Tag Archives: Cloud

Comcast’s Cary Tengler Talks Sales, SD-WAN, and Partner Success

I sat down with Cary Tengler, Executive Director, National Partner Programs at Comcast to talk about how partners can find the opportunities to sell evolving technologies.


As technologies evolve rapidly, it is the constant struggle of the partner to keep up with new solutions, and how to sell them. I talked with Comcast’s Cary Tengler to discuss what partners can do to stay up on technology trends, educate themselves to sell more, and to build complex sales. See our full exchange below.

How can partners become well-rounded in the channel, and be able to sell multiple services/technologies to build complex sales?

Tengler: I don’t actually believe that growth-oriented partners need to be well-rounded. Instead, I think partners must focus on specific verticals and solution sets in which they have – or can develop – a competitive advantage.  It used to be the case that partners could be very successful by being networking generalists and providing a quick turnaround on three quotes for a T1.

This clearly is no longer the case. The advent of cloud-based solutions has moved much of the IT budget and decision-making into disparate parts of the organization, including HR, sales, operations, and most importantly marketing. This requires growth-oriented partners to focus more on their customers’ business outcomes than transactional sales techniques. This is why MicroCorp’s Ultimate Partner Training is so critical to the sales partner community. This in-depth training provides an immersive experience that truly teaches partners the “how and why” of positioning and selling emerging technologies like cloud connectivity, data center, and SD-WAN solutions.

As a leader in cable, fiber, and ethernet technologies, how do you see the growth of “bandwidth hog” solutions such as SD-WAN impacting the need for cable/fiber, etc.?

Tengler: With the caveat that SD-WAN is actually a solution for effectively managing bandwidth hogs, Comcast is a huge advocate of SD-WAN and we’ll be releasing our own solution later this year.

The principal benefit is that it frees the end-user from the tyranny of MPLS, a 20+ year old technology that is expensive, difficult to manage and totally unsuited for utilizing cloud-based solutions. Many end users continue to maintain their MPLS networks due to a toxic mix of fear and inertia.

Prior to SD-WAN, an MPLS customer seeking to upgrade their WAN was faced with significant technical and economic roadblocks (i.e., rip-and-replace) and often chose to live with an expensive sub-optimal solution rather than attempt a wholesale network replacement.

SD-WAN removes both the technical and economic barriers and allows end-users to mix and match network technologies to better manage their solutions and desired business outcomes.

And by removing the MPLS “requirement”, Comcast is highly confident that our coax and fiber services will be very well positioned to be the MPLS killer.

What is Comcast’s role in helping partners deal with and learn about these “bandwidth hog” technologies? 

Tengler: Since the inception of Comcast Business, we have led the cable and telecom industry in simultaneously reducing costs and driving bandwidth speed increases, so to a certain extent, we’ve been helping partners by providing the most reliable, cost-effective high-speed bandwidth solutions on the market.

More specifically, as Comcast expands its services portfolio beyond traditional data and voice into cloud and data center connectivity, premise-based services like Wifi Pro and Smart Office, and even IoT, we are investing heavily in training, operations, support, and, of course, in our master agents like MicroCorp.

Educating and enabling sales partners is hard and ongoing, for all parties involved, but ultimately it’s that three-way partnership that will position the channel as the primary solutions provider for next generation solutions.

We are constantly training our partners on evolving data center, SD-WAN, and hosted technologies. What would you say are some of the most important things partners need to consider when selling these solutions?

Tengler: I’ll go back to my first comment and suggest that partners identify the solutions and verticals in which they have or can establish a competitive advantage. The decentralization of IT budgets requires that sales partners speak the language of the “line of business” manager which typically moves beyond speeds-and-feeds into business outcomes. Focus, focus, focus.

And, no surprise here, I believe every sales partner must develop a familiarity with cable connectivity (at a minimum) and establish a selling partnership with the local cableco. As more mission-critical applications move to the cloud, having a diverse back-up connectivity solution is not just nice, but necessary. This redundancy and diversity is best addressed with cable.

