Preparations for Channel Partners Evolution are right on track — we just announced that Google Fiber, TBI and Tech Data Cloud will join more than 150 other exhibitors (so far) on a show floor that will feature a return of our cloud lab, along with new IoT and mobility learning centers. I’m looking forward to attending – with some special guests – Telecom for Change’s annual gala at the historic Torpedo Factory Art Center to benefit a great cause. We will again host some veterans looking to learn about the channel as a career path; more on this initiative soon. The Acme Connected Apparel site went live this week, and our inaugural Business Success Symposium pre-conference is taking shape.
Yup, the plan is coming together nicely. Our room block always sells out quickly, and early-bird rates end June 27, so don’t delay.
Apropos of the Channel Partners Evolution theme of digital transformation, research released this week shows a fairly significant shift away from hiring offshore IT providers. The new CapTech study, conducted by Forrester Consulting, showed that 63 percent of 300 IT and business professionals at U.S. enterprises with 1,000 or more employees responsible for decisions related to third-party services providers will hire more onshore third-party service providers for digital transformation projects in the coming year.
Currently, 75 percent of those enterprises use onshore or nearshore third-party services. The main reasons cited for bringing offshore work back onshore were late projects, communication problems, poor quality and escalating total costs. The survey found that U.S. service providers deliver more value and consistently better results.
The message? Organizations looking for excellence in their digital-transformation project partners must look beyond initial cost. “Customers should also weigh technical reputation, ability to integrate with existing applications, speed of implementation and vertical industry expertise,” writes Forrester. “Quality of the deliverable is an important element of TCO, lest the need for rework increases costs or results in unnecessary delays.”
Channel partners are all over unified communications. But what about unified commerce? Another new report shows an opportunity for partners supporting retail clients, around the trend of “buy online, pick up in store.” The immediacy and opportunity for a personal touch inherent in that model is one way local brick-and-mortar shops can gain an edge over big online-only retailers. However, a study from cloud-based omnichannel commerce platform provider Kibo, the e-tailing group and Multichannel Merchant shows that just 17 percent of retailer apps displayed in-store inventory quantities — and that is among 30 major retailers that offer in-store pickup now. In my experience, few small, local retail chains are taking advantage, often because they don’t know where to start sourcing the needed app and back end technology.
The extensive report lays out metrics that partners can use to evaluate retail customers’ omnichannel readiness. There are six steps for the ultimate checkout experience, guidance on app development and tips on post-purchase communication to cement the end-customer relationship.
If conventional UC is more your wheelhouse, this week Toshiba America Information Systems announced mobility updates to its UCedge UC suite client software for Android, iOS, Windows and Mac OS X computers. UCedge 2.5, available only through Toshiba partners, adds the option for contact-center agents and supervisors to manage customer calls using mobile devices. Supervisors can see group status, and communicate with agents through instant messaging and more.
This week also saw the debut of a new UC-in-a-box offering, the Patton SmartNode OpenScape Business Appliance, developed in partnership with Unify and available from Patton channel partners. The SN-OSB is aimed at companies with fewer than 1,000 users that are reluctant to adopt UC in the cloud, for whatever reason. The device includes Patton’s SmartNode VoIP gateway technology, ships with Unify’s OpenScape Business S unified communications software preinstalled and comes with standard telephony interfaces and support for SIP and TDM trunks.
U.S. Tech Data reseller partners have a new IoT play for their portfolios: The distributor now offers Actsoft’s machine-to-machine and mobile resource management solutions, ideal for SMB customers that need to manage mobile employees and vehicle fleets.
Actsoft uses GPS-enabled devices to track employee and vehicle location, provide remote time punch so mobile workers can clocking in and out through their devices, customize wireless work forms to eliminate paper and dispatch work orders from a central location. Security and business accountability can be increased with location-based features like GPS tracking, to verify routes and miles driven, and geo-fencing and the ability to verify time on site.
AppFormix this week launched its channel program. The company’s cloud service optimization platform uses analytics and orchestration to improve application performance in hybrid and private clouds. A dashboard allows partners and developers to perform real-time application monitoring and performance management, and the system enables partners to apply hardware capacity planning tools to proactively predict when additional resources will be needed.
“The launch of our channel partner program is perfectly timed to enable our partners to meet a growing customer need and create a significant new revenue stream,” said George Youhana, who runs the channel partner program for AppFormix.
The company recently earned several Best of Interop awards, and Rackspace said it will license AppFormix software as part of its OpenStack private cloud solutions. In March, AppFormix and Intel announced a deal to integrate AppFormix software into Intel’s newest processor family, and the startup has signed on to do container cluster management for public and private clouds, including Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.
Channel-focused SD-WAN provider VeloCloud announced this week that it has achieved “VMware Ready” status for network-functions virtualization and can now be found on the VMware Solution Exchange. The VMware Ready program is a co-branding initiative within the company’s Technology Alliance Partner (TAP) program that makes it easy to identify partner products certified to work with VMware infrastructure.
VeloCloud also recently partnered with MetTel on a fully managed, Layer 3 SD-WAN that extends across the company’s carrier partners, which include AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink and Frontier, and earlier this year announced $27 million in new Series C financing, including funding from Cisco Investments.
VeloCloud takes a cloud-based overlay approach to software-defined WAN setup and offers public, private and hybrid cloud versions of its software. The company also offers appliances for branch offices and data centers.
In a recent Q&A, Frank Rauch, vice president of VMware’s Americas partner organization, told me that the company is focused on helping partners grab a piece of an estimated $12.5 billion in network virtualization sales by 2020, up from $2 billion this year. SD-WAN is no doubt a driver of that growth.
Between flooding in Texas and lead problems in several American cities, water is in the news. Verizon this week unveiled a new solution, Grid Wide Intelligent Water, designed to help resource-strapped local governments affordably modernize their water systems by paying on a per-month, per-meter basis. They can save money, too, by finding water lost due to leaks, theft or metering inaccuracies.
Verizon says that 2.1 trillion gallons of treated water leak from the country’s outdated water system every year — that’s equal to filling 40 million swimming pools. With Grid Wide Intelligent Water, Verizon partners can help municipal customers track water consumption, detect leaks, be alerted when life-threatening backflow events occur, provide near-real-time information to end-customer portals and resolve billing issues quickly.
“Powered by our 4G LTE network and our enterprise-class, cloud-based Grid Wide platform as a service, the innovative service normalizes data from what is historically a fragmented, proprietary industry and moves it to an open, standards-based format,” said Diana Tatem, business development and product management, IoT, energy & utilities at Verizon, in a statement.
Verizon says the market opportunity extends across nearly 35,000 small to midsize water utilities around the country.
The platform, sold both direct and through Verizon’s indirect channel, includes dashboards, event notifications and analytics and is part of the larger Grid Wide platform, which includes electric and will add gas in the coming months.
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