• United States
by Steve Taylor and Joanie Wexler

Redefining the ‘service provider’ category

May 08, 20033 mins

* Who is OpenReach?

Last time, we discussed the co-marketing of equipment from two companies simply because the feature sets are extremely complementary.  We saw this low-tech integration as being attractive because of the common-sense approach.  Today, we take a look at an offering from OpenReach that breaks the mold of traditional services in a way that simply makes sense.

OpenReach is difficult to categorize because it is an equipment/software provider in some senses and a service provider in others.  But even though it is difficult to categorize, its offering fits a niche where many companies currently have a major pain point.

As we’ve discussed extensively in this column, the perceived benefit of moving to an Internet-based VPN vanishes immediately for many enterprises because of the labor-intensive management of these networks.  It’s true that Internet bandwidth is dirt-cheap.  But you might lose a large percentage of those savings if you have to spend precious personnel resources configuring and maintaining the equipment and resources.

OpenReach is redefining this balance by offering a VPN/router/firewall software package that runs on any Pentium-based PC platform.  (If you insist, it will also provide the platform.)  In addition to providing the software, though, OpenReach takes care of the difficult part – configuring and maintaining the software.  In fact, according to Lori Sylvia, OpenReach product marketing director, the average time for the company to configure and activate a VPN setup for a customer is only 28 minutes.

It’s important to realize that OpenReach is a service provider in that it manages – but doesn’t necessarily provide – the communications infrastructure.  However, the customer maintains real-time control over the security policies and access privileges of the network. Also, the customer makes all administrative changes – he doesn’t call OpenReach for that.

So, while OpenReach is a “service provider” in one sense, it isn’t a traditional carrier.  You bring your own Internet access from whatever source you prefer, and OpenReach helps you manage and maintain the network – for a fee, of course.  In a sense, you could consider it to be the managed services branch of a traditional service provider with the flexibility to work with multiple transport providers.  Additionally, it offers both management and monitoring of your services, and, in some cases can even facilitate shifting your traffic to a back-up transport network.

Also, like the option of providing hardware where desired, OpenReach can provide the IP access through partnerships with ISP aggregators MegaPath and PartnerTEL.  These aggregators go out and find competitive Internet access quotes from all the carriers and OpenReach then helps the customer pick the best-available, lowest-cost solution, and then tie everything together in a uniform network.

We see this service provider model as being especially attractive to small and midsized enterprises that would like to reap the benefits of Internet-based VPNs but don’t have the technical staffs available for planning and ongoing maintenance.