How does Comcast work with master agents who focus on complex sales? How is the approach different from that of working with masters who focus on SMBs and smaller, individual sales?

Tengler: Comcast’s Master Agents are supported by an outstanding team of 75+ support and operations professionals, of which fully half are dedicated to complex sales support. Additionally, we have 22 partner sales managers and 12 sales engineers who work closely with local sales partners, primarily complex solutions design and other pre-sales issues. The sales engineers take the lead in our field-based partner training on a wide variety of solutions, including fiber, WAN, SD-WAN, hosted voice and UCaaS.

As compared to those Masters that focus on SMB sales, which are more transactional and operations focused, we invest disproportionately in the training and 3-wide teaming model that are necessary for success in selling and delivering expensive and complex solutions.

But don’t get me wrong – we love SMB and are happy to support those sales partners and customers as well. In fact, our 1Gbps coax (+ SD-WAN solution) is already making its way into more complex solutions sales.

How the Cloud is Driving SD-WAN

The adoption of Software-Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) is increasing, providing enterprises with a host of benefits. 451 Research reports that one in five companies indicate that they’ll adopt SD-WAN in the following year, and an additional 30 percent say that adoption of SD-WAN is on their radar.

The benefits of implementing SD-WAN include:

  • The ability to optimize connections to the cloud and secure those connections better than with current networks, which is a key driver of SD-WAN use
  • An application-aware approach to WAN, which is becoming more important to IT managers as cloud usage expands
  • Improved agility and cost-savings

Cloud Adoption is Spurring SD-WAN

The migration of companies’ software solutions to the cloud is an independent event, but the use of SD-WAN is occurring alongside it. As IT professionals pursue a transition to cloud software, they don’t want to sacrifice performance or security in seeking out the cost savings and agility that’s found in cloud applications.

A traditional WAN is set up with individual branches connected to a central location using a Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) connection or other dedicated circuits. Each branch has a router that acts independently, and traffic on the connection is managed based on static routing.

SD-WAN, by contrast, removes the control plane from the physical devices that are at each branch, which provides central control and visibility over the WAN. This means that enterprises are able to mix and match the connections that are being used and the various carriers, allowing for greater flexibility and agility.

This set-up trades a wheel-and-spokes structure for one where the enterprise can connect directly to the cloud. Additionally, IT professionals have more visibility to work with the entire network footprint and manage traffic for optimized cloud application performance.

As cloud migration continues to increase, it’s expected that SD-WAN will grow alongside it. The same 451 Research poll results indicate that 88 percent of respondents plan to increase their cloud and hosting budgets in 2017.

What’s Holding You Back?

There are some potential obstacles to implementing SD-WAN, and one or more may keep your company from embracing this technology:

  • The cost of new equipment that SD-WAN requires
  • Concerns about the maturity of the current offerings for SD-WAN
  • Internet performance
  • Security concerns

Some experts predict that cloud offerings may soon be bundled with SD-WAN, because the marriage of the two makes sense in nearly every situation.

MicroCorp is an expert in connectivity and the cloud. When you partner with us, you’ll have access to not only the ideal cloud solutions for your enterprise, but also the connectivity you need to support optimized performance and cloud management agility. Give us a call today.

Hacker

Preparing for Today’s Generation of Ambitious Hackers

HackerOnline businesses are increasingly improving against their brick-and-mortar counterparts. With this success, however, has come a whole new threat: the rise of a cyber attacker who isn’t showing much restraint, even for the biggest targets.

Hacker Ambition on the Rise

In just the last couple years, hackers have been seen going after targets that even five years ago might have been unthinkable. While retail store breaches were standard fare, new cyber attackers pursued online banks, and some evidence suggests that hackers may have even targeted the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, though to what extent is unclear.

The growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) has emboldened some hackers, who in another incident used connected devices as part of a massive botnet of semi-autonomous connected devices to engage in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks that shut down websites.

