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CenturyLink, Level 3, Windstream Channel Execs Talk Mergers

CHANNEL PARTNERS CenturyLink, Level 3 Communications and Windstream all have closed significant acquisitions over the last year.

On Tuesday at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo in Las Vegas, channel executives with CenturyLink, Level 3 and Windstream explained how the deals have strengthened their companies in the marketplace. VIRGO CEO John Siefert moderated the roundtable discussion.

As Michael Jerich, Level 3’s VP of the indirect sales channel pointed out, his employer boasts a vast worldwide footprint thanks in part to its acquisition last year of Global Crossing.

Blake Wetzel, vice president of sales for the CenturyLink Channel Alliance, said he believes his company is in a position to “be the leader in cloud computing.” It’s been nearly a year since CenturyLink scooped up Denver-based Qwest Communications International in a blockbuster deal, but it was CenturyLink’s more recent acquisition of Savvis over the summer that has given it a significant play in the cloud computing space.  Over the next 30 days, the telecom provider will merge the Savvis master agent program with the CenturyLink Channel Alliance, Wetzel said.

CenturyLink continues to integrate Qwest. Wetzel said he has very rarely” interacted with a customer who has a problem related to a merger at CenturyLink. He said hes worked through several mergers. Its been the biggest and the least eventful,” Wetzel said, presumably referring to CenturyLink multibillion dollar acquisition of Qwest under a transaction that made CenturyLink the third-largest fixed telecom provider in the U.S.

As for Windstream, most readers will remember that the telco completed its acquisition of PAETEC late last year. Don’t expect the combined company to minimize the indirect channel. Windstream CEO Jeff Gartner is extremely involved in the channel, according to Windstream’s vice president of channel sales Dan Sterling. The senior management is “100 percent  committed to the channel,” he said.

Sixty days after Windstream acquired PAETEC, the companies began selling each others services,  Sterling said. He also said a common product set will be released July 1.

Windstream has a very long track record integrating companies,” he said.

Asked about the biggest surprise that has come from the merger, Sterling responded, the people at PAETEC.” He was complimentary of PAETECs management and noted that Windstream kept two presidents from PAETEC following the acquisition.

Level 3’s Jerich said the indirect channel needs to become a bigger piece of the company. Level 3 doesn’t disclose the percentage of revenues via the channel, but he said the company wants to grow from $6 billion in revenues to $9 billion in revenues over the next few years.

“A big focus of it is our distribution strategy and our indirect channel,” he said.

Jerich said he has been through seven or eight acquisitions with Level 3. Weve really learned our lessons along the way,” he said.

Asked by VIRGO’s Siefert about the ambiguities in cloud services today, as it relates to what the  various terminology actually means, Windstream’s Sterling indicated that channel partners have overcome obstacles with new technology in the past. He added, “I think it’s our job to dumb it down …”

“Cloud is not a single thing,” Wetzel said. “It is what it means to the customer.”


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