These aren’t your grandma’s service providers.
The companies we would traditionally call telecommunication providers or cable providers are pushing hard to offer partners a deep and diverse portfolio of products and services. Even if that means becoming managed IT providers.
It’s a whole new world out there.
Service providers are sticking limbs into several different markets. In many cases, carriers are filling out their portfolios to include more IT; for example, Sprint partnering with cloud security vendors. Sometimes they’re entering relatively new markets like SD-WAN to compete with specialists. And in other cases, carriers are paving the way for blossoming technologies like 5G and IoT.
These companies are transforming what they make and sell, and their transformation could well be a blueprint for channel partners. See their movements as a litmus as you seek to better serve your clientele. The carriers are simply moving in the direction customers are demanding.
|Throughout the fourth quarter of 2018, as part of our “In Focus” series, we are featuring a series of galleries designed to help partners grow their businesses in 2019 and beyond.
Rob Moyers, Synnex‘s vice president of cloud, mobility and IoT, told us to “bet on” the companies that are investing big in new areas, because extensive research and development back up their investments. For example, service providers’ increased emphasis on public cloud helps confirm that public cloud is prevailing.
We’ve compiled several areas where partners can follow the lead of their carrier partners. What offerings are hot? What new technologies do customers think are important? What could change your bottom line for the better? We asked the carriers for an overview. The answers are broad; so you’ll get a few product plugs and much more discussion of the technological trends shaping the channel.
Scroll through the gallery below to see how telcos and cablecos have transformed this year.
Some service providers, like CenturyLink,
are repeatedly subverting their legacy telecommunications label. The company has built up its IT portfolio and has emphasized the delivery of customers' cloud infrastructure and applications.
Garrett Gee, vice president of indirect strategic partnerships and alliances, told us that adaptive networking, agile IT and hybrid cloud, and connected security are the three "lenses" of CenturyLink's portfolio.
"In today’s digital economy, a robust network is not enough. Businesses need an agile IT infrastructure and systems that allow for quick deployment and simple management of applications in a hybrid-cloud environment," Gee said. "For partners, the differentiator will be their ability to offer network services that can be delivered in a cloud-like fashion, are automated to scale as customers’ application needs change and have simple management tools for the application administrator."
Another sign of service providers' entrance into IT is their investment in cloud and managed services.
acquired RapidScale in August
with the stated goal of becoming a "cloud computing powerhouse." Steve Rowley, executive vice president of Cox Business, said customers are increasingly asking for cloud application services.
"There’s a push from our customers to drive in that area and to get into an environment where we’ve got proactive managed services and are providing applications and services that meet their needs," Rowley said.
The race for 5G has been going on for quite some time, and the moment for it to pay dividends is close at hand. Verizon and AT&T
have traded announcement after announcement about pilots, lab tests and upcoming city launches. AT&T announced two weeks ago that 5G is live in Dallas
AT&T's Robert Boyanovsky, vice president, enterprise mobility product management, has exhorted solution providers to fully appreciate the value that the improved speeds and lower latencies will bring.
“5G will eventually have a significant impact on how businesses of all sizes work. This will also apply to businesses that the channel serves. Whether you’re a retailer, car-wash owner, hospital, manufacturer, public safety entity or a bank, 5G promises to change the customer experience and provide new economic opportunities for your business," Boyanovsky said.
But partners must help their customers rethink the implications of 5G. The benefits go beyond mobility, and it's not simply "a play for smartphone users," according to Boyanovsky. 5G will present improved speeds, low latency and a multiplicity of devices that resemble wireline reliability. And there's another important effect.
Boyanovsky said the natural implication of the enhanced reliability is an "explosion in IoT
We've heard Zee Hussain, AT&T Partner Solutions SVP and channel chief, describe a similar link between 5G and IoT
"This is where the channel will come into play," Boyanovsky said. "Companies will need partners that can understand their needs and customize solutions and platforms to manage all of this connectivity.”
