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StarLink appointed as a Symantec VAD

Middle East: security VAD StarLink has been appointed as a VAD for Symantec in the region. As a platform-independent software company without bias to an individual operating system or hardware environment, Symantec helps customers manage more technologies with greater efficiency, on more platforms – even in virtual environments – than any other company. With multi-platform software and a worldwide delivery and support infrastructure, Symantec helps customers optimize technology investments throughout their lifetimes. StarLink is acclaimed as the largest value-added distributor of IT security solutions across the Middle East, Turkey and Africa. StarLink's extensive partner and customer base in the Middle East (covered through offices in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) will now have access to Symantec's market leading Enterprise product range. Nidal Othman, Managing Director at StarLink, said: "this exciting new business relationship is an organic one, with Symantec's acquisition of BlueCoat. Following the success we previously achieved with Blue Coat, we are glad to be part of Symantec’s journey in establishing itself as the industry's largest pure play cyber security company, and we are committed to work together with our channel to help realize our collective goal of, ‘Defining the Future of CyberSecurity."

Exclusive Group acquires US VAD Fine Tec

United States: French network and security VAD Exclusive Group has advanced its global distribution partner offering with the acquisition of leading Silicon Valley-headquartered cybersecurity VAD Fine Tec, a local Fortinet distributor. The move places Exclusive Group at the heart of the world's largest cybersecurity market; complementing its existing global presence throughout the EMEA and APAC regions. Global systems integrators, service providers and vendors, as well as large North American reseller partners, will be the chief beneficiaries as Exclusive Group extends its unique, highly successful 'Disruptive Distribution' blueprint with an established local player that already shares similar DNA and value-adding culture.

"This will be a major step forward for our global proposition as we harness US-based skills, resources and relationships to support the execution of worldwide deals with large systems integrator partners and to advance our unique formula into the domestic market", said Olivier Breittmayer, CEO of Exclusive Group. "Fine Tec is as an operationally excellent business with a strong services capability and successful reputation for delivering value in a highly competitive environment. It represents a great opportunity to integrate a culturally-aligned business into our global family, and we look forward to working with Fine Tec CEO James Shen and his team to build on their success and accelerate growth throughout the region."

"This is great news for everyone connected with Fine Tec family as it validates the approach we've taken to value-added distribution in the US for nearly 20 years", said James Shen, Fine Tec President & CEO. "The Exclusive Group story is well known and we’ve admired it from afar, but now with the Group's global reach and resources it opens up many new opportunities for our partners. It really is an exciting time as there is true opportunity to extend the disruptive distribution model to the US, whilst the ambition for us to grow internationally is finally realised."

The move follows Exclusive Group's recent appointment of Patrick Huth as VP Alliances Americas, who will be instrumental in enabling new partner and vendor opportunities alongside Fine Tec's existing leadership team. The successful integration of the Fine Tec business is set to increase Exclusive Group's forecast revenues for the full year 2017 to 1.8bn€ ($2bn).

3D printer shipments up 16% in Q1 2017 as mid-market starts to heat up

The first three months of 2017 saw both worldwide shipments and revenues in the 3D Printer space increase, with activity ramping up in the mid-market, according to market research firm CONTEXT. Shipments were up by +16% in Q1 2017, driven by gains in the Personal/Desktop* category, which saw unit volumes rise to over 88 k (+17% year-on-year). The news was less positive in the Industrial/Professional**sector, which saw 8% fewer shipments than a year ago. Overall, global 3D printer revenues were up by +4% in the first quarter, thanks to stronger demand for high-priced metal-based industrial printers.

Although unit volumes in the Industrial/Professional category shrank, a rise in the weighted average price - from €102,771 to €118,761 - ensured revenue growth of +6%. On the other hand, revenues in the Personal/Desktop category were down by -1% due to a year-on-year weighted average price drop from €1,055 to €896 in Q1 2017. This sector continues to be dominated by lower-priced printers, with 75% of shipments being of models priced at or below €920.

Movement in the middle

While the high and the low end of the 3D printer space are clearly defined, the market is currently seeing a lot of action in the grey middle ground. "Since the desktop 3D printer market began to emerge as a new category a decade ago, the €4,600 barrier has been used as the general rule-of-thumb dividing point for categories", said Chris Connery, vice-president of Global Market Research and Analysis, CONTEXT. "As the 3D printer market continues to evolve, so too do its categories, with high-end desktop printers and low-end industrial/professional printers converging more and more."

Products from both categories in the blurry price range of €3k - €25 k saw unit volumes rise +31% compared to a year ago, while sub-€3 k desktop 3D printers saw unit volumes increase by +17%. In the low-end of the Personal/Desktop segment, XYZprinting and Monoprice continued to price aggressively and remained leaders in terms of global unit share. At the high end of this segment are vendors like Ultimaker and Formlabs whose continue to balance between pricing and unit volumes serves them well, leading to the top spots in global revenue share of the Personal/Desktop category.

