Home Global-ICTGlobal-ICT 2013 Uniting enterprise data centers with the cloud

Uniting enterprise data centers with the cloud

by david.nunes
Ittai Bareket Dan BakerIssue:Global 2013
Article no.:21
Topic:Uniting enterprise data centers with the cloud
Author:Ittai Bareket/ Dan Baker
Title:CEO/ Analyst & Research Director, Technology Research Institute
Organisation:Netformx
PDF size:402KB

About author

Dan Baker is the principal market analyst and co-founder of Technology Research Institute. Previously Mr. Baker held positions at Mercury Interactive Corporation (now HP) including President of Mercury Interactive Japan K.K. and General Manager for Japan and Korea.

Ittai Bareket is the CEO of Netformx.

Article abstract

Telecoms providers and systems integrators are racing to unite enterprise data centers with the cloud. A collaborative sales and engineering platform – a proven way to speed up and synchronize the work of salespeople, engineers, and senior design experts – can determine who wins.

Full Article

The race to build enterprise clouds and data centers is a relentless industry trend – and a great opportunity for solution providers to make money as they help enterprises move more and more of their IT infrastructure into the cloud. Of course, telecoms providers selling network solutions to enterprises is nothing new. But the era of selling simple connectivity and CPE boxes is gone forever. Today, the market has expanded into the much broader and faster-moving realm of software-as-a-service (SaaS), virtual systems, and managed services. And while the previous market lived on one-off designs held in the heads of experts or their spreadsheets, today the key to profitability is design reuse, scaling up, and delivering a modestly customized design based on reference designs or ‘cookie cutter’ templates of successful past projects.

Telecoms providers not only compete with each other for enterprise business, but also with systems integrators and cloud providers including Amazon and Rackspace.

The ability to win over a customer and secure the contract is greatly dependent on delivering a compelling solution aligned with the customer’s requirements and at a competitive price point. Yet, many sales and engineering teams are not equipped to create winning designs because they face major challenges such as:

• Sales lacks the design knowledge needed to fully qualify prospects;
• Engineers work with out-of-date product catalogs and inefficiently manage designs across siloed spreadsheets; and,
• Senior design experts are overloaded and don‘t have a means to safely delegate work to less-qualified engineers.
• More often than not, the margin of the solution being proposed is not well calculated.

Happily, there is a path forward. The answer is for solution providers to equip themselves with a collaborative solution design platform – a proven way to speed up and synchronize the work of salespeople, engineers, and senior design experts.

So what should you look for in such a platform? A recent white paper (http://www.netformx.com/tri-whitepaper) discusses eight important capabilities of an ideal platform and explains the sales/engineering problems they are intended to solve.

[Anthony – insert diagram around this part of the article]

The following dialogue offers insights on how customers are benefiting from collaborative design solution platforms.

Dan Baker:
Ittai, as a player in this collaborative design platform space, what are the major benefits your customers are seeing as they implement the kind of solution described in the white paper? How are they able to increase productivity in the face of today’s complex networks, data centers, and services?
Ittai Bareket:
Dan, the roles of sales engineers and designers are definitely getting more complex. They are no longer designing simple VPNs and are expected to generate comprehensive end-to-end designs that incorporate switches, wireless access points, storage systems, all the way to accessories such as headsets. Many designs are also complex spanning across multiple locations and even countries. Plus, the number of vendors has greatly expanded, each with massive product catalogs. With shrinking deadlines, increased competition, and price pressure, there is a lot of opportunity for designs not optimized to the customer’s requirements and also for errors which greatly reduce profitability.

By automating much of the design process, our customers are able to increase profitability and the effectiveness of their sales team. Customer case studies tell us that they achieve a 70 percent average productivity increase and can generate proposals 60 – 90 percent times faster, and their designs are 99 percent error-free.

Dan:
Most network designs are not greenfield, so how do you generate error-free designs especially when network change is frequent and those changes haven’t been documented accurately?
Ittai:
You are right; many projects begin with poorly documented networks. Automated network discovery is the easiest and most accurate way to do a physical inventory. Performing network discovery when first consulting with the customer is ‘table stakes’ for generating an error-free design by creating a baseline of the customer’s existing environment. Discovery is also valuable throughout the project, since authorized and unauthorized changes (such as the addition of wireless access points to support BYOD) can occur daily.

