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Dr. Ali Baghdadi, SVP and chief executive META, Ingram Micro shares with Channel Middle East the company’s evolution from a VAD to a technology specialist and micro-vendor with a target to be the largest cyber security consultant and service provider by 2021 by Sarah Rizvi
Over the course of the years, Ingram Micro has strengthened its security business, amplified its cloud offerings, partnered with new vendors, added new services, named authorised training provider, expanded hybrid solutions portfolio and so much more.
Dr. Ali Baghdadi, SVP and chief executive META at Ingram Micro shares how the company evolved beyond a value-added distributor and sheds light on the cyber security side of its business.
Ingram Micro is already a 50 billion US dollar company with its global cybersecurity practice amounting to two billion dollars last year alone. With global sales in over 160 countries, 50-billion-dollar revenue, over 200k customers, more than 1700 vendors, and numerous service and logistics centres, Ingram Micro has come a long way.
However, this is just the tip of the iceberg, says Dr. Ali Baghdadi, as Ingram Micro evolves to be a technology specialist, service provider and micro vendor. He shares the firm’s vision to not only top the distribution segment but also be the largest global cyber security consultant and service provider by the year 2021.
“We are way beyond what they used to call a value added distributor that just has some pre-sales, technical and post-sales installation. We are a service provider and a solution provider, with our own products making us a semi-vendor, but we are the vendor that everyone loves. Vendors even come to us and participate in developing these solutions. Couple this with how we deliver pre-sales to our customers, in parallel to just the standard technical ability that may be available from other distributors, I believe we are able to offer real value add to our partners.”
Cyber security has always been a prime focus for Ingram Micro, and the distributor decided to expand its business offerings by investing heavily into the region. This started with multi-million-dollar investments in establishing three cyber security centres of excellence (COE) throughout EMEA region, the first being in Dubai followed by two in Europe. The COE offer additional support to customers and vendor partners in terms of specialised training, support, managed services, solution architecting and consulting services.
Cyber security solutions are in high demand and Ingram Micro is leveraging its customer and vendor relationships to support their needs. Our aim is to be the largest cyber security solution provider and consultant in the world by the year 2021.
In order to emphasise on how the company’s cyber security has grown, Dr. Baghdadi says, “We have already built a significant business, but to be the number one we have to go way beyond this, however, our vision is much more than just growing in numbers.”
Over the past few years, Ingram Micro has made significant investments in the region, in terms of product portfolio, emerging technologies, technical expertise, research and development, and skills development. The company has also established cyber security centres of excellence, remote services for partners, SOC as a service for partners and IM cloud platform in nine countries.
Dr. Baghdadi has been tasked with spearheading the company’s EMEA-wide cyber security division and he emphasises that the company has evolved to act as trusted advisor to its partners. “Cyber security solutions are in high demand and Ingram Micro is leveraging its customer and vendor relationships to support their needs. Our aim is to be the largest cyber security solution provider and consultant in the world by the year 2021.”
Ingram Micro has a business intelligence unit responsible for ensuring that the company is able to identify which emerging technologies to prioritise. It also has experts in vertical markets that predict if a technology will create a market or even enhance or replace another. The idea behind this initiative is to create end-to-end solutions that complement existing cyber security vendor products, and include educating customers and end users on the need for protection.
For technology adoption to be successful, training and skills development play an important role in empowering channel partners with the right expertise. While members of the IT industry realise its importance, many are still faced by budget constraints that do not allow them to invest in providing professional training to their staff.
“There is a new generation of vendors, specifically in cyber security that is using new technologies particularly ‘true’ machine learning and deep learning to identify and predict vulnerabilities, and therefore have an early prevention program,” adds Dr. Baghdadi.
Ingram Micro has taken steps to ensure that its partners are well equipped to understand the cyber security market and its demands, along with partner and end-user requirements to furnish the right products and services. In addition to tools available with the vendors, the distributor has devised its own software tools that can identify vulnerabilities in a company. Coupling that with education and training programmes, Ingram Micro has created its own course material that can be delivered both remotely or at customer sites.
In addition to this, there are training sessions for C-level executives and in specialised areas, such as GDPR, risk management and compliance as well as many industry certification courses, where Ingram Micro has employed certified trainers. The company also offers certifications for advanced security professionals like CISOs and CISSPs, in addition to ethical hacking certificates. It further incentivises its own employees to attend training courses and specialise in their respective fields.
Ingram Micro also has highly certified solution architects who are deeply involved in designing cyber security products. The solution architects have experience in network and information security domains and solid understanding of security solutions, information security management and operations, application and network security related products, and security operations centres. As an added support to resellers, these architects accompany them to end user visits and offer their expertise in identifying customer requirements and catering to their specific needs.
The distributor has built six security operations centres or SOCs throughout the EMEA region – in India, UAE, Jordan, Egypt and Germany – to offer additional support to partners and customers. These SOCs offer remote testing to assess performance and service availability, and round the clock monitoring security events to predict and detect security threats and attacks.