Focus on vendors

In the Industrial/Professional market, companies with a major focus on metal 3D printing, including EOS, SLM Solutions and Concept Laser (now mostly owned by GE), continued to shine in Q1 2017. Stratasys and 3D Systems both saw fewer printers ship in the period than a year ago. High-profile player Carbon continued to grow, and announced a strong alliance with German apparel company adidas to mass-produce parts of a new line of running shoes, a common theme for many in the Industrial sector during the period.

Market leader Stratasys is a microcosm of how lines between categories are blurred. It's technically placed on the Industrial/Professional side of the market; however, its lower-end professional material-extrusion printers continue to give way to high-end desktop products including its own MakerBot line. Along with footwear alliances and blurring lines in the Professional 3D Printer space, other hot-button market trends in the period included lower-priced metal printers (such as from Desktop Metal and OR LASER) and serial production/printer farms, such as Stratasys' Continuous Build 3D Demonstrator, 3D Systems' Figure-4, and Formlabs' Form Cell.

"While all the talk in the industry over the period was around sneaker alliances, lower prices and forthcoming technologies, in the first phase of the year the market was still largely driven by continued strong growth in shipments of metal 3D printers", noted Connery.


Table 1: Top 5 Vendor 3D Printer Market Share by Unit Volumes and Printer Revenues, Global Personal/Desktop Printers Q1’17

Q1’17 Rank
by Units
Company Q1’17 Units Q1’17 Share
by Units
Q1’17 Rank
by Unit Revenue
Company Q1’17 Unit
Q1’17 Share
by Unit Revenue
1 XYZPrinting 17.4K 20% 1 Ultimaker €16.3M 21%
2 Monoprice 14.3K 16% 2 Formlabs €10.0M 13%
3 Wanhao 7.0K 8% 3 XYZPrinting €7.5M 9%
4 Ultimaker 6.3K 7% 4 Stratasys/MakerBot €5.0M 6%
5 M3D 5.9K 7% 5 Flashforge €4.7M 6%

Table 2: Top 5 Vendor 3D Printer Market by Revenue*** from Industrial/Professional Machines shipped Q1’17

Q1’17 Rank Company Revenues from
Machines Sold***
Q1’17 Global
Revenue Share
Y/Y Change
1 Stratasys €90.2M 31% -8%
2 EOS €46.3M 16% 16%
3 3D Systems €28.7M 10% -4%
4 SLM Solutions €14.0M 5% 17%
5 Concept Laser €13.4M 5% 12%

* Personal/Desktop 3D Printer category is largely defined form factor and generally defined as those selling at or below €4,600.

** Industrial/Professional 3D Printer category largely defined as those selling for over €4,600.

*** Revenue generally from printer hardware but may include materials, software or other "product"

Avnet Silica announces EtherCAT starter kit for industrial Ethernet development

Semiconductor specialist Avnet Silica has unveiled the availability of a new EtherCAT starter kit for the development of a wide range of fast industrial Ethernet technology-based applications. Implementing the standard Ethernet data-packet format, which provides connectivity to existing Ethernet networks without special routers or switches, EtherCAT delivers highly-efficient, real-time performance enabling data insertion and/or extraction ‘on the fly’.

Based on Microchip's LAN9252 EtherCAT slave controller chip, the easy-to-use node-development starter kit offers Pmod- and Arduino-compatible interfaces including SPI/QSPI, in addition to a header with all I/Os of the LAN9252, which enables direct connection to a wide selection of microcontroller or microprocessor starter kits for fast prototyping. Target applications for the kit include motor-based motion control, robotics, communication modules and I/O interface cards in factory and process automation, rotary encoders and sensors, or control of devices such as actuators, valves and drives in hydraulic and pneumatic valve systems, among many other applications. In addition, the new EtherCAT starter kit can be integrated into the Avnet Silica Visible Things platform for the development of Internet of Things (IoT) projects and applications. Central to the new EtherCAT kit is the LAN9252 from Microchip, which is a 2/3-port EtherCAT slave controller with dual integrated Ethernet PHYs, each including a full-duplex 100Base-TX transceiver to support 100Mbps operation. The chip also supports auto-MDIX, allowing the use of direct-connect or crossover LAN cables, as well as offering support for a 100Base-FX external fibre transceiver. Other features of the LAN9252 include 4K-bytes dual-port memory (DPRAM), four SyncManagers, three Fieldbus MMUs, a 64-bit distributed clock and extended temperature range from -40°C up to 105°C. The LAN9252 slave controller offers three operational mode options including microcontroller, digital I/O and expansion modes. In microcontroller mode, the LAN9252 communicates with the host MCU via a flexible 8/16-bit host bus interface or SPI or quad-SPI interface; in digital I/O mode, the LAN9252 controls 16 digital I/O signals without the need of a host MCU; and in expansion mode, use of the LAN9252's third external PHY Ethernet interface can enable a star- or tree-network topology, or even build a four-port solution with an additional LAN9252, enabling a very high level of implementation flexibility. The starter kit also offers two RJ45 Ethernet interfaces, as well as operation from a single 3.3V supply; power supply options are via USB or the PMOD and Arduino interfaces. Finally, the starter kit works with the Beckhoff EtherCAT protocol stack, which is free for members of the ETG (EtherCAT Technology Group) as well as many other EtherCAT stacks. Avnet Silica is also currently developing sample software solutions for customers for use with PIC32 and ARM-Cortex based host microcontrollers.

