Neutral Tandem Inc. announced Monday that it has teamed with Cisco Systems Inc. to deliver a hosted unified communications service through the gearmaker’s VARs along with their own professional and managed services.
The new wholesale-only service, which is based on Cisco’s Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS), will be available early in first quarter 2012.
As the first U.S.-based partner to bring a white-label HCS offering to market, Neutral Tandem will help VARs and integrators drive growth and profitability while providing end customers with a proven collaboration solution,” said Richard McLeod, senior director for Ciscos Worldwide Partner Collaboration Sales and Practice Management, in a press statement.
Neutral Tandem will not be offering the service directly to end-user customers, but enabling VARs to achieve their recurring revenue goals, said Ian Neale, Neutral Tandem’s vice president of product marketing, in an interview with Channel Partners.
VARs, which must be Cisco certified and able to provide Tier 1 customer support, will purchase seats from Neutral Tandem at a wholesale rate and mark it up as they desire. They also will purchase end points from Cisco per usual. If they choose, VARs can source the network access through Neutral Tandem as well, offering a wholesale connection through the carrier’s EtherCloud. EtherCloud is a neutral Ethernet exchange service with 100 PoPs worldwide; one connection accesses Neutral Tandem’s footprint of Ethernet lit buildings. Alternatively, they can use a third-party MPLS solution.
Neale said the partnership with Cisco is ideal because each party is in their “sweet spot”: Cisco is providing the enabling technology, Neutral Tandem is providing the network and operational expertise, and the reseller is providing the relationship with the customer.
Neutral Tandem is the largest provider of direct voice termination services in the United States and it operates the largest tandem and SIP routing network in the country and the second largest globally.
Few VARs have the scale to justify the investment in a hosted solution on their own, Neale said, explaining that it requires more than just servers and software in a data center. He said providers need to have a high-availability connection fabric, which is difficult for VARs to replicate.
Neutral Tandem’s HCS service is packaged at three feature levels foundation, standard and premium to match user requirements. The basic service includes voice/call control, single-number reach, end-user portal, E911, hunt groups, auto attendant, ad hoc audio conferencing and survivable remote site telephony. Standard adds support for more devices, integrated messaging, presence/IM, bundled soft client license, and bundled UC manager assistant. Premium service adds desktop video and a bundled mobile client license.
WebEx support is planned for early 2012, and Neutral Tandem will hosted video and Virtualized Experience Infrastructure (VXI) as it becomes available from Cisco. Neutral Tandem also will support third-party applications for VARs that have built specialized applications for vertical markets, for example. Support for these applications will enable VARs to preserve their competitive differentiations, Neale said.
In addition, Neale, said that VARs can offer a hosted solution or a managed solution where they wrap their own services around HCS.
HCS provides support for single site, multisite and hybrid premises-based implementations. And because HCS is the same technology that is used on premises, a customer has the option of migrating in-house.
Neutral Tandem is trialing the service with select Cisco authorized VARs, such as Nexus IS Inc., a Cisco Gold Certified Partner. “We are pleased to be involved in the proof-of-concept phase for Cisco Systems and Neutral Tandem’s new collaborative HCS solution,” said Mike Heiman, Nexus IS’ vice president of engineering, in a press statement. “We are particularly impressed by Neutral Tandem’s detailed understanding of the market and network neutrality. Our customers have been asking for a solution like this and Neutral Tandems network neutrality is what drew us to their offer. This is a great program that will provide us the ability to differentiate ourselves while competing more effectively.”