As evidenced by deals between MCI and Microsoft and between Internap and Cisco Systems, the communications and computer worlds continue to converge.
One ISP, Speakeasy, is furthering this trend by inking a deal with Ingram Micro. Under the agreement, the distributor's VARs will be able to sell Speakeasy's business-class DSL and T1 solutions, Web hosting services and VPN offerings.
Speakeasy's goal is to penetrate the small- and midsize-business markets, but given that so many companies are touting broadband wares today, why should VARs add Speakeasy to their portfolios?
For one thing, Speakeasy started out as a VAR nine years ago.
Apgar says Speakeasy's past gives it a "keen understanding" of VARs' issues.
"We have a keen understanding of the issues VARs have and what solutions they need to deliver to their customers," said Mike Apgar, founder and CEO of Speakeasy. "Broadband is necessary to complete networking solutions, remote connectivity solutions,you name it. What it comes down to is that we need to work together to deliver a complete solution to customers."
Speakeasy also has a long history of survival, having outlasted many of its competitors in the ISP/broadband space. The company, in fact, has even managed to increase its revenue,to $40 million in 2002 from $29 million in 2001. Apgar, who said he expects Speakeasy to grow by as much as 50 percent this year, credits the company's success to its focus on the bottom line and quality of service.
DPE Systems, an IT infrastructure services company and systems integrator based in Seattle, recently signed up for the Speakeasy-Ingram Micro program. The company specializes in VoIP solutions, so when it came time to choose a broadband provider, quality of service topped its list of criteria.
"You can't afford to have any choppy phone conversations, so we needed a [service-level agreement] that guaranteed and met our low-latency requirements and packet-loss requirements for VoIP and IP telephony," said Denney Agen, manager of business development at DPE. "We had an outside agency benchmark Speakeasy against other providers, and Speakeasy came out on top."
The ISP offers low latency levels by working with six backbone providers, Apgar said. Soon, that number will be eight, and Speakeasy has established data centers across the country to pinpoint customer data routes.
In addition, Speakeasy didn't ask DPE to take on administration or provisioning burdens, as many other service providers expect their solution providers to do, Agen said. "We needed a turnkey solution. [Speakeasy] took the ball and ran with it, letting us focus on the sale."
VARs enrolled in the Ingram Micro-Speakeasy training program are assigned a dedicated Speakeasy account manager, Apgar said.
"When they call to find out how to set up a VPN for a branch location, they aren't put into a phone tree where they have to retell their story," he said. "They get the same person that's responsible for getting all of their questions answered."
But it was Speakeasy's financial stability and the reliability of its solutions that piqued Ingram Micro's interest, said Kathy Riggs, senior director of vendor business management for mobile wireless, services and security at Ingram Micro. Once the distributor started working with Speakeasy, the ISP's flexibility came into play as well.
"Any time you introduce a new solution to a reseller, you need to move quickly to make it viable for them," Riggs said. "Speakeasy has been very flexible when it comes to working with our VARs."
Another reason Ingram Micro signed on with Speakeasy, and with other ISPs, was to stay on top of the trend toward converged telco/computing solutions.
A number of telecommunications companies have approached Ingram Micro to find out how distributors can help grow their businesses,especially since many customers are looking for solutions that combine traditional VAR offerings with telecommunications services, she said.