"Microchip and Avnet Silica have a long-standing relationship, and we are both dedicated to working closely with our customers to understand and meet their industrial networking needs. EtherCAT is an established, proven standard which is preferred by most motor control, grid autorotation and data acquisition companies/", said Ian Saturley, worldwide marketing manager for USB and Networking at Microchip. He added: "many topologies in place are now also calling for Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT) which are embraced within EtherCAT. In generating the PMOD-COM-ETHERCAT system, Avnet Silica has responded to customers' requests with a fast time to market and low cost of entry evaluation platform."

The EtherCAT starter kit is available from Avnet Silica offices in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom immediately.

New GTDC report focuses on European tech distributors' foray into services

Services have always been instrumental in the success of technology distributors over the past 50 years. The breadth and depth of those offerings have changed dramatically, however, creating a new era of innovation within their business models to align with digital market trends. A new Global Technology Distribution Council (GTDC) report depicts how these forces are redefining distributors in the European region, mirroring related developments throughout the world. Terms like "pick, pack and ship" that largely defined the early days of distribution no longer differentiate the top distributors – GTDC members that drive more than €120 billion in annual business worldwide.

"Distributors haven't always received the credit they deserve relative to how well they've evolved in accordance with technological innovation", commented GTDC CEO Tim Curran, noting that more than 600 new vendors enter distribution partnerships every 24 months in the US and Europe alone. "Although the industry and IT players have changed dramatically over the years, distributors have proven their staying power regardless of dynamics affecting hardware, software and services. They've continuously honed business models through acquisitions, diversification and movement in specialized directions. This report sheds new light on these trends in the European market, which is particularly unique given the range of countries, regulatory requirements and other unique differences involved in serving solution providers, retailers and e-tailers across the region."

Released today, the new report entitled Services Capabilities Transform IT Distribution in Europe, is available for free download from the GTDC Research Center. Key findings include:

  • Dozens of new services now differentiate technology distributors. Check out a list of examples released in conjunction with the report and published on the GTDC website.
  • There’s a unique contrast in the expanding world of distributor services. On the one hand, European distributors interviewed for the report con­firm substantially higher utilization by both vendors and solution providers – yet neither are typically leveraging the full depth and breadth.
  • On the vendor side, many see distributors as an extension of their operations while distributor channel service portfolios address widening skills-gap challenges and shortages.
  • European distributors surveyed for the report view Demand Generation, Solution Development (including pre- and post-sale support) and Education & Training as among their top services today.
  • As distributors increase their investments in services, ROI doesn’t necessarily come easy. While some are reporting their highest margins in history, how they get compensated for services varies signifi­cantly. Some bundle services into the cost of goods sold while others take a more “a la carte” menu-driven approach.
  • Distributors also note that it is a challenge for many vendors to differentiate value from commodity in their programs – and to define the right compensation models for ensuring their mid-to-long-term strategic objectives.
  • All distributors interviewed for this report underscored advances and growing value in the cloud. Channel adoption has been relatively slow, however, with many traditional resellers struggling – or not yet even attempting – to build cloud services models. This creates both a challenge and sizable opportunity for distributors. Education will be as critical as the cloud solutions they offer in coming months and years.

"The decades of progress that distributors have made since their 'pick, pack and ship' formative years brings to mind the agility and versatility they've come to represent today", observed Peter van den Berg, the GTDC's general manager of EMEA. "Many naysayers have wrongly predicted the demise of distributors in past years, characterizing them as unnecessary 'middlemen', for example, not delivering enough value. The reality is distributors have proven their extraordinary cost efficiencies and distinction on the services front. Indirect has prevailed. Vendors now embrace distributors in numerous ways, in areas that are remarkably advanced as well as intensively demanding from more fundamental account management standpoints, for example. What's particularly impressive is the range of services now inherently part of what they deliver on behalf of solution providers and vendors."


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