Author: Nick Farrell

Alibaba Cloud seeks partners as it announces UK hub

Alibaba Cloud is looking for business partners after it launched its two London-based datacentres.

Yeming Wang, general manager of Alibaba Cloud for EMEA, said that the  UK is the biggest cloud market in Europe and it’s an early cloud adopter.

“The region is really good regarding the market share; the adoption and its mindset are quite open, especially in the services and research areas.”

The UK expansion adds to the EMEA hubs that Alibaba has already established in Frankfurt and Dubai, and Wang said that the London datacentres were already up and running.

Wang said that the company has developed local partners, but is on the hunt for more.

“The business scenario will be localised. In the UK, we want to join our Chinese experience and technology with the know-how of local partners, and then we jointly go to market. We are working on defining a lot of localised partner programmes to help them find their position with Alibaba, which is different from their partnerships with other cloud service providers. It’s very promising, and that is why the company is happy to put the datacentre here”, Wang said.


Cloud Workforce Management appears on the Cisco Systems price list

Cisco customers and partners now can access a cloud Workforce Management solution on the Cisco Systems global price list

Provider of workforce management (WFM) software, Teleopti has been invited onto the Cisco SolutionsPlus programme enabling customers to order Teleopti WFM Cloud from Cisco sales teams and channel partners. Teleopti WFM Cloud being newly listed in the SolutionsPlus catalogue streamlines the procurement of the cloud-based platform, with specialised SKUs and end-to-end support for Cisco sales and partners.

Vasili Triant, General Manager and Vice President Customer Care, Cisco said: “At Cisco, we want to offer our customers choices, and also help them move with the market to increasingly more integrated solutions and cloud services through an open, integrated ecosystem. With the addition of Teleopti WFM Cloud to the SolutionsPlus program, our partners and customers now have direct access to a best-of-breed WFM solution from a company with years of proven success deploying WFM in the cloud, both in local markets and across the globe.”

Cisco SolutionsPlus places a number of Cisco compatible products and related services on the Cisco Systems price list, letting customers order directly through the Cisco ecosystem. Teleopti products included in the program complement and augment Cisco’s advanced technology portfolio to enable partners to create complete solutions for their contact centre customers.

Teleopti WFM Cloud delivers a platform for workforce forecasting, scheduling and management to improve operational accuracy and efficiency, employee engagement and customer satisfaction.

Olle Düring, CEO at Teleopti added: “Following Teleopti’s long relationship and development collaboration with Cisco, and Cisco channels, we are delighted to expand our reach and make it easier for all Cisco channels to order Teleopti WFM Cloud directly from Cisco. Our listing on the SolutionsPlus programme is recognition that together Teleopti and Cisco ensure transformative WFM solutions providing value and efficiency and a remarkable customer experience worldwide. Organisations using Teleopti’s workforce management solution see the positive work-life benefits for their staff and research studies show that Teleopti customers are 23 percent more efficient than other contact centres.”


UK outsourcing market picks up

UK outsourcing market is showing of picking up in the third quarter, according to beancounters at analyst outfit ISG.

Outsourcing had been battered like a Mars Bar in a Scottish chip shop ever since the announcement that the UK would have a crack at leaving the EU.

According to ISG, traditional outsourcing in the UK rose 40 percent year on year to £510 million.  To be fair though the third quarter of 2017 was bleak.

Across EMEA, traditional outsourcing grew 55 percent. ISG’s EMEA index also tracks as-a-service (cloud) outsourcing, which grew 56 percent.

Steve Hall, president at ISG, said: “It is encouraging to see EMEA take a leap forward in the adoption of cloud-based solutions.

“Previously lagging the rest of the world, this region appears to be catching up – demonstrating in the last quarter the highest year-over-year growth rates for IaaS and SaaS among the three regions in our ISG Index.”

ISG cited Brexit as the main cause of the recent struggles in the UK market.

Normally the outsourcing market typically hit €800 million in two or three months each year, but has only done that in one quarter since the referendum. The number of UK contracts has increased steadily since the referendum; however the value of deals is smaller.

ISG claimed that the UK is the only market to have seen a long-term decline since the middle of 2016.

Hall added: “The traditional sourcing market in the UK is showing clear signs of caution as the Brexit deadline approaches. Despite a high level of activity in the market, deal sizes are smaller. However, the strong shift to as-a-service sourcing indicates that UK companies, and others across Europe, are recognising the value in remaining agile to help them adapt to uncertain political and economic factors.”

