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Looking
to get into offering cloud-based unified communications services to your
customers, but unable or unwilling to make a big capital investment?  Neutral
Tandem
has developed a cloud-based collaboration that Cisco channel
partners can white label and resell. Based on Cisco unified communications
infrastructure, the service lets Cisco partners get into the UC game without
investing in infrastructure.

The
service is built on Cisco’s Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS) and provides an
array of unified communications and collaboration applications. Additionally,
Neutral Tandem is taking a hands-off approach when it comes to the customer.
Neutral Tandem will have no direct contact with resellers’ customers in pre-
and post-sales. Partners will also provide tier-one support.

“There
is no concern around Neutral Tandem kind of getting into the middle of the
relationship and complicating that relationship from that point of view,’ said
Ian Neale, vice president of product development and management at Neutral
Tandem.

For
partners, the cloud-based service also pushes the discussion around unified
communications and collaboration further away from on-premise hardware sales
and into discussions around the cloud and operational spending.

The
service fits into the Cisco Cloud Partner Program and will be available to
partners in the program. According to Richard McLeod, senior director of
worldwide partner collaboration and sales management at Cisco Systems, the
Neutral Tandem cloud-based collaboration service provides a way for partners
who have advanced unified communications skills but lack the capital to build
their own cloud or hosted services.

“We
think this is a unique offering in the market place. Many of our competitors
take their solutions directly to the end-users, kind of bypassing the VARs in the
chain,” McLeod said.

Additionally,
the Neutral Tandem service was designed to complement solutions Cisco partners
may already be selling. It was designed to integrate with existing unified
communications and collaboration services provisioning and management
processes.

With
hosted collaboration expected to grow to $8 billion by 2013 (making up 31
percent of the unified communications market), there is a huge opportunity for
the channel. Increasingly, businesses are turning to cloud-based services to
manage their costs, but for channel partners, it provides monthly recurring
revenue streams.

“What
we’ve found in the market so far is the price points we believe we can put into
the market are first going to deliver the VAR gross margins that are arguably
better than when they do premise-based sales,” Neale said.

In
addition to the revenue gained through reselling Neutral Tandem’s service,
Cisco channel partners can earn additional revenue by wrapping their own
services around what Neutral Tandem is providing.

“The
good news about the way we’re taking this product to market is it provides all
of the flexibility for the VAR to put their own marketing plan around it and
generate the additional or adjacent revenues,” Neale said. “We’re not dictating
to the VARs how they take it to the market. We’re simply providing the enabling
functionality in the background and giving them the flexibility to take it to
the market.”

Cisco
and Neutral Tandem have already been in discussions with 10 to 12 Cisco VARs,
some of which are already trialing the service. Still in the pilot stage,
Neutral Tandem plans to launch the service for general availability in early
2012.

The
first partner to launch a trial of the service is Nexus IS, a Cisco Gold
partner focused on collaboration, data center, borderless networks, business
video and managed services.

“Our customers have been asking for a
solution like this and Neutral Tandem’s network neutrality is what drew us to
their offer," said Mike Heiman, vice president of engineering at Nexus IS.
“This is a great program that will provide us the ability to differentiate
ourselves while competing more effectively.”