The issue is not an assumption of partners or operators behaving badly, he said. Rather, it’s about making sure end users have plenty of information to relay to regulators, during audits, for example. If carriers cannot produce specifics, the feds will prohibit regulated firms from doing business with those operators, Weaver said. “It may not be next year but they will be weeding out those providers," he said. That’s because cloud and IT services contain too many moving parts to leave to chance. With server infrastructure, routers, storage, security, multitenancy, scalability, data and more involved in carrier deployments, the chances of compromising confidential data grow.
But the carriers rolling out certifications do not seem to be acting out of alarm over government pressure — they already employ their own safeguards for stringent quality assurance. Thus, their rationale concerns partners’ abilities to handle intricate technologies. “The days of selling an integrated T1 are just gone. The complexity of the products we sell today requires so much more technical support and understanding," Cook said. "Once you start adding more complex hosted VoIP and managed IT services, the risk of not having someone certified on your services represents a risk that can impact customer expectations and experiences."
Blake Wetzel, vice president of sales, CenturyLink Channel Alliance, agreed. “We’ve been talking about cloud for a long time but most conversations have been extremely amorphous, not tactical and detailed," he said. The widespread adoption of cloud and IT services, then, is forcing providers to examine the level and depth of knowledge they impart to partners.
To that point, the Technology Channel Association (TCA) hopes to get all service providers with indirect channels to adopt its Certified Telecommunications Professional (CTP) credentialing program, which does not address cloud or IT services. TCA wants to add CTP to providers’ curricula, not replace their plans, thereby creating some standardization among the various certifications. The CTP targets telecom agents not versed in advanced services, as well as brand new agents, which now tends to include VARs unfamiliar with the carrier world. Dave Wallace, president of Aligned Communications and a TCA trustee, said the association’s efforts on that front continue; by the end of January, 128 people were designated as CTPs.
In the meantime, here is what we know about the providers debuting certification programs:
CenturyLink Channel Alliance. Spurred by its purchase of colo and hosting provider Savvis, CenturyLink in 2012’s fourth quarter released a certification program for its cloud and IT services. The platform is tiered and applies to indirect and direct salespeople. After all, when talking with customers, “throwing cloud out there is not necessarily a great thing if you don’t know what you’re going to offer," Wetzel said. The difference with CenturyLink’s program, said Bob Hollander, senior vice president of channel enablement for Savvis, is that it doesn’t focus as much on cloud technology as on the use cases for cloud and the business problems it solves. “The differentiated approach is really on the business side," he said. “So, while other vendors go to market with that cool technology, we’re bent on delivering a technical skill set."