CenturyLink's SD-WAN service now is available not only in North America, but APAC, EMEA and LATAM.

Edward Gately, Senior News Editor

March 9, 2020

9 Min Read
Office Meeting

CenturyLink now is the largest public internet service provider in the world, which means more opportunities than ever for partners in cloud communications, cybersecurity and more.

That’s according to Lisa Miller, CenturyLink’s president of wholesale, indirect and SME. CenturyLink was planning to launch a multicity roadshow tour next month to educate partners on CenturyLink Engage, a cloud communications solution aimed at SMBs.

The roadshow, which may now be virtual because of coronavirus-related travel concerns, is part of the plan to “get out there and be able to educate partners really about the value proposition of this product and how the full solution incorporated with the rest of our network capabilities is really a differentiator,” Miller said.


CenturyLink’s Lisa Miller

“So when customers have internet needs, IP needs [for] any type of IP-based solution, we should be the carrier that they look to hands down,” she said. “When you think security and when you think IP, whether you’re thinking over-the-top UCaaS, we’ve got it all. So for a partner, they don’t have to go to five, 10 different suppliers. When you’re a partner and you play with a niche player, you have to go to that niche player plus the next niche player and plus the next niche player. But when you come to CenturyLink, I think that’s really the value that we bring to our partners is that we can do so much for them with one provider with extremely aggressive commission. So I feel we’re really competitive in the market and have a lot to talk about this year.”

Last month, CenturyLink launched Rapid Threat Defense, its new network-based threat detection and response capability. The solution aims to help enterprises automate threat detection and response by deploying defensive actions based on Black Lotus Labs threat intelligence. It’s available via adaptive threat intelligence and adaptive network security – CenturyLink’s cloud-delivered firewall platform – upon its launch.

In a Q&A with Channel Partners, Miller provides an update on how CenturyLink is providing more opportunities and making it easier for partners to work with her company.

Channel Partners: Can you give an update on CenturyLink’s overall partner initiatives?

Lisa Miller: We’re really talking about our security because I feel that we’ve got a great story to tell. What I really like about Rapid Threat Defense is it offers a seamless security experience for customers that are really struggling with disparate security systems. Ours is network-based. A lot of our customers have premises-based security and they might have some network-based, but where we’ve really embedded security into our network to really help our customers address that expansive view of the global threat landscape, we really feel that we’re uniquely positioned from a security standpoint. And it’s hard for customers as they have to have all these different security things to manage. Even the boards nowadays want to hear from the CSO, to say, “how are you protecting us as a company,” and so security is really hard for …

… a lot of enterprise customers. And I think this Rapid Threat Defense really puts us at a unique advantage with what we’re offering.

CP: Are partners really taking advantage of that opportunity with security and are they making the most of that?

LM: I think in the past what we’ve been able to offer is some minimum network-based security offers. And we’ve offered some premises-based security, but what’s great about the Rapid Threat Defense is that it’s really a security offer that fits in the enterprise space that is customer controlled, which I think is really important because customers get to set the policy based on the threat criteria as they see it. So many times when they’re buying services, it’s kind of already predetermined, but this really allows the customer that control. So I think that is something that will be really well-received in the market, and I think it’s applicable to almost every enterprise out there, so that’s a great thing. And this is something that was just recently launched, and so we have so many things that are now coming out and new capabilities that last year we didn’t have.

What’s been really exciting now for fourth quarter and going into 2020 is we’ve got so many new things that are launching for partners to take advantage of, and our SD-WAN service is now available not only in North America, but APAC, EMEA and LATAM. So that makes a seamless global offer. And for SD-WAN we can serve the smallest customer up to the largest enterprise customer because we can offer SD-WAN with Meraki, we can offer it with Versa or even Viptela. We really have the capability to play in the SD-WAN space regardless of the size of the customer. So that was another thing that we were really talking about and for the first time.

CP: There are also partner opportunities in CenturyLink’s on-net buildings?

LM: One of the things we’ve really leaned into our partners is working with some of our partners on focusing on our on-net buildings or leveraging our multitenant units (MTUs). We’ve got about 170,000 on-net buildings, and so we’re now starting to really engage partners in that motion to focus on certain buildings in certain markets. We’re helping them do lobby events, and giving them all the collateral and all the things they need to work with property managers, where we have fiber into that building and riser capacity they can sell many, many customers in one large building really supporting CenturyLink. So that is something relatively new that we’ve done. We started it in the back half of 2019 and we call it “Lead with CenturyLink,” where we have trained up a select group of partners to really go out and sell CenturyLink on our behalf. It’s just a fantastic network that we have to support our whole partner community.

CP: What technology should partners be focusing on that is offering the most opportunities and competitive advantages for them?

LM: IP services, the dedicated internet access, SD-WAN, Fiber Plus, which is in our MTU buildings … and competes from a cable standpoint … when you think of those core building blocks, those are really some of the focus areas for our partners. And then if you want talk where the industry I feel is going and CenturyLink feels is going, it really leads us to our edge capabilities. And the benefit for CenturyLink is we’re really cloud-agnostic, so whether customers are connecting to Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, IBM or even Oracle Cloud, we support them all, and then what we are doing is really extending the reach of our network. If you think of how many central offices and colocation facilities we have, it’s extensive across the country and we’re moving closer and closer to the customer. And why that’s critical is …

… more and more customers, especially retail customers, have point-of-sale applications where latency is everything. They need a five milliseconds or less latency, 10 milliseconds or less round-trip latency, and so you can’t always go back to those big cloud providers when they’re sitting far away from your application. So by having those cloud providers in our edge infrastructure, it’s going to allow all of those enterprises that have those latency-sensitive applications to work with CenturyLink to really design a strategy for them nationwide to be able to address all of those retail applications — and we are really seeing some great wins here.

CP: What’s the latest in terms of partner input?

LM: Our partners are a vocal bunch and that’s why I love them. As a company, we’re investing $200 million in customer experience transformation, and this is allowing us to create simpler customer journeys across a simplified product set with more automation and faster delivery. So that’s really when we’re talking about that customer experience that’s end to end. We have been working directly with our partner advisory board to get insight on how to improve our experience and really how to improve our partner portal. They’ve been very instrumental in our partner portal as we’re designing it and really telling us the type of overall user experience that they want to see and how they need to see a separate layer for all their customers, and how they need to be able to drill down to a customer-by-customer and service-by-service level, which today is not quite as easy for them to see every detail and nuance of their customer. So we’ve really been working with them closely to understand what that portal experience needs to look like, which will empower our partners to be that great interface to their end customer and to allow us to just present and expose more and more of our tools to give them that ease of use. We really feel with them helping to design our portal strategy that we’re going to enable our partners even more over this next 12 months to provide an increased level of support and customer experience to their customers. So we are super excited about that.

CP: Is there anything else that you would like to add?

LM: We’re trying to continue to improve our customer experience. We have also changed the way we support our partners … and so we improved our post-sale support, we’ve got a full inside sales support team now to be able to do transactional business at scale, where we can do very rapid quoting, very rapid solution, designs, etc. We now have a dedicated renewal team, so we’re proactively going out to partners and saying, “here are your customers that are all up for renewal” so that we can get ahead of that and make certain that our partners’ business is put back under term. Last year, we were working on a single partner agreement. We’ve got all of that done and so now we can just continue to fine-tune how we support our partners and I feel we’re making really great strides there.

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About the Author(s)

Edward Gately

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

As news editor, Edward Gately covers cybersecurity, new channel programs and program changes, M&A and other IT channel trends. Prior to Informa, he spent 26 years as a newspaper journalist in Texas, Louisiana and Arizona.

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