Intermedia CEO Mike Gold says that this partnership is different from all their others, in that it’s the biggest they have ever done, with enormous implications for both parties.
Today, NEC Corporation and Intermedia are announcing a major global strategic partnership, which will see Intermedia’s cloud-based Unified Communications as a Service [UCaaS] and Contact Center as a Service [CCaaS] offerings become white-labelled by NEC. The UCaaS service will be branded as NEC UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT, while the CCaaS will be NEC UNIVERGE BLUE ENGAGE.
These kinds of white-labelled partnerships are a core element of Intermedia’s business, but this one is different from all the others, emphasized Mike Gold, Intermedia’s CEO.
“Intermedia has thousands of partners who white label our product,” he said. “NEC is a white-label partnership – but this is a lot more than that. We’ve never done a white label partnership to this degree, and its more than a white-label partnership.”
The scale of the NEC partnership and the opportunities it presents for Intermedia make it stand out among the Intermedia relationships.
“NEC has 80 million or more phone system users worldwide,” Gold said. “They are a market leader, along with Avaya and Cisco. We have built a quarter billion dollar revenue business – but most of our business is in the US. NEC is our partner to expand globally, in EMEA, Japan and elsewhere.”
The partnership between Intermedia and NEC, as a combination of technologies, is quite similar to the relationship announced last year between RingCentral and Avaya. Gold noted that all the big telephony vendors faced similar challenges in addressing today’s requirements and customer needs around UCaaS and CCaaS.
“Cisco has WebEx, but it’s now dated, and they have Broadsoft, which isn’t a pure cloud play,” Gold said. “Avaya partnered with RingCentral to get stronger capabilities here. NEC has been developing their own on-prem product, and cloud enabled it, but it didn’t really take off. NEC is now going to market to sell new customers these NEC branded cloud solutions. Some of their base will also move to these UCaaS and CCaaS solutions as well.”
Gold acknowledged that the services that NEC now has will be similar to what other Intermedia white label partners have, but noted that the product is only part of the equation.
“We see four key differentiators for us compared to Intermedia’s other white-label partners,” said Marc Hebner, VP Channel Americas at NEC.
“First this is truly a global opportunity, which opens Intermedia up to our thousands of SIs whom we sell PBX systems through,” Hebner said. “Second is the opportunity we have from a market share perspective, with over 80 million users we can work with to migrate them to the cloud.
The third differentiation, Hebner stressed, was the way NEC goes to market and the choice their channel partners have to offer their end users.
“We have three different models our partners can select from – agency, revenue share or customer ownership,” he said. “Our SI community can choose what model they want to take to their end customer. This is the most channel-friendly Go-to-Market plan in the industry.”
“Those three different partner models that NEC have is unique in the market,” Gold added. “Even we don’t have their revenue sharing approach. Most vendors just have the one option – be a sales agent for us and we own the customer. That’s not our philosophy and that’s not what NEC is doing. We do offer that for those who want it, but most partners want to be more than a sales agent.”
Finally, Hebner noted that the services are exclusively NEC branded.
“We are not hiding that these come through the partnership with Intermedia, but the application itself down to HTML level will all be branded NEC,” he said.
The Intermedia solutions will be replacing technology NEC originally acquired from Sphericall in 2007.
“This is a pure software application which worked very well, but what we never really figured out well was sell enablement, technical enablement and portals,” Hebner said. “Those are things that Intermedia is great at. We struggled in that, so we started vetting UCaaS providers.”
Hebner indicated that Intermedia was chosen at the end of this long vetting process, not as the default option because of someone’s past business relationships.
“We went through an extensive vetting process and selected Intermedia because of their flexibility,” he said. “We needed a couple of things. One was speed – someone who could quickly move us into the cloud space. These times, with people working from home, call for tools that UCaaS providers have. The speed at which Intermedia can enable is incredible. We are doing betas now and will be live in the U.S. at the end of the May timeframe. That’s much faster than RingCentral-Avaya.”
The second point, Hebner stated, is that Intermedia was born in the cloud.
“This wasn’t an on-prem software solution they shoved into the cloud,” he said. “For us, this will be like moving move from driving a Honda to driving a Ferrari, and will give our channel a really compelling case for migrating whenever the customer is ready.”
Hebner emphasized that the new services will not displace all of their on-prem install base, where they continue to sell large numbers of systems.
“The number who migrate now will be in the hundreds of thousands,” he said. “However, in the microsegment of the SMB market where we sell the SL2100, we still sell thousands of those per month. Our SV9100 is more upscale, to 1000 users, and we sell thousands of those as well on a monthly basis. That trend has been declining, but there is still a massive install base. We aren’t going to yank out that infrastructure overnight and move them to the cloud. But with these new solutions, we can have a better discussion with them about migrating.”
“Many of their on-prem base won’t be moving completely,” Gold pointed out. “Many may want a hybrid model.”
NEC UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT and ENGAGE will go to market exclusively through NEC’s Business Partner community. Rollout will be in the U.S. first, and is scheduled for the end of May.