launched or updated partner programs this week. Here's the rundown:
- Armis, an enterprise IoT security company based in Palo Alto, Calif., unveiled a two-tier partner program that offers training, roadmap briefings, joint marketing and business development funds, among other features. The level of support partners receive depends on the tier -- Gold or Platinum -- they participate in. Armis partners include World Wide Technology and CriticalStart.
- Circadence Corp., a cybersecurity education and training company based in Boulder, Colo., took the wraps off a channel program. Partners can sell three subscription offerings for providing Circadence's Project Ares, a gamified training and learning platform. The subscriptions can be sold monthly or annually. Program features include recurring revenue on renewals, discounts on internal licenses and access to sales enablement tools and co-branded marketing materials.
- CyberGRX, a global risk exchange based in Denver, said its partner program has onboarded 33 partners since its launch in June 2019. The company works with technology resellers, managed security service providers, consulting firms and systems integrators.
- Pharos Inc., which provides a security-economics SaaS platform, entered a partnership with Indelible LLC, a cybersecurity consulting firm. The alliance aims to offer software and consulting services to customers in the U.S. and Canada.
- Cyxtera, a data center colocation and interconnection services provider, revamped its partner program. New features include an Influencer Referral Partner Program, which offers incentives for partner-led referrals. In addition, the Coral Gables, Fla., company has appointed Nicholas Voth as its new vice president of global channel strategy and sales.
- Secure-24 has kicked off an SAP Migration Factory on AWS, a collection of best practices, processes tools and technologies for executing a migration strategy. Secure-24, based in Southfield, Mich., is part of NTT Ltd.'s Managed Services division.
- Clear Skye, an identity governance and administration vendor, rolled out the Elevate global partner program for systems integrators and consulting services firms. The program offers product training, co-marketing and resale options, and opportunities to develop modules and integrations using Clear Skye's technology.
- Cloud distributor Pax8 partnered with NewCloud Networks to provide cloud storage and compute resources for Veeam Cloud Connect Backup and Disaster Recovery. NewCloud Networks is a Platinum-level Veeam Cloud and Service Provider with nine data center locations across the U.S., Pax8 said.
- Axcient, a provider of business availability software for MSPs, released a new business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) SaaS product, x360Recover. The product integrates three of Axcient's previous BCDR products: Replibit, BRC and Fusion.
- Datto said Radhesh Menon has joined its executive management team as chief product officer. Menon will oversee the Norwalk, Conn., company's product strategy to "develop offerings that support MSPs" and their SMB customers, according to Datto.
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