UC Solution Provider Fidelus Building Lucrative UC Software Channel

It's still somewhat rare for solution provider businesses to make the leap to selling in-house-developed products through channels of their own, but that's exactly what Fidelus Technologies accomplished: a set of unified communications (UC) software products sold primarily through fellow channel partners that now represent the company's second-most profitable business.

Fidelus is a N.Y.-based Cisco Gold partner with specialties in unified communications and collaboration (UCC), video and mobility products. It began life as a professional services solution provider in 2002, added hardware and software VAR capabilities, and is now certified as Master Unified Communications, Master Managed Services and Advanced TelePresence with Cisco.

A few years ago, Fidelus' sales and engineering teams identified opportunities to sell and integrate UCC software solutions on top of the work they were already doing. In 2007, the company formally began building custom applications for use in Cisco-centric UC environments, and a handful of them turned out to be so successful with customers that Fidelus decided to make them commercially available products, not just custom development projects.

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"I have to say this has become pretty lucrative," said Matt Kalmenson, Fidelus’ vice president of sales and marketing. "Fidelus' experience in delivering and implementing UCC technologies gave us first hand insight into how we could enhance our customers experience through software."

"Within a year, our software channel has become our fastest growing business line," he said. "We are now bringing this UCC software differentiator to the Cisco channel as a whole."

Initially, Fidelus only had one person focused on the custom app development, with another of its IT employees assisting on a part-time basis. The initial success, however, convinced the company to invest in the segment, and soon after, Fidelus hired Vladimir Hrabrov, a software industry veteran of nearly three decades with a resume including stints at Origin Digital, Hewlett-Packard and Novadim, as its vice president, software engineering.

Demand for the specialized nature of the products -- glove-fit applications that fill specific needs in the Cisco UC ecosystem -- was strong; Hrabrov has hired eight developers in the past year. Fidelus also has Registered Developer status with Cisco itself.

While it had been selling the applications directly to end users, Fidelus soon realized that it could expand its range of opportunities by offering its software through other channel partners. Fellow Cisco and UC VARs initially were skeptical of buying software from a channel competitor, Kalmenson said, so they began including noncompete agreements with its resellers stating Fidelus won't sell other products or services to those VARs' customers.

NEXT: Fidelus’ Software, IT Offerings

Fidelus now offers four software products, including Fidelus Console Operator, which, as an alternative to Cisco's Attendant Console (now in the end-of-life process), streamlines how operators answer and manage incoming and outgoing communications. It drops into Cisco Unified Communications Manager (UCM) without requiring a separate back-end server.

Then there are Fidelus Remote Phone Control, which allows IT administrators to remotely control, configure and troubleshoot any Cisco IP phone in the organization without requiring physical access to the phone itself, and Fidelus T9 Global Directory, an application that searches for colleagues within a company directory but with far fewer key presses than Cisco's out-of-the-box directory software and uses automatic WAN network push and four-digit dialing to eliminate international calling costs.

Earlier this week, Fidelus officially unveiled its fourth major product, Provisioning Manager Express, which streamlines how IT administrators can add, modify and delete users from Cisco UCM environments by offering templates for user and device management. Fidelus is positioning the software as being able to save enterprise customers as much as $75,000 in the costs and work hours associated with manual provisioning.

Fidelus now has about 30 solution provider partners, they said, including some of the most well-known Cisco channel partners. Solution providers that resell Fidelus products can earn as much as 30 points on the deal, Fidelus' Kalmenson said.

Fidelus isn't the first solution provider to offer homegrown software, they acknowledged. But, the specific nature of Fidelus' tools make it easier for other partners to sell that software and make everybody money, rather than grow their own.

"It's all Cisco channel-based," Kalmenson said. "Most success comes when these partners have an exciting opportunity and they just need one of these products to hit another level of satisfaction on the deal and make that Cisco system a little more streamlined."