Capita scores £5.7 million health contract

Capita has won a five-year contract worth £5.7 million with Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT) in the largest HSCN contract to date.

Under the deal, EPUT move to the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) which is a new data network designed to replace the NHS’ legacy N3 model.

The contract will cover 400 EPUT sites – including hospitals, GP surgeries and NHS clinics – and Capita claims it will provide the trust with increased bandwidth as well as efficient access to the internet and N3’s legacy applications.

Mark Madden, CFO at EPUT, said: “We need a reliable and robust connectivity solution to deliver enhanced connectivity. We are confident that this implementation will enhance user experience for our employees and enable greater interaction and sharing of resources between our sites in the Essex region.”

Joe Hemming, executive director at Capita IT and networks, said: “Capita is an experienced provider of IT networks, and this contract further reinforces our strategy. We look forward to using our technology capabilities to add value and efficiencies for NHS sites across the region.”

Krysta partners with Netistrar

The UK hosting company  Krysta has shacked up with Netistrar to provide generic and new top-level domains which includes domain extensions such as .com .net .org .info .biz & .londonH

The family-owned Krystal has more than 25,000 clients using its services.

Simon Blackler, CEO and founding partner of Krystal said: “Picking the right domain supplier is a critical decision, and while we’ve been served well by our US partners. I’m delighted that we’ve finally found a UK-based registrar in Netistrar that will allow us to take our business to the next level”.

He continued: “We’ve been looking for a UK-based domain partner for some time. Someone that we could work alongside to service this fundamental aspect of our business. In Netistrar we have found that partner.  I’m excited about what the future holds and what we’ll be able to achieve together”.

Netistrar was founded in 2013 by domain name industry professionals who wanted to set up a new registrar that wouldn’t suffer from the legacy politics and constraints that affect other companies.

Andrew Bennett CEO of Netistrar said: “We are delighted to be working with Krystal and to assist them with the next stage of their growth. Our reseller software has been in development for some time now, and we are pleased Krystal is our first API reseller. We look forward to working together with them [sic] and other like-minded registrars on creating a competitive offering to the larger players”.

Aura Alliance rebrands as a multi-vendor alliance

Unified communications outfit Aura Alliance is rebranding as a multi-vendor alliance .

The company said that things have changed since it was founded in 2009 and it was now offering a wider spectrum of corporate communications solutions and services. Those services are available to a growing number of countries and the alliance of unified communications specialists supports a bigger range of vendors.

As well as the usual logo change, the outfit has restructured with its  recent acquisition of the Unified Communications Alliance (UCA) with the idea of creating an open, multi-vendor global alliance.

Tony Parish, Aura Alliance CEO said: “To help support our partners in adopting new technologies, we’ve implemented a comprehensive 3-year strategy, geared up with skilled engineers. Thanks to our collaborative nature, our more experienced partners are helping to make the transition as smooth as possible.”

He added that the company partners across the globe are adopting new technologies to broaden the Aura skillset.  The big idea is to provide truly comprehensive UC solutions to business in every location around the world. This rebrand is yet another keystone moment in the transformation.


Volta Data Centre teams up with Megaport

Carrier-neutral data centre Volta Data Centres has announced a new strategic partnership with Network as a Service provider Megaport.

The new partnership will see Volta provide space within its Central London facility for Megaport to offer its cloud and software defined networking (SDN) solutions to Volta enterprise and carrier tenants.

Volta customers will get connectivity to Megaport’s major cloud service providers such as Amazon Web Services, Alibaba Cloud, Microsoft Azure, IBM Cloud, Oracle Cloud, Salesforce, and Google Cloud Platform. The Megaport ecosystem has over 300 service providers. Customers can provision capacity to key service providers around the globe, on demand and rapidly through Megaport’s intuitive self-serve portal.

Volta’s location in Central London was a major influence in bringing together the two companies, it’s claimed. The data centre holds a 100 percent uptime record for its customers and is used by many of the capital’s major businesses which require high-performance and always-on networks – such as those in the financial services, media and healthcare industries.

