CenturyLink To Partners: Our Cloud Can Be Your Cloud

Many MSPs and VARs would rather sell their own clouds to customers than those of the vendors with which they partner.

Responding to that interest in the market for white-labeled solutions, CenturyLink rolled out several cloud-customization features earlier this month, which the telecom giant-cum-cloud service provider's channel partners are now using to create self-branded offerings and control their customers' experiences.

"You take a recognized public cloud and overtake it and personalize it and configure it as needed so you can sell it to your customers," Richard Seroter, CenturyLink's cloud product director, told CRN.

[Related: CenturyLink Outlines Plans For New Services, New Platform Based On SDN, NFV]

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The release includes features that allow partners to control the appearance, location and billing of the cloud services they offer. CenturyLink also open-sourced a cloud pricing tool with the release that partners can white-label.

Chris Parker, COO of BlackFin Square, a distributor based in Roswell, Ga., said the resellers he supplies with CenturyLink's telecom and cloud products are thrilled to have a solution they can self-brand all the way from the URL to the monthly bill.

"CenturyLink cloud is growing [like] gangbusters with all of my major clients, not only in disaster recovery, but also for R&D and QA systems," Parker told CRN.

Those resellers don't mind the Tier 3 nomenclature -- a holdover from CenturyLink's acquisition of the IaaS provider in 2013 -- as long as they can also label the product with their own brand.

"The ability for our clients to bill as themselves in a 'powered-by-CenturyLink model' has been the biggest bang," Parker told CRN. "That whole customization that allows customers to put their name out there is huge."

The customization features, which come at no additional cost, enable partners to choose from a dozen data centers to host their customers' data, create the URLs for their customer' portals, change pricing and customize billing, and select services to offer specific customers from CenturyLink's overall catalog.

Since they were shipped, not only have partners, from MSPs to ISVs, used them to shape the value-adds they deliver, but "some larger enterprises are treating us like their private cloud," Seroter told CRN.

And by open-sourcing Cost Estimator, the pricing tool that had previously only been used internally, CenturyLink is giving partners certainty that there are no hidden costs, Seroter said.

Cale Perry, president of CPI Communications, a master agent based in Iowa that has evolved into an IT professional services provider, has adopted Cloud Estimator and is white-labeling the tool for its customers. "I love the product," Perry told CRN. "It's very clean, simple for a customer to go in, spin up a server and know exactly what their costs are."

Customers are using the CPI-branded pricing tool to decide whether they want to go with a cloud solution, virtualize their servers but keep them on-premise, or run bare-metal, he said.

"It's self-serve. That helps with marketing. It's great for the needs that we have," Perry told CRN.

Like other communication providers, CPI has been adapting to the trend in the industry of commoditization of bandwidth. "It's becoming more about the applications and adding services and value," Perry said.

CenturyLink's Seroter said the new customization features were driven by demand from customers like BlackFin Square and CPI, as well as channel specialists within the company who saw partners trying to duplicate CenturyLink's content base through crude techniques like screen scraping.

Those specialists studied internal ticket information and came to the conclusion that they needed to help partners automate the entire cloud experience. Offering self-service capabilities empowers partners, which, in turn, is good for CenturyLink, Seroter told CRN. "The more we make this self-service, the more we invest in that, the easier we all scale," he said.

CenturyLink's new white-labeled cloud allows partners to "bring customers to their cloud, which is our cloud."