This is the time of year we get all weepy and sentimental, looking back at the moments that made us happy, sad, angry – you name the emotion – in the past 12 months.
And what a year it’s been in the telecom-IT channel. Windstream surprised us by naming two new channel chiefs in 2017. Avaya filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in January, then emerged earlier this month in what the company says is a very strong position. TelePacific rebranded, after some key acquisitions, to TPx, reflecting its nationwide presence.
But that’s far from all. CenturyLink battled allegations of fraud and legacy services, particularly at AT&T, continued their path to the telecom graveyard.
Those are only a handful of stories that made our list of the top 12 in 2017, which we tallied through a review of online page views and weekly newsletter results.
Scroll through our gallery below to see what was No. 1!
#12 — TelePacific Rebrands as TPx
TelePacific Communications, which in 2016 closed on its acquisition of DSCI, rebranded to TPx Communications to better reflect its evolution from a regional CLEC to a managed services company with a nationwide audience.
DSCI’s UCx unified communications offering and ITx managed IT services were expected to drive faster sales for the managed services that comprise more than half of TelePacific’s business. When joined with TPx's SD-WAN technology that can deliver those services anywhere that there’s a broadband connection, this combination “sets the bar for success in the integrated MSP space,” the company said.
As TelePacific. TPx was a regional player focused on California, Nevada and Texas.
“We’re not the company we used to be; we’ve really transformed our business," said Ken Bisnoff, senior VP of strategic opportunities at TPx. "In the past our origin was out of a CLEC — and that’s a term that really has become a part of history, [like] Blockbuster or Kodak cameras,” he said. “It was once wonderful and mainstream, and it’s just really not a part of who we are today.”
Channel vet Curt Allen emerged from retirement to take over as Windstream‘s channel chief, replacing Olen Scott, who was only in the position for a few months. Scott became Windstream’s channel chief immediately after the company’s acquisition of EarthLink closed. He previously was EarthLink’s vice president of partner channels.
Allen’s official title is senior vice president of channel. He previously was president of X4 Solutions, the master agent that was acquired by fellow master Sandler Partners. He became Sandler’s president of channel before retiring in September.
Allen told Channel Partners he’s “incredibly excited” about the opportunity at Windstream.
“After wrapping up 15 months post acquisition (Sandler acquiring X4) and completing the integration of the two businesses, my plan was to take significant time off and probably start another business later next year,” he said. “After speaking with Layne [Levine, president of Windstream’s enterprise business division] about the team he was assembling and the energy around building the channel program the way it should be, I was easily sold on jumping back in. Subsequent conversations with (Windstream president and CEO) Tony Thomas confirmed for me the commitment the organization has to the channel from the very top.”
Scott left Windstream to pursue undisclosed opportunities. Here's where to read the full story.
#10 — Security Startups at RSA Conference
RSA Conference 2017, held in February, Feb. 13-17, featured the inaugural Early Stage Expo, where 40 startups pitched the solutions they were bringing to market to some of the 43,000 RSAC attendees — an audience comprised of influencers, customer decision-makers, investors and partners.
For the first few hours of the Early Stage Expo kickoff, it was standing-room only. Channel Partners introduced you to seven startups that stood out to us. Clearly, we chose correctly, as you flocked in droves to learn about them.
Windstream makes a second appearance on our list at No. 9, with its acquisition of Broadview Networks, valued at more than $227 million. Broadview offers a suite of cloud-based services under the OfficeSuite UC brand.
Michael Flannery, Windstream’s senior vice president of CLEC SMB, told Channel Partners that the acquisition makes Windstream a stronger competitor in a growing market.
“By 2020, we expect the unified communications market to exceed over $40 billion, with 60 percent of those users in the SMB segment,” he said. “Specific to the partners, Broadview has an excellent partner program and after this transaction closes we expect to be able to leverage their experienced sales force and nationwide network of agents across our extensive network footprint. At the end of the day, I think we do anticipate there will be new opportunities for our partners as a result of this acquisition, which we’ll be able to address once we close,” Flannery said.
The deal closed at the end of July. Brian Crotty, Broadview's COO, got a new role as president of Windstream's midmarket and small business division. Several other former Broadview execs landed positions with the merged entity.
It all started in June, when a woman fired from her job as a customer service and sales agent filed suit in Arizona, claiming that she was let go just days after notifying CEO Glen Post of an alleged scheme involving unlawful billing practices, sometimes resulting in charges that weren't authorized by customers — often referred to as "cramming."
The complaint said Heiser’s allegations of what she observed, and “what the CenturyLink corporate culture encouraged, are consistent with the experiences of hundreds of thousands and potentially millions of consumers who have been defrauded by CenturyLink.”
After a months-long internal investigation performed by an independent auditor, no evidence of fraud or wrongdoing by any member of management was discovered, although the findings revealed mistakes and lack of sufficient internal monitoring.
“We remain committed to maintaining an ethical business culture based on our unifying principles, which include honesty and integrity and a commitment to excellence,” said CenturyLink spokesman Mark Molzen. “Our principles are at the core of who we are as a company and we want our customers and partners to feel that in every interaction with us. Our focus is, and will continue to be, providing quality products and a positive customer experience. We intend to vigorously defend ourselves in the pending lawsuits.”