Vincent English, CEO at Megaport, said: “Enterprises demand a better way of connecting rapidly to the cloud service providers that are increasingly powering next generation IT strategies. Volta, as a leading provider of data centre services to enterprises, is an excellent partner for Megaport. Its central London data centre represents a substantial opportunity to extend the reach of cloud services directly to where enterprises are housing their mission-critical private and on-premises infrastructure to enable multicloud and hybrid cloud solutions.

Jonathan Arnold, Managing Director, Volta Data Centres, added: “Megaport is a huge brand and this partnership reflects the global importance of Volta services. With Megaport, our customers can now instantly and securely connect to some of the world’s biggest and best cloud platforms and third-party service providers – opening up new services and functionalities for our customers, such as SDN, multicloud connectivity and pay-as-you-go contracting.”


NGINX announces new partner network

NGINX has announced a new partner programme that expands on its offerings and is inspired by a more open saucy vision.

NGINX VP Sales Mary Jane (MJ) Shutte said:  “Our new NGINX Partner Network offers membership to anyone who wants to be part of the ecosystem, whether or not their business involves selling NGINX technologies. It offers members the ability to engage how they need to when they need to, and doesn’t limit them by tiers and categories.”

She said that public cloud and SaaS adoption have changed the way that solution providers engage with customers, creating space for new types of businesses and go-to-market strategies in the partner landscape. Partners are responding with updated and diversified business models, including shifting business investments towards professional and managed services, developing their custom systems or IP, and targeting new buyers outside of the IT organisation, she said.

Shutte said that where traditionally vendors have offered siloed programs to partners based on industry category or business model, the NGINX programme identifies ways partners look to engage with the company, and then allows members to mix and match as best suits their business. In this way, the programme can accommodate partners interested in:

  • Creating integrations and certifying interoperability with their platforms
  • Developing modules that extend NGINX products with advanced capabilities
  • Offering NGINX products as part of a portfolio of technology solutions and services
  • Building custom solutions with NGINX products embedded
  • Growing a technology consulting practice as a recognised NGINX associate

The NGINX Partner Network framework encapsulates its existing programs, bringing them additional resources and providing a commitment to their ongoing development and support. The new programme also makes room for resellers, solution providers, MSPs, consultants, and others who want to market and sell NGINX technologies.

“As NGINX continues its global expansion, we are opening up new routes to market and relying increasingly on our partner community to help us provide a world-class experience to our customers in key markets”, said Shutte.

“Partners that sell and recommend NGINX technologies are going to be an important component of our go-to-market strategy moving forward, and we’re looking to grow the size of that partner community in 2019 aggressively.”


ContactEngine becomes Microsoft Co-Sell partner

Microsoft campusTalking AI outfit ContactEngine has been awared ‘Co-Sell Partner’ status as part of the Microsoft for Startups London ScaleUp programme for high-growth technology companies. ContactEngine joins an group selected for comprehensive sales and marketing support and go-to-market initiatives.

ContactEngine’s automated conversation management platform integrates into Microsoft Dynamics to provide an AI-powered ‘voice’ to engage customers across all conversational channels and across all industries.

While traditional CRMs require human agents to engage customers, ContactEngine integrates to automate outbound customer engagement and subsequent transactions, replicating human behaviour through machine learning and natural language understanding. The ContactEngine Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform is hosted on the Microsoft Azure cloud, which allows for on-demand global scalability and best-in-class security.

Dr Mark K. Smith, CEO of ContactEngine, said: “ContactEngine shares Microsoft’s objective to optimise organisational outcomes through enhanced customer engagement. We’re pleased to support Microsoft by integrating into their Dynamics Engagement platform to talk to our clients’ customers with intent driven, AI-powered conversations – improving customer experience, and ensuring crucial moments such as sales, deliveries and appointments are executed with precision and minimal effort.”

Warwick Hill, Managing Director of Microsoft for Startups, Western Europe, said: “There is a very strong synergy between Microsoft Dynamics and ContactEngine’s automated conversations and customer engagement capabilities. We are pleased to be able to integrate the full power of ContactEngine, into Microsoft’s solutions through Azure.”

Synergy… it’s like energy…

Softcat makes more than a billion

Softcat has broken through the £1 billion mark and CEO Graeme Watt said it was all due to “exceptionally good market conditions”.

Revenues shot up 30 percent to £1.082 billion in its year ended 31 July 2018 and net profit increased 37 percent to £55 million.

