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Q&A With Steve Harrington, Managing Director – EMEA at Masergy

Masergy, the software-defined networking (SDN) pioneer and provider of managed SD-WAN, cloud communications and managed security solutions, has been very busy of late. Building on a record year in EMEA, it has recently undertaken several initiatives designed to raise its profile, expand its partner network and develop its product offering. Highlights include publication of the 2019 SD-WAN Market Trends Survey (see Technology Reseller Issue 22 for key findings); the introduction of product bundles that combine Masergy Managed SD-WAN solutions with advanced security services for unified threat management, threat monitoring & response and managed security services; and, most recently, the launch of an Intelligent Service Control (ISC) portal that offers a unified view of clients’ SDWAN and Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) applications, with the ability to manage, secure and optimise network environments in real-time. To discuss these and other developments, Technology Reseller caught up with Managing Director Steve Harrington.

Technology Reseller (TR): The 2019 SD-WAN Market Trends Survey highlights the rapid take-up of SD-WAN, with organisations quickly moving from the ‘curious’ stage to the ‘actively interested’ stage. What do you think is driving this change?

Steve Harrington (SH): There’s a lot of marketing around SD-WAN – and a lot of misconceptions too. There are people saying things about it that aren’t true and that creates interest. Like it’s all about saving money, when it isn’t. It’s the usual technology play: people get it; people sell it; and a lot of people sell it based purely on cost savings. That gets everyone interested, but it doesn’t help them understand what SD-WAN really is. The problem with SDWAN is that you can ask 50 people what it means, and you will get 50 different answers. That said, a lot of CIOs and Heads of IT who were curious about SD-WAN one year ago now have a better understanding of how it can benefit their business.

TR: I have to ask you, then, how you would define SD-WAN and its benefits?

SH: I’m not a techie, and if you ask our CTO you’ll probably get a different answer, but for me it’s about applications performance, about actually managing your applications properly. That’s end-to-end, by the way, not just box-to-box, not just box-to-the-internet, but truly end-to-end. SD-WAN, for me, is about having far more control over your application performance than ever before. What networks used to do customers can now manage themselves. That is a big step forward.

TR: That’s borne out by the findings of your survey, isn’t it?

SH: Yes, it is. Businesses want more control, they want flexibility, they want to change stuff and do things at 3 in the morning, quickly and on an ad hoc basis, because business leaders are demanding much more rapid deployment of stuff than ever before – new sites, change of sites, change of people, deployments of new software, moving to the cloud. Everything going on is happening quicker and quicker and quicker, so businesses have to have control. They can’t wait for networks to do all the work.

TR: Were there any findings that you found particularly surprising?

SH: The security one was surprising in a way – not the fact that people want to look after their security, nor the fact that only 81% said that, but the fact that they are looking to SD-WAN as a solution. That’s interesting, because most of the SD-WAN provisions I have seen don’t address security particularly well, so I don’t know where they have got the idea that SD-WAN will help them solve their security posture. It should, by the way, but I don’t know where they have got that from because that is not what people have been selling. They have been selling cost savings and flexibility. It is good news for us, and we agree, but it is surprising.

TR: Presumably you were developing your new SD-WAN security bundles long before the survey was done?

SH: Yes. We’ve been doing managed security for 7 or 8 years and SDN networks for 19 years. For us, it was a natural collision of two product sets. We have used them together for a long time but not necessarily productised. We had a very network-centric product set and we had a security-centric product set and while it was possible to put them together, what was actually needed was a more streamlined version of the security one. The SOC service we provide is really in-depth; the edge network doesn’t need that level of security and it would be too expensive for most people to add on. There needed to be a more streamlined version, which is what we have created.

We drove that from EMEA; we were the first people to put our hands up internally and say companies need a much more rigorous security posture now. A firewall isn’t going to cut it, and if you do a firewall who is going to manage it, who is going to manage the logs, who is going to look at the traffic going in and out; who is going to check if they are being hacked? Customers don’t have the time or the knowledge or the technology to do it themselves. So, the bundles make total sense.

TR: What are the price implications?

SH: Nowhere near what you would think. If you take a standalone security solution from us or one of our competitors, it will cost thousands to tens of thousands of pounds a month depending on how big you are and how much you need. The additional cost on an SDN network for security is just a handful of per cent. It’s way, way less than buying elements individually.

TR: The productisation of these security bundles must be helpful for your channel partners.

