Solution Providers Help Put The 'Connect' In Connectivity Services

The convergence of telecom and IT is prompting some interesting changes. Telecommunications carriers aren't just your grandfather's cable provider anymore. These companies are becoming connectivity providers, touting a combination of cloud and networking offerings. Traditional IT vendors are turning their attention to cloud, software, and network connectivity services, too.

The trouble is, connectivity services can be a nebulous concept for solution providers. Those companies used to selling hardware now must become acclimated to new kinds of offerings, operational components and processes that will generate recurring revenue for them in the long run -- not an easy task. But first, they must examine the changing landscape of connectivity providers to figure out who they should be working with to better serve their end customers.

"There has never been a better opportunity for partners to become more connected and more relevant to customers. Partnering with other industry specialists is a great opportunity for partners to expand their expertise and develop new growth channels," said Ken Trombetta, vice president of software, solutions and architectures for Cisco Systems' Worldwide Partner Organization, in an interview with CRN.

[Related: 2015 Network Connectivity Partner Programs, A-Z]

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CRN's Network Connectivity Partner Program Guide is here to help take some of the guesswork out of the process. The list highlights industry players offering telecom, cloud and connectivity offerings -- and these providers also have a focus on working with partners.

Telcos haven't historically been the easiest companies to team up with for solution providers. Until recently, carriers were used to having all the control, but they're coming around. That's because channel partners, including VARs, systems integrators and solution providers, often have lower customer attrition rates than many carriers and vendors because end customers like working with a trusted partner.

Connectivity providers are realizing the importance of the end customer-partner relationship. They are also starting to understand that chances are, one provider won't be able to fulfill every customer's needs and wants, and are starting to loosen the reins.

"There used to be a sense of 'we want to own the account, and we want to provide every single thing possible to those accounts,'" said John Cunningham, CEO of New York-based BCM One, an IT consulting and management provider, and Verizon partner. But according to Cunningham, things are changing. "These providers are saying they want to provide the best services to customers, and if a partner has a relationship or a skill set that they can layer onto those services in order to provide a better solution, [providers] are open to that."

Verizon recently revamped its channel partner program after realizing it couldn't scale and expand its business fast enough without the help of partners, said Adam Famularo, global channel vice president of Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Verizon Enterprise Solutions, who was appointed as channel leader last year.

"Working with partners, you can build businesses with them and create new value for customers in the marketplace vs. selling a service directly to a customer," Famularo said. "You can't hit all the market segments you want to hit, and deliver a complete solution to customers without working with channel partners."

Cisco, San Jose, Calif., has been helping its partners develop new relationships through its Cisco Partner Ecosystem, but this year the vendor is focusing on helping partners connect the dots between its various services as the industry moves from hardware sales to software and services, Cisco's Trombetta said.

"The integration of architecture -- such as software, hybrid cloud, security and [Internet of Things] to produce innovative solutions and deliver business outcomes to customers -- will be a key, and profitable, opportunity for partners this year," he said.

Telecommunications master agent Intelisys is already seeing how customer interest around cloud services is ramping up, and how partners can cash in. "Three years ago, our cloud sales were under $25,000 per month. Today we are approaching $200,000 per month," said Carol Beering, senior vice president of sales operations for Intelisys and manager of the Intelisys Partner Program. Intelisys is committed to educating the channel on these opportunities, she said.

"Sales partners have to be willing to take risks, ask questions and seek help. The partners doing this are winning big," Beering said.

The information included in the 2015 Network Connectivity Partner Program Guide was provided by each company in its application.

Click here to see the list in its entirety