Watt added that Softcat’s new apprentice and graduate recruits had won hundreds of new customers during the year, and signalled Softcat maintains a “strong appetite” for recruiting new talent. It hired ten percent more staff this year and opened a new Dublin office. It took on 4.7 percent more customers too.

Softcat has now delivered 52 consecutive quarters of top and bottom-line growth, and Watt said he was “particularly pleased” that a wide spread of its vendors that were hiring.

“We grew revenue for fourteen of our top twenty vendors at over 20 per cent and our top twenty vendors made up a healthy 66 per cent of total sales. All of our regional offices delivered double-digit growth in gross profit, as did each of our customer segments. We are not overly reliant on any customer or vendor,” he said.

Watt added that the adoption of technology change continues to gather pace, as customers take the opportunity to embrace the benefits of digital transformation.

“In 2018 we saw customers from all sectors invest and this is reflected in our customer metrics. Both revenue and gross profit per customer increased significantly, as we benefited from a strong market and the increasing trust placed in us by our clients.”


Beta Distribution calls in administrators

Troubled Beta Distribution has gone into administration.

Deloitte has confirmed that Clare Boardman and Richard Hawes, restructuring partners at the company, have been appointed as joint administrators of the £180 million revenue outfit.

Boardman said that Beta had been experiencing increasing competition in the consumables market and this has placed it under a degree of liquidity pressure.

“It is a large importer of products from Europe and has, amongst other pressures, experienced issues with foreign exchange rates. Despite interest from a number of parties, no sale of the overall business was achieved and the directors took the decision to place the business into an insolvency process”, she said.

For its financial year ending 31 March 2017, London-based Beta saw turnover of £186 million and net profit of £950,000, but last month extended its current accounting period.

This is the third big distribution bankruptcy in as many years following the collapse of Steljes in 2016 and Entatech in 2017. In fact Entatech was nearly bought by Beta at one point.

Deloitte stressed that the outfit’s Belgian arm, Beta Distribution BV, is not subject to any insolvency process and continues to trade, .


Home fixed wireless broadband emerging as early 5G use case

Operators racing to beat their competitors to 5G mobile services are using residential fixed wireless access (FWA) service to demonstrate leadership and boost their 5G street cred, according to a GlobalData report.

The company’s latest report: ‘5G Fixed Wireless – An Early 5G Use Case’ states that 5G FWA offers higher bandwidth than previous generations of fixed wireless, theoretically at lower costs once sufficient scale is reached. This in turn offers the ability to offer data speeds comparable to fiber in markets where deploying fiber is deemed too expensive.

Ed Gubbins, Mobile Infrastructure Senior Analyst at GlobalData, said: “Fixed-mobile integrated operators have shown particular interest in 5G FWA because it serves dual functions of enabling last-mile connectivity and providing a stepping stone to future mobile 5G. Fixed service providers have also shown interest in 5G.”

However, the technology has challenges, including in the spectrum bands envisioned for fixed wireless. According to Gubbins, “there has been particular interest in using millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum for 5G, because of its high capacity and throughput potential. However, mmWave faces signal retention issues and limited propagation. These challenges are much more manageable at lower band sub-6 GHz spectrum; however, for fixed wireless, these bands are more likely to be used in rural areas”.

In addition to technical challenges, there is also an open question whether fixed wireless will ultimately become a widespread 5G use case. Gubbins concludes, “operators with existing fibre infrastructure, but which face difficulties in the high cost of last-mile delivery, are currently the most likely to benefit from 5G FWA to deliver last-mile services, but a successful 5G portfolio will need to include multiple services beyond fixed wireless to generate ROI. Vendors should address operator concerns about cost and longevity more directly, and with clearer timelines.”

Tollring spruces up analytics suite for BroadSoft Partners

Tollring has been showing off its new analytics suite to BroadSoft partners which includes speech analytics, business performance reporting and dashboards based on SLAs and enhanced customer interaction reporting,and an enhanced service provider management portal.

The outfit claims that the changes will bring in a new level of billing capability, offering enhanced analytics on customers and resellers, and auto-provisioning, capacity planning and product visibility.