Surprising Weaknesses Appear

Perhaps the good news in the current hacking-filled environment is that it reveals just how insecure networks really are. Stolen credentials are only the beginning, and lower-tech attacks do plenty of damage as well. Business email compromise–essentially just highly-targeted phishing operations–caused $3 billion in losses over three years, according to Symantec.

More Cloud, More Problems

Perhaps worst of all, companies are contributing to their own downfalls through everyday business processes. The growth of the IoT is putting more potential points of access into play, and many of these are poorly secured thanks to a faulty perception that a connected device is a low-value target. The device itself may be, but the network that it’s connected to is of much higher value.

Symantec’s reports were grim on this front as well; attacks on IoT devices doubled throughout 2016, and at the worst of it, there was one attack every two minutes on an IoT device. Increased movement to cloud-based systems was likewise bringing out fresh targets of opportunity for hackers.

Eternal Vigilance Is the Price of Liberty…Online

So what can be done? Proper security must be observed at every turn, even when doing so seems inconvenient or cumbersome. Furthermore, the tools to protect security must be improved; after all, tools that cause as many problems as they prevent aren’t worth using.

Tools like those found at MicroCorp can be a great start toward a process of continuous security improvement, helping users better protect systems against outside intrusion. It’s a project that requires everyone’s cooperation, from the end user to the security developer, and one that makes us all safer. For more information about how MicroCorp can help secure your business, contact us today.

Cloud: How It Changed Itself, and Us

Today’s cloud environment has picked up steam from a “customer acceptance” point of view: customers are adopting cloud in general at a much faster rate than we had expected them to. We no longer pitch cloud — our clients ask us about it. And, while cloud has been a boon for many, it’s important to remember that new technologies can come with a set of challenges that are shifting the telecom and IT markets in various ways.

Cloud Evolution

Cloud started on the email side with products like Office 365, then moved into phone systems with hosted technology; now we get questions about moving servers to the cloud. The transition from email to phone to infrastructure was rapid, and all three are still growing. From the transformation of backup (moving from tape to cloud) to the developments from giants like AWS, cloud is an ever-evolving beast. And we expect to see more in the way of private cloud infrastructure in the future.

Price Erosion Forces Change
Price erosion on connectivity and network deals is a big concern in the telecom world these days, and cloud offers the opportunity to pivot and go deeper with customers by offering more solutions. But it’s important to call out our experience here at SinglePoint in this regard: we have not felt the effects of price erosion the way we thought we would because the need for bandwidth has kept up with the erosion.

Where we were selling 10 Mbps, we now sell 100 Mbps. Where we were selling MPLS, we are now selling SD-WAN. While pricing does keep going down, market trends have pushed us to rethink our partnerships and our sales model as well as to adopt and use cloud as a product. It has forced our hand to move more into IT from the pure telecom sphere we used to work in, and we have made partnerships in order to conduct IT risk assessments and build upon private cloud architecture.

Cloud Changes the Market
There have been continual mergers and acquisitions across carriers, and as the big get bigger, we have fewer and fewer providers. Now, we see all these new providers coming up; not as carrier services, but as cloud companies and hosted phone companies. Where there used to be 50 CLECs, there are 100 new hosted phone companies and hundreds of new SD-WAN companies. As they come out of the woodwork, we see cloud changing what businesses are offering.

What’s in Store
In 2015, our core carrier products (internet, MPLS, voice services, etc.) were 90% of our sales. In 2016, 40% of our sales were non-traditional telecom products such as cloud systems, hosted contact management solutions, hosted phones, cloud-based architecture, and cellular. That huge shift tells us to expect more change, and to think ahead about our offerings.

Cloud Technology Provides Opportunity for Data Centers to Reorganize

The days of major data center expansion are numbered. That’s what a recent survey by 451 Group’s Uptime Institute indicates may be the result of increasing traffic in the cloud. Companies are no longer stretched thin at their data centers, but are instead looking for ways to reorganize them now that the cloud is relieving storage space problems.

