COVID-19 has emphasized the importance of the network.

Edward Gately, Senior News Editor

November 16, 2020

7 Min Read

Omdia’s Cindy Whelan has her finger on the pulse of enterprise networks and wholesale, tracking strategies for service providers and vendors.

As practice leader of enterprise networks and wholesale, Whelan keeps a close eye on trends in enterprise WAN, LAN and wholesale services. And she’s among several new members of the Channel Partners Editorial Advisory Board.


Omdia’s Cindy Whelan

Whelan specializes in the crossover between the carrier wholesale and enterprise markets. She particularly focuses on enterprise data network services, service provider channel strategies and wholesale market dynamics.

“I was so proud to be asked to join the board,” she said. “I’m really excited to be working more closely with folks at Channel Partners. I’ve done some work in the channel area, certainly from my enterprise and wholesale service provider areas. But I’m really excited to be digging into this more and to be working more closely with them. So I think it’ll be an interesting thing.”

Long History in Telecom

Whelan joined Omdia in August of 2019. She has more than 25 years of experience in the telecom industry.

“I started with a hardware manufacturer back in the late 1980s,” she said. “It was manufacturing X.25 equipment. That gives you an idea of where I started.”

Whelan worked at divisions of Dynatek, MRV and also Juniper Networks on the equipment side. She then took a six-month break and returned to the industry to try something different.

Omdia’s Cindy Whelan is a new member of the Channel Partners Editorial Advisory Board. See the full list of board members here.

“I knew some folks at Current Analysis at the time, and went over and started working there as an analyst covering service providers initially on the wholesale side,” she said. “And then over time, that expanded to also include enterprise services as well.”

The COVID-19 Effect

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a “huge” impact on both service providers and wholesale, Whelan said.

“On the wholesale side, we saw carriers really having to work together with the the massive shift in traffic patterns and in the capacity needs with everybody going to work from home,” she said. “We’re seeing service providers collaborate to make sure that arrangements are in place and the mechanisms were in place to ensure that everyone could serve their customers.”

Along with that, providers have been automating their internal processes. Whelan said. This is to try to operate more efficiently, and to take time and cost, and human error out of processes. With COVID-19, they saw how important these capabilities are to be able to respond quickly.

“And on the enterprise side, I think we saw something similar,” she said. “Service providers had to really work fast to accommodate their enterprise customers. So, again, with people moving to work from home, you had to not only make sure that people had access from home, but that it was secured because everybody’s on their home network, and they’re competing with the kids on the games and maybe a spouse that’s working. So it’s trying to make that work and to help people continue to be productive and do their jobs, and to keep the business going.”

Shift to On-Demand Services

The pandemic also accelerated the shift to on-demand services, Whelan said.

“So you think of it as the LAN, it’s the ability to prioritize traffic and reroute, and to make changes based on network dynamics,” she said. “From a wholesale perspective, wholesale providers need to be able to respond to those needs quickly. So, again, you see automation coming in to help them support wholesale customers, which are in turn supporting their enterprise on-demand needs. So that’s something else that I think is really changing networks in the way service providers are approaching their network strategies.”

In April and May, service providers on the wholesale side discovered they could move a little faster than they thought they could, Whelan said.

“Over the years, providers are pretty conservative when it comes to network planning, to really making sure that you’re planning for the worst possible issue or challenge,” she said. “So what we heard was the networks were engineered and provisioned, really to support these needs. And so providers were generally able to to meet the needs and capacity, and in fact, able to move and be a little more agile than maybe they would have thought six months before. It was a really big challenge, but it sounded like …

… people were able to to pull this through.”

Moving to Cloud

Enterprises are shifting to the cloud and refocusing on the need for cloud communications, Whelan said. Their transformation necessitates moving to the cloud.

“So I think there’s an opportunity there to work more closely with enterprises to help them to engineer that transition,” she said. “In the first six months or so of the pandemic, everybody was just kind of scrambling to put everything in order to keep things going, to keep businesses going. And now we’re moving into the next phase, which is ‘OK, let’s sit down, look at our services, look at our partners and let’s figure out what makes the most sense for us going forward. What do we need to do to sustain and grow the business?’ And then we see sort of a third phase starting in the second half of next year of maybe some of these really big projects that were previously put on hold kind of coming to pass. So I think it’s an opportunity for providers to work more closely with their enterprise customers, and then to look ahead and to plan ahead.”

Competitive Landscape

In terms of competitive landscape, lots of spinoffs and divestitures are happening on the wholesale side, Whelan said. Companies are restructuring and that may including pushing off their assets and trying to optimize their focus on core areas.

“We’re seeing that certainly from a wholesale perspective, obviously in voice,” she said. “Wholesale voice is a declining market. It’s been declining for a number of years. And we’ve been advocating that it probably makes a lot of sense for a couple of very large providers to kind of take on the bulk of the voice and for other smaller providers to sort of outsource that. So from a voice perspective, that’s something that I think we’re probably going to see a little more of.”

In terms of M&A, a lot of that activity has been on hold from an enterprise perspective due to the pandemic, Whelan said. That could start picking up in the second half of next year.

“Providers’ revenues have been declining slightly, obviously due to COVID-19,” she said. “Maybe that might open up some opportunity for some additional changes as providers try to kind of retrench and figure out what their long-term strategy is going to be.”

The Importance of Network

COVID-19 has emphasized the importance of the network, Whelan said. Also, focusing more on customers has never been more crucial.

“I really think this is the time for service providers to really step up and step in with their enterprise customers to work more closely with them, to plan what they want to do and to also make it easier to do business,” she said. “I know we hear about this all the time, the ease of doing business in the customer experience. But I really, truly think that it’s becoming more and more important to make it simple for an enterprise to get information or to make a simple change to the network, or to have access to tools and information.”

Ease of doing business is now a competitive advantage, Whelan said.

In the meantime, companies are retrenching and positioning for the future, she said.

“I think that in the second half of 2021 we’re going to see enterprises take on some of these larger projects,” Whelan said. “I think we’ll see some movement in terms of services and in terms of these projects moving ahead. So that will increase some of your services and your consulting work, as well as your service revenues. We’re hoping that will start to go toward … some level of a new normal. It won’t be what it was a year ago, but it’s going to be somewhere in between. I’m being cautious or maybe cautiously optimistic. Maybe things will rebound more quickly than we initially think.”

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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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