Tony Martino, CEO of Tollring says, “We are continually strengthening our team and the evolving our analytics products and services.  Every year, we look forward to showcasing our latest enhancements at BroadSoft Connections and this year is no exception.  iCall Suite is proven in tier 1 and 2 service providers, built in the cloud, highly demonstrable and scalable, facilitates industry compliance, offers multi-language support for global rollouts and can be embedded in a service provider proposition as a fully white-label offering.  Our compelling value proposition to BroadSoft service providers has never been stronger and it continually evolves.”


Resellers moving to the cloud

Increasing demand for Cloud-based services has seen a further four resellers join Advanced’s partner programme TruePartner, since its launch in February this year.

Minerva UK, Deans Computer Services, HBP and BME Solutions have all demonstrated their commitment to helping SME customers transition to the Cloud.

Rewarding resellers for their Cloud-first strategy, TruePartner claims to provide “disruptive yet focused” Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions the channel can use to engage new customers.

Dean McGlone, Channel Director at Advanced, said: “Resellers are starting to see the breadth of opportunities the Cloud can deliver, and this is exemplified by the four new partners that have joined our TruePartner programme. We’ve found that an overwhelming number of SMEs across the country want to embrace the Cloud, but many lack the knowledge and experience to make the transition confidently. In fact, according to our research, just 33 per cent admit to being experienced in the Cloud.

“As part of TruePartner, each reseller is supported in delivering genuine Cloud solutions to their customers, while harnessing the benefits of a Cloud subscription service, from recurring revenue to client retention and acquisition. We’re continuing to see a need for Financial Management Solutions (FMS), but SMEs are increasingly demanding Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), which can be delivered with our Business Cloud Essentials solution.”

Advanced said n the SME community is “vocal” about the need for better support when it comes to transitioning to the Cloud. Advanced claims that a massive 88 percent of business leaders think Cloud providers need to do more to build confidence in the Cloud.

Jo Dixon, Managing Director at HBP, said: “We recognise that moving to the Cloud is not only right for our customers, but it also’s right for us and we’re looking to adapt quickly. Advanced is fully supporting the traditional reseller channel in its transformation to adopt the Cloud, proving to be the right partner for us.”

Patrick Clayton, Managing Director at Deans Computer Services PLC, stated “There’s a growing pace of shift to the Cloud, based on the huge benefits to end users. Our new partnership with Advanced gives us the opportunity to support businesses with their transformation, giving them a fully integrated, true Cloud ERP solution with all the advantages that offers.”

John Chadwick, Managing Director at Minerva, said:  “Minerva has been in business for 35 years. Over that period, we have cultivated a portfolio of “best of breed” applications which were designed primarily for on-premise situations and we have serviced that requirement from both our Applications software and our Networking teams.

The market is moving, be it conservatively, towards Cloud alternatives and we have been searching for some time for a suitable Cloud partnership. We are confident Business Cloud Essentials now fills that void, and we intend to embrace the opportunity.”

Ruckus provides finance for partners

Ruckus Networks has released details of its new Financial Services programme.

This programme is designed to help customers future-proof their Wi-Fi connectivity solutions by enabling investments in the latest networking technology through multiple financing options including leasing, zero per cent interest, and subscriptions. The new services allow Ruckus to provide technology solutions and total cost of ownership benefits that align with their customers’ and partners’ top financial metrics and business priorities.

Customers and partners seek ways to ease their upfront capital expenditure (CAPEX) yet remain competitive through new technology investments while increasing their bottom line. Ruckus created its Financial Services programme to address this need by helping customers and partners acquire the latest networking hardware, software and professional services with minimal upfront capital investment. After testing the programme earlier this year, it is now available worldwide.

UDT Sales Manager, Brian Smith said that his outfit had used Ruckus Financial Services to help fund a Large Public Venue project for our customer.

“With upfront and flexible funding, the Ruckus solution aligned with our budgetary, operational, and revenue generation objectives.”

Ruckus Financial Services recipients get a turnkey finance solution for all hard and soft costs, not just hardware components. This gives customers and partners the ability to keep existing bank funding lines intact, diversify their funding base and free up working capital for core business goals. For Ruckus partners, these expanded offerings also mean faster payment and more sales possibilities for their customer channels.

“We’re always looking for ways to simplify the buying process and ensure a seamless business transaction,” said Bart Giordano, Vice President of Worldwide Sales, Ruckus Networks. “By providing Ruckus technology total cost of ownership benefits with flexible financial solutions, we can help our customers and partners meet and exceed their financial and business goals.”