The survey included a variety of executives from traditional enterprise companies, including IT directors and facilities managers from retailers, banks, and manufacturers. Here are some of the key findings about how data centers are being impacted by increasing cloud software and storage investments:

The shrinking isn’t proportional: The expansion of cloud technology and investment in software in the cloud has resulted in companies feeling a bit of relief in their data centers. Storage options available in the cloud mean that IT departments may experience a little less push to keep expanding data storage. In most cases, however, this relief is not experienced at the same pace that cloud investment is growing.

Capacity planning is still a big investment: Almost half of the respondents responsible for facilities were working on upgrading infrastructure, cooling infrastructure, and improving power availability as part of their capacity planning strategy.

New data centers are still springing up: 30 percent of respondents were involved in plans to build new data centers.

Getting more out of existing data centers: While many companies are using third-party vendors to handle increasing demand for data storage, they are also focusing on improving support for existing on-site systems. An IT director is no longer seeking out a $50 million investment in a data center, but is instead asking for smaller amounts to improve the data center that’s there. In most cases, it’s turning out to be easier to get approval for investments in supporting and protecting the legacy technology.

IT teams work with various solutions to handle demand for storage: The survey revealed that 40 percent of respondents will work to consolidate servers in the next year and 33 percent will deploy additional workloads to the cloud. Thirty-three percent of respondents say they will update or upgrade their existing physical infrastructure.

While the cloud provides solutions for a wealth of processing and storage challenges, companies are recognizing the need for continued investment in on-site resources. Cloud storage provides much-needed relief for over-stretched data centers and allows IT teams to focus on improving support and security for their legacy systems.

Want to know more about how cloud is affecting the data center? Check out MicroCorp’s Data Center Market Report library for industry expertise.

To learn more about how the cloud is impacting the IT practices of individual companies like yours, talk with our specialists at MicroCorp, experts in cloud, connectivity, and communications.

Reasons Your Technology Will Never Be Exclusively in the Cloud

It’s a nice picture, imagining all your software needs handled by one neat cloud service. In that picture, your team works without the encumbrance of hardware and your updates never interrupt anyone’s processing. You pay your monthly support and subscriptions, but are never forced to face a board of directors in a tight, itchy suit to get approval for a monstrous new software implementation.

The picture is nice, but it’s likely a corporate fairy tale. There are plenty of reasons why the idea of a cloud-only software environment is probably never going to be a reality:

Getting access: One of the key barriers to an exclusively cloud environment is the need for employees to be able to access applications. Even if every application is housed in the cloud, you’ll still need a way to get to your software and a way for your IT team to govern which team members are authorized to access each application.

Lifecycles of certain products: If you work in an industry in which products have a short lifecycle, it may seem that it’s just a matter of time before everything is in the cloud. On the other hand, when you consider a product like insurance, for example, you can see that on-site systems will be necessary for a policy that was created decades ago in an on-premises mainframe.

Security: The security of cloud software is often debated, but some aspects of the security issue aren’t related to whether cloud technology can protect your data. Some security discussions are about the possession of information and its legal, physical and virtual location according to regulations. IT professionals in the financial, banking, and legal industries must tread carefully when they consider cloud-based applications. There’s good reason to believe that some industries will never embrace cloud solutions because it would compromise legality.

Lock-in: Enterprises are often wary of the idea of locking in with a particular provider of cloud services. Even though cloud technology comes with agility and flexibility, it still requires an investment of time and money to implement a new application. As a result, companies are reluctant to partner with a single cloud services provider in a way that may prevent them from adopting other software that they need to optimize productivity or reduce costs.

To determine how to implement the best possible mix of cloud and on-site software for your company, talk with our consultants at MicroCorp. We can help you identify the applications that are a good initial choice for cloud software to improve efficiency and reduce costs.

Expanding Data Center Trend Continues

The data center industry continues its rapid growth in 2017 to meet the storage demands of existing robust cloud providers. At the same time, the vacancy rate of U.S. data center space is 4.6%, according to real estate brokerage firm CBRE. Even though tightness remains for server capacity, there is still much more data center development on the way.