Carriers are carving out an advantageous position in the internet of things. Not all are manufacturing the equipment, but their ability to provide connectivity allows them to deliver a full package to partners and customers.
The aforementioned AT&T
has laid out a host of solutions that partners can deliver, and Sprint is another service provider tackling the space. Sprint
rolled out a digital IoT store
full of boxed offerings in the spring, and it followed that up with a management platform
and an IoT partner program.
“We’re excited about the effect this has on small and medium-size businesses," said Ivo Rook, Sprint’s senior vice president of IoT. "They can now attain the latest in advanced and secure technology at reasonable costs — with the ease of being able to buy a complete solution from the digital store, having it shipped quickly and installing it themselves within a matter of minutes.”
The telcos understandably are tapping into software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN
), which is one of the fastest growing connectivity trends in recent years. They're using their customer base and existing infrastructure compete against the up-and-coming SD-WAN-only vendors. That being said, carriers are in most cases partnering with those vendors to deliver a solution.Verizon
launched an SD-WAN solution last year and expanded its portfolio this summer with an SDN branch offering
. Partnerships with Viptela and Versa Networks have enabled the respective SD-WAN and branch offerings.
Bill Hooper, managing director of the Verizon partner channel, tells Channel Partners that his company's partner program has SD-WAN "at the forefront" of its portfolio.
"Businesses of all sizes are increasingly looking for ways to leverage and utilize the data and information that could improve their bottom lines, which while positive, would simultaneously increase their network's workload," Hooper said. "Verizon has put a significant focus on solutions that make sure the network is always performing at its best, such as software defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN), which gives the network the ability to intelligently respond and adjust to the changes in traffic."
The cable companies are getting in on the action too. Comcast Business
followed suit with the telcos and partnered with Versa to launch a software-defined networking
Craig Schlagbaum, vice resident of indirect channels, told Channel Partners
earlier this year that the platform gives partners an opportunity to scale up. One of the many benefits
of SD-WAN is how it links remote offices together.
“As much as we sell in the SMB space – that’s our forte – the bigger part of growth now is in midmarket space," Schlagbaum said. "And most of our partners are selling in the space. At least half of our sales are coming from that, and half of those are coming from multisite opportunities."
Comcast said at the time that it was the only cable company in the space. Look for its rivals to get on board.
It might not have the buzz of 5G, but the cablecos are bringing a big upgrade of their own to the table. Companies like Comcast, Cox and Spectrum are using DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification) 3.1 to fire up "Gigabit internet speeds over cable’s existing coaxial connections," according to Craig Leddy.
Leddy compiled a report
on the misconceptions channel partners and their customers have held regarding DOCSIS 3.1. A February 2018 survey found that 41 percent of partners are unfamiliar with the standard and its advantages. Speed is a clear benefit, but Leddy said another perk is the affordability compared to that of a dedicated fiber line.
"While a fiber installation may take weeks and require a protracted construction process, a new coax installation can be accomplished much quicker — generally five to 10 business days, according to cable executives," he said.
Carriers are investing no small sum in cybersecurity. AT&T's purchase of AlienVault
exemplifies the push to round out the portfolio to include IT. While AT&T carries the legacy of selling telecommunications, AT&T Business CEO Thaddeus Arroyo said
his company is addressing a universal customer need.
"“Regardless of size or industry, businesses today need cyberthreat detection and response technologies and services,” he said. “The current threat landscape has shifted this from a luxury for some, to a requirement for all.”
We would remiss if we did not include unified communications on this list. The technology is a huge draw for partners, and many carriers, such as Windstream Enterprise
, consider UCaaS to be one of their biggest sources of revenue.
Windstream has poured investment into UC, with its purchase of Broadview Networks
the highlight. Its OfficeSuite UC offering hit 20-percent year-over-year growth
in customer seats.
“OfficeSuite is just one piece of our growing UCaaS portfolio we’re investing in to help businesses of all sizes make the transition to the cloud with solutions that deliver cost-effective, best-in-class customer and employee experiences," said Joseph Harding, executive vice president and chief marketing officer.