Cisco, NeutralTandem Offer White Label Unified Communications Service for Partners

By Chris Talbot

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."


This article was originally published on 2011-11-07