IT-Telecom Convergence: So Many Moving Parts

The good news: The IT-telecom convergence is leading to growing demand for what solution providers and telecom agents have to offer. But as IT networking and telecom vendors expand into new markets or offer new technologies, solution providers must constantly evaluate—and re-evaluate—which vendors they should be partnering with.

To help solution providers with those decisions, we offer CRN's 2014 Network Connectivity Services Partner Program Guide, which highlights the industry's leading portfolios of telecom, cloud and connectivity offerings. It also recognizes those industry players who seem ready, willing and able to help partners wrap their arms around IT-telecom convergence, and the many moving parts it entails.

Is your networking vendor providing you with the product portfolio, the partner programs, the marketing and sales assistance, and the training you need?

[Related: 2014 Network Connectivity Partner Programs]

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Take Cisco Systems, indisputably one of the networking industry's leaders and a major channel player. The company has been aggressively moving into the nascent-but-hot areas of software-defined networking (SDN) and the Internet of Things (IoT) with new technologies such as its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI).

"I feel very good about all the things that I am hearing from our engineers working with ACI," said Jim Kavanaugh, CEO of World Wide Technology, a St. Louis-based Cisco Gold partner (and No. 12 on the 2014 CRN Solution Provider 500 list), in a recent interview with CRN.

Perhaps equally important for Cisco's legions of channel partners, the vendor recently rolled out new partner training and certifications that solution providers can use to go to market with the ACI technology and IoT products.

The relationships between networking vendors and their channel partners work both ways, of course, with program requirements solution providers are expected to meet. In March Cisco made one of the most significant updates to its global partner program in years, requiring Cisco partners at the Gold and Premier levels to sell a minimum number of Cisco cloud and managed services in order to maintain their medal status.

While some partners might grumble about setting the bar so high, many see it as an opportunity. Brett LaCourse, senior market development manager at Teracai, a North Syracuse, N.Y.-based Cisco partner, said the new cloud and managed services requirement is "absolutely" a positive change and a sign, almost, of tough love. It's a change, he said, that nudges partners to move more quickly to the cloud services model—a direction in which partners should be moving anyway.

"The truth is, all of these make sense for us to evolve our business, whether it's some of the cloud services we are already doing today, like WebEx and Meraki, or building on to our own managed services practice or reselling somebody else's Hosted Collaboration Service," LaCourse told CRN when the new program was unveiled. "These are things that we really will be doing anyway. We might need to invest in them a little bit more for the audit requirements, but I see that as a good thing."

For solution providers trying to sort it all out, the 2014 Network Connectivity Services Partner Program Guide is a valuable resource. The information included in the 2014 Network Connectivity Services Partner Program Guide was provided by each company in its application. In order to qualify for participation in the Network Connectivity Services Partner Program Guide, companies need to have a partner program in place for the IT channel.