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5 Channel Ops: Verizons PCI Bombshell, Smarter Contact Centers and More

Lorna GareyTechnology market watcher Infonetics Research released new numbers on the global network security and enterprise telephony and unified communications markets, reported by my colleague Edward Gately, and I was prebriefed on some changes HP has in store for its channel partners as a result of the company’s split. More on that next week. For now, let’s talk security and valuation sanity, or lack thereof.

Retail Help Wanted: PCI

Verizon’s 2015 PCI Compliance Report, released this week, paints a grim picture if you care about your credit card info not ending up in Russia. As one of the largest PCI QSAs, Verizon has firsthand insight into the state of retail security. The report’s top-level conclusion: It’s not getting into compliance with PCI 3.0 that’s the problem. It’s staying there. That’s based on results of about 3,000 Verizon PCI DSS assessments, the majority involving Level 1 merchants — you know, the ones that should have a grip on this stuff. Despite record security investments, 80 percent failed their interim assessments.

When you think about it, that’s not a huge surprise. Solutions providers know that the level of effort IT teams expend prepping for an audit isn’t sustainable long-term without help. Most customers get that, but a reminder can’t hurt, and this report is certainly a wake-up call. Of course, just being stamped as “PCI complaint” doesn’t make any retailer immune to a breach. But falling down in any of the 12 assessed areas — maintaining firewalls, securing configurations, protecting stored data, protecting data in transit, maintaining antivirus, maintaining secure systems, restricting access, authenticating access, controlling physical access, logging and monitoring, testing security systems and maintaining security policies — certainly makes any company more vulnerable. These are all important areas for managed security providers to focus on.

Here’s the Plan: 1 Billion Dollars

Lately VCs may feel like Doctor Evil when he asked for that 1 meeeeellion dollars in ransom and was informed that a million ain’t what it used to be. Valuations are through the roof – Snapchat at $19 billion, Pinterest $11 billion, Uber pushing $40 billion despite recent … missteps — to the point Mark Cuban insists we’re in a tech bubble. One startup whose valuation seems well within the bounds of reason is Simplivity, which announced this week that it’s raised $175 million in Series D to hit the $1 billion mark.

Simplivity is a leader in the movement toward integrating storage, compute and networking — aka hyperconvergence. Its OmniStack product is software-defined infrastructure packaged on industry-standard x86 systems that stack together as scale-out, modular building blocks. It has deals with Cisco, VMware, Intel and others, and Mitch Breen, the company’s senior vice president of global sales, and George Hope, vice president of global channels, are on the 2015 CRN Channel Chiefs list. And, it’s committed to partner education and delivering products 100 percent through the channel. If you’ve yet to explore converged infrastructure offerings, Simplivity’s a strong place to start.

Plus: ChargeBee this week announced $5 million in Series B. The company manages recurring billing and subscriptions for SaaS and ecommerce businesses, processing $100 million annually for customers in 48 countries. If you need to ramp up a billing infrastructure for recurring payments, check out its partner program.

Get Agents Smarter

On Monday Salesforce announced it will add deeper analytics to its Service Cloud and Marketing Cloud offerings. While the company’s release leads with the now ubiquitous reference to the Internet of Things — self-driving cars! thermostats that learn! 75 billion connected devices! — the more immediate value for the channel will be for solutions providers that support contact centers. Salesforce says the new Intelligent Workload Management capabilities, due later this year, will enable companies to “dynamically assign cases to agents based on skill set, case history, presence or communication channel — email, Web, phone, video chat or SMS” and let customers start a conversation on one channel and easily transition to another without the dreaded re-entering of account information or re-explaining the purpose of the call.

“I think the Marketing Cloud is genuinely delivering unique and new predictive capabilities, whereas the Service Cloud offering is late compared to competitors and overhyped,” said InformationWeek executive editor Doug Henschen, a close observer of this space. Oracle and SAP already offer similar functionality. Henschen’s coverage of the announcements, available here and here, are worth the read. Salesforce has yet to announce pricing.

Is Monogamy Overrated?

The days of exclusive partnerships should come to an end. At least, that’s the premise of a thought-provoking blog post from Mike Fratto, a senior analyst on the business technology and software team for CurrentAnalysis. The main impetus for the call to play the field is HP’s purchase of Aruba, which has no doubt thrown some wrenches in WLAN strategies. Fratto also cites the increasing use of software-defined everything and open APIs, which make it a simpler matter to support more than one technology partner.

While Fratto is mainly addressing IT vendors when he says: “Explicit or implicit exclusive partnerships leave your company vulnerable to competitive acquisition. Diversify or be disrupted,” is this advice channel companies should heed as well? Is it even feasible for small and midsize providers? Maybe not, said Fratto. “But the channel can pressure vendors to diversify tech partnerships, which provides more inroads for them to get into an organization, and then leverage that foothold,” he says. Do you agree? Tell me in comments.

Blue For Good Reason

Cyan announced yesterday that CenturyLink will use its Blue Planet NFV Orchestrator to offer customers virtual network functions, including firewalls, encryption and DNS, from multiple vendors. In discussing the deal, Cyan chief marketing officer Joe Cumello stated that “this is the industry’s first commercialized deployment of NFV technology where the service is fully orchestrated from end-to-end.” It may be the first, but it’s a trend that should pick up steam this year. I’ve said before that NFV is a big opportunity for solutions providers, especially those looking to take Fratto’s advice and diversify their portfolios. With a programmable services backbone in place, CentruryLink will be able to extend virtual services to even the smallest customers, globally, across any vertical. No truck rolls, no big upfront hardware costs. Cyan’s Orchestrator is open, so CenturyLink can mix and match virtual network functions from any vendor.

We’re down to the wire for Channel Partners’ spring conference. I’m looking forward to meeting many of you in Vegas. Drop me a line at @LornaGarey.

Follow executive editor @LornaGarey on Twitter.


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