6 Channel Ops: IBM Buys Ustream, Big Switch's New Funding, AT&T Looks to Boost Education

Plus why telecom and NFV are better together, and the robocall month from hell.

Lorna Garey

January 22, 2016

8 Min Read
6 Channel Ops: IBM Buys Ustream, Big Switch's New Funding, AT&T Looks to Boost Education

Lorna GareyU.S. and EU regulators are unlikely to reach a deal by the Jan. 31 deadline to replace the 15-year old Safe Harbor agreement struck down in October. As of now, a key bill is stuck in the U.S. Senate, Reuters reports (surprised?). Technically, that means that as of Feb. 1, U.S. firms that have employees or customers based in Europe need to comply with stringent EU data privacy laws. 

In reality, no one is clear what will happen. My bet, given the huge stakes for the likes of AWS, Google, IBM and Microsoft, is that some deal will get hammered out in spite of government foot dragging. Still, this is an issue well worth watching, and one we’ll be covering.

Meanwhile, Dish Networks is facing fines that exceed its market capitalization for ignoring do-not-call lists, says Ars Technica. Between the DOJ and state attorneys general from California, Illinois, North Carolina and Ohio, potential penalties total $24 billion against a company that’s worth $22.3 billion on paper. That’s on top of about $6 million Dish has already paid.

Seems like if you have to go to these lengths to gin up new demand, the problem might be not be on the customer end of the line.

As to a possible reason federal and state agencies are cracking down, check out this stat: An estimated 1.45 billion robocalls were placed to U.S. phones in December alone, according to the National Robocall Index report released this week by cloud-based telecom services startup YouMail. That marks the first time on record that the national robocall volume has exceeded 1 billion monthly calls.

Apparently, the resolution passed in June that gave the FCC greater authority to fine spammers and spoofers – and allow telephone carriers to offer robocall-blocking services to customers – has yet to kick in.

Big Switch Snags NetApp Vet, $48M Financing

If you’re looking to enlarge your data center portfolio, take a look at Big Switch Networks. The company has a strategic deal with Dell, and its Big Partner program focuses on helping resellers modernize customer data centers. This week it announced an additional $48.5 million in financing, for a total of $94 million since 2010, and added NetApp CEO Dan Warmenhoven to its board of directors (Warmenhoven is also now advising Cohesity).

The Big Partner program has been in place for about a year and has more than 25 partners globally.

“With the close of our Series C funding of $48.5 million, we’ll be dedicating a significant amount into expanding into new geographies as well as deepening our investments with preexisting channel partners,” says Gregg Holzrichter, CMO of Big Switch. 

The company has seen 40 percent sequential growth for eight quarters, adding up to more than 300 percent growth in 2015 across verticals including financial services, government and higher education. Holzrichter says plans to expand the Big Partner Program in North America focus on the federal space, Canada and boutique resellers looking for a differentiated networking offering. He’s also looking to the APAC and EMEA markets, especially the U.K. In addition to geographic expansion, Holzrichter says Big Switch will deliver additional channel enablement, programs and incentives to its existing partner community to accelerate growth in 2016.

Part of the attraction is (relative) simplicity; part is cost. Big Switch’s product line comprises two core offerings and three use cases. While the Big Monitoring Fabric is geared more toward carrier-class facilities, the Big Cloud Fabric enables partners to construct a private cloud using inexpensive whitebox or britebox switches and Big Switch’s SDN controller. The SDN solutions provide 100-percent feature parity with leading network-monitoring suites for 50 percent of the cost, says Holzrichter.

“We’re the only open SDN alternative to Cisco ACI,” he says. “Big Switch offers the ideal SDN underlay for any VMware workload and has the only open physical-plus-virtual unified SDN solution for OpenStack clouds.” 

AT&T, Verizon, NTT Share NFV Success Stories

Speaking of next-gen networking, the OpenStack Foundation released this week an interesting report on adoption of NFV, with a focus on how AT&T, Verizon, NTT Group and others are using the technology, which I see as a no-brainer for solutions providers.

Network functions virtualization takes the focus off hardware appliances and puts it on speed and agility by delivering everything from firewalls to wireless hotspots in a model akin to a virtual desktop — maintain and patch one master image, deliver to hundreds or thousands of customers. HPE has more than 60 proof-of-concept projects in the works. Verizon this week joined the ONOS project, which is looking to accelerate adoption of open source SDN and NFV solutions. NFV powers AT&T’s Network on Demand offerings.

Oh, and I’m moderating a session on NFV at the Channel Partners Conference and Expo, where Nitel’s Patrick Herron, Bill O’Brien of CenturyLink and ADTRAN’s Chris Thompson will discuss ways to boost revenues.