SH: It should be. Security has always been a challenge for the channel. I think they are scared of it, because things quickly get very deep, very techie, very dark arts, people with hoodies and that kind of thing, so naturally they shy away from it. For one thing, they don’t want to be embroiled with security issues and hacks, and secondly resellers tend not to have the resources to sell it, pre-sell it, install it, manage it, provide support for it – all that kind of stuff. But they’ve always sold networks; they get that – it’s lines, they plug it in, they can put a price to it. If you put security on the edge in a really network-driven way, rather than a security-driven way, they are much more inclined to view this is an extension of what they already know rather than as a brand new set of things they need to learn. If you understand networks, you understand the proposition and don’t have to sit down to sell security.

TR: Have you had feedback from end customers yet?

Partners
Partners

SH: There are customers we speak to who don’t feel the need for it yet because they’ve got their own anti-virus, firewalls, UTM, SIEM. We do a lot with financial institutions and their security posture is really good. But there’s a bunch of others we are talking to at the moment who are saying ‘Yes, this is something we desperately need: it makes total sense to put a fortress around the edge of our network, as opposed to us trying to do it ourselves’. They can swap out a lot of legacy technology; they can swap out a lot of duplicate suppliers; they can trim their whole supply chain down for this product set. That makes their lives a lot easier, because they don’t have to manage so many people.

TR: Did the customers you originally developed the bundles for have any qualities in common that made this the right solution?

SH: They had trimmed down their network infrastructure IT department. They had either kept the same people and moved them on to do cloud or something else or they had outsourced their IT function and just had a very strategic team. They weren’t able to do security themselves but didn’t want the IT outsource company to do it either.

TR: Do you plan to extend productisation to other areas?

SH: Yes. We also provide global unified communications (UC) and contact centre, which are predicated on a really good solid network. Linking network and voice together has always been a challenge because not everyone is in the same buying cycle for a network as they are for voice. But if we provide their network, adding voice and contact centre later is much, much easier. We are not productising voice per se, but we are making sure our customers and prospects fully understand what you can get from us and how they work together seamlessly. The work we are doing with Cisco will accelerate that greatly (in March, Cisco selected Masergy as a global premier partner for its Customer Journey Platform).

TR: Masergy seems to have been very active in the channel of late. Are channel sales more of a priority for you?

SH: We have been in the UK for 10 years and changed our strategy 12 months ago. When I got here, Masergy wasn’t a channel-focused business, but it is now. In America, 85% of our business is channelbased and we need to be at that level here. Two years ago, sales were probably at best 70:30 (direct:partner); last year it was 50:50; this year it needs to be 30:70; and next year 15:85. We had the best year we have ever had in EMEA last year, even though we restructured, so we are getting traction and the market is with us.

Top 10 Partners
Masergy’s Top 10 channel partners in Fiscal Year 2019, in alphabetical order, are:

Advantage Communications Group, LLC

Avant Communications

Bridgepointe Technologies

Business Communications Management

PlanetOne Communications, Inc.

Sandler Partners

Simplify, Inc.

Telarus, Inc.

Telecom Brokerage, Inc. (TBI)

Telecom Consulting Group

TR: Who are your customers?

SH: Typically, medium global enterprises, with 10 to 700 global sites, so quite a broad spectrum. The people we tend to work with most are people who look at their network and say ‘if this fails, our business fails’. They are the ones that put in the effort, time and resource to make it really good, rather than just buying on price.

TR: How many channel partners do you have now and what are they looking for from you?

SH: We have 80 active channel partners. A typical partner will want to bring us in as an industry expert to educate their customers (and them) on what’s possible. A lot of people we work with are consultancy-type organisations, so their name goes with the sale. They want to work with someone who knows what they are doing, is a safe pair of hands and will look after the customer long-term. Obviously, we say we will pay you really, really well and you will earn lots of money, which is true, but if you ask them what they really want, they will say just make sure my customer is looked after.

The other thing is our reach and scope. Most channel partners really struggle with getting global reach for their customers, especially for voice. Having that reach is rare and adds a tonne of value to partners. They might only have 5 or 6 international customers with 50 or so offices globally, but they will contribute a lot of profit and are at risk from companies like us that can come in and do a global deal. We can secure that business for them and expand it and make them more money.

Find out more about Masergy’s global partner program at:

https://www.masergy.com/partners/

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