#7 — Avant 'Special Forces'
More than 100 people attended Avant’s first “Special Forces” training held in February at the master agent’s new Chicago headquarters. This training was part of Avant’s sales enablement as a service, first introduced last year at Channel Partners Evolution.
The sessions, led by Drew Lydecker, the company’s president, were designed to help resellers sell the latest technologies. Topics covered were UCaaS, SD-WAN, IaaS and security. Just a few of the participating companies included 8×8, Acronis, Aryaka, Cloudgenix, Datapipe, EvolveIP, Hosting, InContact, Level3, Masergy, Rackspace, RingCentral, Talari and ViaWest.
#6 — Rackspace: 'We're Not Going to Do Snowflakes Anymore'
Channel Partners sat down with John Engates, Rackspace’s chief technology officer, and Bryan Thompson, general manager for the Rackspace OpenStack Private Cloud, to discuss partner reception of the company’s managed OpenStack as a service offering, the resurgence in private cloud, a new hardware deal with Dell EMC and the outlook for open source for enterprise customers.
Our Q&A struck a chord with our readers who were particularly interested in open-source software.
The gentlemen also delved into their company's professional-services expansion to support customers looking to move workloads into the AWS cloud.
The big carriers continued to make plans to do away with more and more legacy telecom services as our world becomes more and more internet-connected.
Case in point, our fifth-most popular story of the year — AT&T discontinuing copper landline phone service in Illinois. While a regional story, it represents what's happening all around the country.
Discontinuing copper landline phone service requires both state and federal approvals, but they've been getting the green light for the most part, as the FCC has proposed a plan aimed at simplifying the copper, legacy service retirement process. The Commission's plan focuses on easing the transition to IP networks, streamlining network notification rules and eliminating rules that require service providers to dedicate capital to maintain TDM equipment.
#4 — Channel Partners Expo Halls
Always two of the biggest posts of the year are the image galleries from the Channel Partners Conference and Expo and Channel Partners Evolution expo halls. This year was no different.
We snapped photos of some of the top vendors in the halls as well as partners networking.
Click here for our gallery from Channel Partners in April and here for Evolution in September.
#3 — 12 Ways an All-Internet SD-WAN Thumps MPLS
SD-WAN has taken the channel by storm; in fact, C3's Matthew Toth suggested here that you kiss your MPLS goodbye.
"Stop buying MPLS. Right now. Don’t spend the next three-year contract cycle 'letting it shake out,'" he told us. "Start evaluating dual-internet SD-WAN solutions, and realize that advances in internet-only SD-WANs may mean you can eliminate MPLS as a transport method from your WAN."
Among his recommendations why to go with an all-internet SD-WAN: It's cloud native; it offers more bandwidth; and it gives customers more access options.
But that's far from all. Learn more about why he thinks this is the way to go. Your peers sure did, making it our No. 3 story of the year.
#2 — Avaya Bankruptcy
Avaya, which has been transitioning from a legacy hardware business to a software and services company, was looking for ways to decrease its debt load of about $6.3 billion. It found it in chapter 11 bankruptcy protection early this year.
While partners initially were stunned by the news, those we talked with expected the company to emerge a stronger competitor.
Randy Koerber, CEO of Data Voice Exchange, said he was happy to hear Avaya isn’t selling its call-center business because it “would have been a nightmare, because [of] too many parties involved.”
“That’s Avaya’s flagship; if all of a sudden you have to go to two places for support, that makes it ugly,” he said.
Kenneth Heitner, president and CEO of Consolidated Technologies, said, “As ironic as is sounds, the news of the chapter 11 reorganization was almost a positive — because the prior uncertainty was worse than the action of addressing the debt.”
Avaya emerged from bankruptcy earlier this month.
#1 — Toshiba Telecom Shutdown
It was almost a deadlock for No. 1, but the shutdown of Toshiba's telecom division edged out Avaya's bankruptcy for our readers' attention. Dealers across the United States, Canada and Latin America were caught off guard by Toshiba’s plans.
In a March letter, Brian Metherell, vice president and general manager of Toshiba America Information Systems’ (TAIS) Telecommunication Systems Division (TSD), notified dealers of the pending closure.
Toshiba has “deemed it necessary to wind down our Telecommunication Systems Division (TSD) business starting immediately,” he said. Toshiba Canada also will be announcing the wind-down of its telecommunications business, and TSD will no longer be selling in Mexico, he said.
Ben Stiegler, Snaptech IT’s vice president of business development for Northern California, said his company is one of about 250 authorized TSD dealers in the United States. Dealers in the U.S., Canada and Latin America were all “blindsided” by the news of the closure, he said. Snaptech IT had sold Toshiba IP and digital phone systems since 2002.
“The closure impacts all of our Toshiba customers,” he said. “Two months is a very short ramp-down time. Toshiba is going to honor extended warranties … but when you think about a customer who banks on the Toshiba name and plans … to open an office in Chicago in two years, their option to extend with the solution they have already committed to is not going to be open to them.”
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