Anyway, the report posits that telecom providers are the driving force behind development of NFV technology, which makes sense given its potential for recurring revenue and reduced CapEx. OpenStack’s involvement is welcome in that it provides a standards-based framework, and the report is worth a look. It covers the basics of NFV, the specific requirements for telecom, including service function chaining, and provides examples of useful projects and success stories. 

CloudBolt Takes Off

CloudBolt launched its channel partner program this week. Jon Mittelhauser, the company’s CEO, told me that his goal is helping partners help customers pull new and legacy assets into a unified public, private and hybrid cloud, and then effectively manage and secure everything. At launch the program includes August Schell, Carahsoft, CDW, ePlus, HPM Networks, pureIntegration and Riverturn. In a statement, the company said the channel program “offers industry-leading incentives, including access to CloudBolt sales and marketing support, joint marketing and demand-generation programs and compensation on all contracted services.”

The product includes automated server provisioning, unified IT management, chargeback/showback reporting, interactive service catalogs and license management. CloudBolt’s list of integrations is pretty impressive; besides major virtualization and config-management providers, it supports containers and AWS, CenturyLink, Google Compute Engine, IBM SoftLayer, Microsoft Azure, OpenStack, Oracle Cloud, HP Helion and Verizon Terremark cloud platforms. That should cover most customers.

IBM: You Should Be in Video!

IBM this week announced that it has acquired Ustream, a cloud-based video streaming services provider, for an undisclosed sum. It will use the Ustream technology to help drive a new IBM Cloud Video Services unit. IBM says it sees cloud-based video services and software as a $105 billion opportunity; that encompasses APIs and digital and visual analytics (read: Watson).

For IBM partners, the Ustream tech could help deliver – and rights-manage – live and on-demand video content to customer end users and consumers. While plenty of companies throw executive interviews or ads on YouTube, the trick is in managing and analyzing assets, like webcasts, conference keynotes and training videos. Some data types are more unstructured than others; at least with a Word doc, a search engine can crawl the text. Bringing video into the analysis fold is much more difficult. IBM holds more than 1,000 patents in areas including visual analytics and indexing and searching large collections of videos and digital images, and it clearly plans to put them to work. In a statement, the company said it “is creating a leading Cloud platform that enables clients to easily ingest, store and manage live and on-demand video, enhance them through analytics, apply rights management and language capabilities, and distribute them consistently across the globe.”

AT&T: Calling EDU Partners

AT&T has opened the application process for its AT&T Aspire Accelerator. The program is open to any entity working to develop technology to support students’ educational and career success. Projects could be mobile apps; platforms for teachers, students or parents; learning and curriculum management tools; assessment and outcome tracking platforms; online instruction; or simply a better way to provide access to existing programs. Solutions for students at risk of dropping out of school will receive special consideration.

The Aspire Accelerator application window is open thru Feb. 5. For those selected, the six-month program includes:

  • Aspire Investment: $100,000 AT&T investment and an additional $25,000 for each venture to cover costs of the program. For nonprofit companies, the investment will be a general contribution in exchange for participating in the Aspire Accelerator and meeting certain requirements, including submitting impact measurements.

  • Mentorship: Access to AT&T and external mentors from education and technology.

  • National Platform: Inclusion in the broader AT&T Aspire initiative, which is committed to driving innovation in education.

Announcing Our New Learning Lab

Last but not least, this week we announced a project I’ve been working on for a few months. The upcoming Channel Partners Conference and Expo will feature a new Cloud Migration Lab on the exhibit floor; the space is dedicated to helping attendees learn how data and applications are migrated from on-premises systems to the cloud. We’ll have our own show-floor stage and seating area for presentations, surrounded by kiosks where providers can give hands-on lessons.

You know, like a lab.

We’re hoping providers bring along some partners who are successfully selling cloud productivity and DRaaS, to discuss business best practices. The Lab will run for two days: On Wed., March 16, the focus will be on end-user application migration involving email, office productivity applications and data. On Thursday, the emphasis will shift to disaster recovery.  

Shout-outs to Rackspace and SunGard, which are signed up for kiosks and stage presentations, and to Jo Peterson, vice president, converged cloud and data services at Clarify 360, a TeleProviders Company, and Mike Goodenough, vice president of cloud solutions at BCM One. Mike and Jo came up with the idea, internally code-named the “Lab Rat Pack.” Bob Titsch, a longtime channel watcher, is serving as the program manager (here’s his intro column). I hope to see you there!

Follow executive editor @LornaGarey on Twitter.

Read more about:


About the Author(s)

Free Newsletters for the Channel
Register for Your Free Newsletter Now

You May Also Like