With network discovery, the solution provider can see whether the equipment is up-to-date, nearing end-of-life, or presents a security vulnerability and needs upgrades, patches, or hardware replacements. Since vendors issue frequent updates and patches, customers struggle to track the state of thousands of devices deployed in their environment. Network discovery does that with ease.

Dan:
How does network discovery benefit the design phase?
Ittai:
With our solution the discovered assets can be placed directly onto our DesignXpert design canvas. That provides a powerful visual representation of the customer’s network including actual ports and connections. Since it is based on actuals, not documentation, the new design will be much easier to create and will be implemented and provisioned without errors.

Dan:
Most solution providers today are buried in choices. They use multiple catalogs containing a myriad of services and products. Then each of them has their own best practice configurations to integrate. How does the sales engineer efficiently sort through hundreds of available choices to determine what’s best for the enterprise customer?
Ittai:
Our collaborative design platform was designed to cut through that noise by relying on an up-to-date knowledge base to maintain products and services catalogs from both vendors and also our customers. A good design platform incorporates the solution provider’s own product knowledge to effectively extend a product manager’s intelligence to everyone. Preconfigured solution or ‘favorites’ greatly improve sharing best practices and enable to scale even complex solutions. We find that the sales cycle is accelerated and the potential for errors greatly reduced by having the company’s best practices, connectivity rules, reference architectures, etc., available at the designer’s fingertips.

Dan:
Have your customers told you what savings they achieved from creating designs correctly the first time?
Ittai:
Correcting even a small mistake can cost many cycles of lost productivity, including change order paperwork, reorders, multiple truck rolls, not to mention the solution provider may have to cover the cost difference if different product substitutions are required. This results in missed customer commitments and delays service turn-up. Our customer case studies have demonstrated our customers increase customer satisfaction 100 percent because the right solutions are created and delivered successfully the first time.

Dan:
Is there a professional services or training benefit?
Ittai:
Yes, our customers have shared that by using a catalog of well-defined services on top of the products they are designing results in easier sales, more efficient implementations, and more satisfied customers.

Dan:
Are there other major selling points for a collaborative solution design platform?
Ittai:
An important selling point is the visual representation of network information. Since our customers are selling a complex set of interconnected products and services, the information needs to be organized in an easy-to-understand way. Both the customer and solution provider must understand the requirements completely in order to ensure the solution works as expected when installed. This means a lot of technical discussions. Having a visual representation on the design canvas plus the underlying equipment characteristics is a major selling point for our customers. The visual representation also makes it a lot easier for the installers to see exactly how the solution should be implemented.

Dan:
What are some future capabilities that will generate more profitable designs and make the sales engineer’s life easier?
Ittai:
Enabling the organization to influence the sales engineer’s behavior as soon as they choose a product for a design – in real-time. For example, a distributor may have a sale on specific models or a reseller may want to take advantage of a vendor’s promotion to increase profitability. It is more efficient to influence product selection decisions when the choice is being made, not after the fact.

Speaking of promotions, solution providers spend a lot of time managing their employees’ certification levels since they are often directly tied to vendor rebates. For example, the Cisco VIP program has very specific eligibility criteria. Solution providers have to achieve customer satisfaction scores and minimum billing requirements, as well as minimum certification levels at both an employee and company level. Tracking this is a very time-consuming, spreadsheet-intensive process but can have a dramatic impact on profitability.

Here’s a real example: A week before the VIP period finished, an individual who held a very important level of certification left the solution provider. This meant the company was no longer eligible to receive rebates for the entire six-month period. The reseller realized it three months later when they didn’t get their rebate check. We offer our customers a portal to automatically track this data and trigger alerts. In this scenario, the solution provider would have seen a red flag the day the person left and could have replaced them on the impacted deals before the promotion period closed. Our customers say they have seen 50 percent more promotions applied when they use our VARcompliance platform to incorporate reward and incentive programs at design time.

 

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