Realising the importance of protecting any investments in technology, Ingram Micro has maintained its focus on developing security capabilities both in the cyber world and physical. Consequently, the VAD has made additional investments in physical security to add intelligence to surveillance techniques, recognition and access control.
Ingram Micro achieved this by acquiring Network Information Technology (NIT), gaining the company a foothold in the physical security market through NIT’s existing operations in 16 countries. This enabled the distributor to expand its footprint in the region and gain not only a robust physical security solutions portfolio, but also a well-developed channel network in the enterprise and SMB market, credit facilities, training and other professional services.
“Ingram Micro is always on the lookout for new partners, but it may not always be the big names that we on-board. What makes a difference for us is the products and technologies they have.”
In addition to investing on partnerships and acquisitions, Ingram Micro is also committed to developing tools, processes and technical expertise of its employees and partners. Ingram Micro further added intelligence to NIT’s offerings by establishing its own IoT and AI business unit.
Launched in 2018, the IoT business unit has grown to be a centre of excellence, a solutions provider and a point of expertise for Ingram Micro’s partners. This dedicated unit develops customised solutions for enterprises in the IoT and AI space, and has opened opportunities for the reseller community. It is also responsible for predicting new ways to save money and has developed software for logistics companies to save on petrol and delivery time by 30-40 percent. Such advancements are of commercial significance and Ingram Micro is now working to pilot some emerging technologies with logistics companies in the region.
“Ingram Micro is at the centre of the IoT and AI orbit and we play a critical role to enable our partners to be able to offer IoT and AI solutions to customers across several industries. We do this by availing the right end to end solutions, delivering the required sales and technical enablement and also by providing demo capabilities for these solutions. All this is possible with the expertise Ingram Micro has invested in, to be the back bone for partners,” explains Dr. Baghdadi.
With the knowledge gained from the centre of excellence in Dubai, Ingram Micro has worked on and developed several value added approaches, including a virtual testing environment. Ingram Micro’s virtual lab is cloudbased and available round the clock. The lab has been designed to facilitate a seamless experience and communication between end-customers and Ingram Micro pre-sales engineers during the delivery of a proof of concept (POC). It contains over 20 cyber security vendors and acts as its own data centre. After all POC setup is complete, customers test the solution for a specific period virtually in this lab. Ingram Micro is now replicating the virtual lab in different parts of the region.
Ingram Micro has an independent software division called CloudBlue that is the result of early and ongoing investments made by the company to differentiate its global cloud business and help service providers of all kinds build, scale and monetise cloud and digital services.
The company further empowers its vendors to avoid the financial challenges in training partners, and has developed training and enablement resources to ensure that real time, relevant training programs are available to channel partners.
“There is a new generation of vendors, specifically in cyber security that is using new technologies particularly ‘true’ machine learning and deep learning to identify and predict vulnerabilities, and therefore have an early prevention program. To encourage and support such start-ups, we organised a challenge dedicated to discovering talented B2B independent software vendors (ISVs) and educate them on how to purpose-build for the IT channel and commercialise their technology. With prizes amounting to nearly one and a half million dollars, the company continues to identify the best technology start-ups and catapult their trajectory to profitability.”
Dr. Baghdadi adds that the company is always on the lookout for new partners, but it may not always be the big names that they on-board. “What makes a difference for us is the products and technologies they have. In the past, we have identified some small vendors, like PhishME that no one had heard about at the time, but we saw potential in their portfolio. We will continue to do the same in the future.”
Finally, Dr. Baghdadi emphasises that there are three key principles for industry best practice: people, processes and technology – all of which Ingram Micro is heavily investing in. “We offer training and certifications to our staff and partners, and offer consultancy and services which include vulnerability assessment, penetration testing, cyber security governance and incident management. Finally, our investment in technology is through our cyber security vendor products available to customers across the META region,” he explains.
The company leverages its cloud marketplace, to enable customers to obtain subscription-based security services, while opening up more than three million active subscribers to its cybersecurity vendor partners. Ingram Micro has an independent software division called CloudBlue that is the result of early and ongoing investments made by the company to differentiate its global cloud business and help service providers of all kinds build, scale and monetise cloud and digital services.
“The CloudBlue commerce platform enables service providers of any size and a wide variety of business models to automate, aggregate and monetize their own cloud and digital services as well as those from third-parties. CloudBlue also enables ISVs to take their offerings to market almost instantly across the entire multi-service provider ecosystem with the company’s cloud commerce and anything-as-a-service (XaaS) platform.”
Cloud security monitoring and remote management are very important for channel partners who are taking advantage of emerging technologies to deliver better services to customers and help them meet and exceed business goals. Ingram Micro is making significant investments across the region, including in its go-tomarket capabilities, to build the business.
“We are becoming a two tier solution provider for the market and our target is to enhance our value proposition to the market through business partners with full end-to-end solutions including a range of services and more relevant blue chip vendors. The ultimate goal is to reinforce our position as the go-to provider in EMEA for high value, speciality solutions. We look forward to quickly becoming the solutions provider of choice for cybersecurity offerings for our partners and customers in the region,” Dr. Baghdadi concluded.