Channel Partners Blog
By Kelly Teal
In space, when forces of immeasurable strength meet head on, new galaxies are said to emerge. The principle applies here on Earth, too, and that kind of cosmic event shook the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas this week when 3,200 people gathered to take part in the Spring 2010 Channel Partners Conference & Expo. But this wasn't just any trade show – on the cusp of an economic recovery and meteoric tech innovation, this was something more: the channel's Big Bang.
One of the key takeaways from the recent recession – for partners, that is – is that businesses don't just want the best price, they want the best value. They want someone to manage their services, not just find the lowest transport cost. They also want outside experts to choose, install and maintain their hardware. That means traditional telecom agents and traditional data VARs have to expand their capabilities and specialties, and rely on each other to learn the ins and outs.
That was the main message from speakers this week during the Channel Partners show. Hosted services, unified communications, energy sourcing and equipment provisioning all are the answer to many end users' communications needs – and to agents' and VARs' business evolution musts. In the hallways, session rooms and expo hall, each of those topics dominated conversations. Entire tracks were dedicated to managed services, business continuity and more. Yet each conveyed a similar theme and one that Motorola Inc.'s Janet Schijns perhaps summed up best: Price has to matter and investments must hold value for customers. And if you aggregate the right combination of services, you will future-proof your revenue streams.
That's especially important as some carriers trim their agent commissions or axe indirect partners altogether. Partners are realizing that long-term network access sales are not sustainable. On the VAR side, experts are watching their traditional customer base drift away due to lower capex spending. So, like agents, they're shifting their focus, too, toward managed services.
And there's already no shortage of choices. For example, Alteva this week introduced its hosted platform that incorporates Microsoft's unified communications software, Exchange and open-development features. Alteva handles the billing and other back-office functions, among other tasks, and agents can sell role-based licenses – for executives, call center agents, telecommuters and so on. The company also sells equipment and offers one-time hardware commissions.
Meanwhile, Masergy is providing hosted IP VPN managed services through channel partners. Broadview just launched its internally created hosted VoIP system. Developers can control the features and functions through cloud access. World Telecom Group (WTG) and colo firm Telx talked up their new partnership that lets partners add data centers services to their portfolios. End users don’t have to pay for infrastructure or internal IT employees. A.C.T. Conferencing is putting audio, video and Web conferencing into a unified portal. And Cbeyond and ADTRAN are bringing together cloud services and the necessary gear.
Those few case studies illustrate just how the channel is moving into its next phase of growth and change. And partners are consuming all the information they can. Consider the standing-room only education sessions, like the one on energy led by WTG's Vince Bradley, and the 32 percent increase of partner attendees as compared to the 2009 Channel Partners Conference & Expo in Las Vegas (based on final registration). Overall, participation soared 43 percent – because that’s what happens when channels collide.