CenturyLink To Partners: Time For Integrated Networking, Cloud, Co-Lo Platform

CenturyLink's James Parker

CenturyLink is integrating the technology from a string of acquisitions over the past few years into a unified platform for deploying network, telecom and cloud services.

The Monroe, La.-based telecom and network services provider also is taking advantage of the increasing convergence between the telecom and IT markets to begin recruiting traditional IT solution providers to start building services for customers on its new Platform CenturyLink.

The company detailed its plans during the CenturyLink AllianceExpo 2015 partner conference being held this week in Denver.

[Related: CenturyLink Opens Expansive 'Cloud Development Center' In Seattle]

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Platform CenturyLink, introduced late last year to bring CenturyLink's networking, cloud, co-location and managed services into an integrated offering, will be a major push for the vendor and its channel strategy going forward, said James Parker, senior vice president of channels and international for the vendor.

"If I'm in the co-lo space, can I bring in the cloud? Yes," Parker told a crowd of solution providers at the conference.

CenturyLink will deliver on that promise with a heavy dose of automation to let customers easily come on to the Platform CenturyLink and acquire new services, including managed services such as disaster recovery, business intelligence and more, Parker said.

The company also will engage ISVs with Platform CenturyLink as a way to help channel partners get new revenue opportunities, he said.

Platform CenturyLink will bring CenturyLink into competition with such providers as Amazon Web Services, Comcast, Equinix and IBM, but will be differentiated by the breadth of its overall portfolio of services, Parker said. "We show this to customers and the light comes on," he said.

Platform CenturyLink seems to be unique in terms of how complete an offering it provides, said Aaron Schweers, chief solutions architect at Provision Networks, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based solution provider and CenturyLink channel partner.

"It's an end-to-end platform and total solution," Schweers told CRN. "I haven't seen something like this from anyone else."

Platform CenturyLink comes as the vendor and its partners are facing a fast-changing market, Parker said.

Parke cited a CenturyLink survey that found the networking business is expected to remain stable through 2019, while management network, co-location, hosting, cloud and SaaS markets are expected to grow at a cumulative annual growth rate of between 9 percent and 23 percent.

Those growing markets require businesses be more agile, which Parker said meant a high degree of automation. Also important to success will be a focus on security and optimization.

NEXT: Big Changes In Store From CenturyLink

CenturyLink's Blake Wetzel

"How do these reflect on our road map?" Parker asked. "We look at this and say, 'If it doesn't provide agility, doesn't provide security, doesn't optimize, we won't build it.' "

CenturyLink has prepared for the new markets over the past few years with a series of acquisitions, Parker said. These include the 2008 acquisition of communications services provider Embarq, the 2011 acquisitions of communications services provider Qwest and enterprise cloud infrastructure and hosting provider Savvis, and the 2013 acquisitions of PaaS provider AppFog and public cloud services provider Tier 3.

CenturyLink in December also acquired Cognilytics, a provider of predictive analytics and big data solutions, as well as DataGarden, a developer of disaster- recovery-as-a-service technology.

Internally, CenturyLink is undergoing several changes, Parker said. The company is reorganizing to bring its network provider and cloud teams into the same organization as a way to increase its cloud capabilities while not lessening its networking business. It also is consolidating its operations teams as a way to increase customer support. "That's a big change," he said.

CenturyLink also has changed its sales teams to better capture global business, and has added incentives for sales reps to go after more new customers, Parker said.

Blake Wetzel, CenturyLink's vice president of channels and alliances, introduced channel partners to several new ongoing initiatives the company is rolling out.

The first is a new white-label cloud offering in which partners can build a complete cloud offering using CenturyLink's technology but with all branding done by the partner, said Wetzel.

That is a good option to have, said Joseph Corey, vice president for national programs at LantroVision, a Pearl River, N.Y.-based IT solution provider and CenturyLink channel partner.

LantroVision is still in the early stages of developing its cloud services and is now working with customers to assess their move to co-location and the cloud, Corey told CRN.

"CenturyLink lets partners utilize its cloud without requiring us to have heavyweight skills," he said. "We can leave all the heavy lifting to them."

The company also is developing new tools including APIs and interfaces as a way to drive new business, and is enhancing its partner enablement programs with new training programs and paths for helping partners grow their business, Wetzel said. "Every time you are successful, we are successful," he said.

CenturyLink also is beefing up its channel support team with 70 new people, and is providing enhanced support for complex solutions, Wetzel said. "It's a very complex market," he said. "You shouldn't have to build this all from scratch."