Geography of Expansion

Most of the construction going on in 2017 for new data centers is in Northern Virginia, which is expected to add 121 MW of power. Other key places for larger data space include the Dallas-Fort Worth area and Silicon Valley in California. According to CBRE, about 271 MW of capacity is being built in big metropolitan areas, of which 160 MW is under construction without signed leases from vendors.

Will Expansion Pay off for Cloud Providers?

Data facility owners are expected to do well in 2017 in terms of a balance between supply and demand, according to real estate experts. It appears to be a positive move for modern data centers that can offer a multitude of cloud and managed services. As owners of traditional data centers move into outsourced data centers, the door will be opened for more vacant facilities to be sold.

In 2016, data center asset sales reached $1.78 billion with an average price per square foot of $275. Acquisitions that had not yet closed by the end of the year included Equinix’s purchase of Verizon data centers in the Americas and CenturyLink’s proposed acquisition of BC Partners and Medina Capital. Data facility owners with the greatest potential to capitalize on rising demand for network connectivity and pricing are those in heavily populated areas.

What Expansion Means for IT

The IT industry is challenged by tight budgets and limited space. That puts IT firms in a position to make one of three choices, according to CenturyLink:

  1. Construct a new facility
  2. Upgrade an existing data center
  3. Outsource with a trusted provider

The key factor in choosing what to do to meet growth challenges will be for IT companies and the businesses they serve to evaluate costs together. The increasing emphasis among businesses on big data and analytics is part of what’s fueling this steady expansion. Other reasons for this growth include:

  • Demands to replace outdated technology
  • The trend toward globalization
  • Mergers and acquisitions, and spinoffs that require more space
  • Increasing interest in more disaster recovery server space

Conclusion

MicroCorp has been supporting MSPs, VARs, and agent partners for over 30 years. If you’ve run out of server space or need a more efficient data center solution, contact us to learn how we can accommodate your technology needs.

SD-WAN Technology Will Continue to Expand in 2017

Enterprise tech experts believe that 2017 is going to be a big year for integrated network technologies, particularly with regard to appliances. Integrated networks are now far easier to deploy and manage than they were even a couple of years ago, and many pundits are predicting that the enterprise space will see a sharp rise in the number of network appliance deployments this year. Somewhat surprisingly, SD-WAN technology has proven to be a major driver of this shift.

When the integrated network trend first surfaced, it seemed as though NFV technologies were going to be the go-to option for network design and deployment. However, they require a significant investment of IT resources, and many enterprises don’t want to handle all their integration requirements in-house. SD-WAN solutions have stepped in to fill the void, in large part because they offer centralized control and configuration features that greatly reduce the amount of care and feeding the network needs for peak performance.
Major Factors Driving the SD-WAN Trend

In particular, there are five major reasons why SD-WAN has become the solution of choice for integrated networking:

  • An application-oriented focus. Because SD-WAN is so centralized, it supports superior network adaptability and application-level reporting. By contrast, branch networks powered by multi-vendor solutions do not achieve nearly the same level of consistency.
  • Flexibility and responsiveness to change. This adaptability carries over to the service, integration, and policy spheres. Generally speaking, SD-WAN networks are the least rigid and most suited to change and flexibility, making them a better fit in a constantly shifting technology landscape.
  • Better processor technologies. Today’s processors have made it possible to assign a wider range of functions to hardware than ever before, without any loss of performance. SD-WAN networks exploit this to their advantage.
  • The rise of cloud computing. Because the cloud has shifted a great deal of Internet traffic to links, SD-WAN has emerged as a prime solution because it vastly reduces the workload placed on other network resources.
  • An “easier is better” mentality. Today, enterprises expect technologies to be easy to use without requiring a great deal of setup. SD-WAN fits the bill, and because it is so much easier to create and deploy, it is supplanting older networking techniques that are comparatively complicated and thus seen as outdated.

The connectivity and communication professionals at MicroCorp offer industry-leading expertise and a comprehensive suite of business-oriented, SD-WAN-powered integrated networking solutions. Please contact a MicroCorp client services representative to learn more.