Alleviate my network pain!

You'll probably notice something new today in our newsletter and our FierceTelecom site. We have launched a new series of poll questions that ask what your major network pain points are. We'll be featuring a new poll question in the FierceTelecom newsletter every day this week and on the website and then again during the week of October 19th.

The current question asks 'what network challenges cause your company the most grief?' After just completing a feature story where I talked to ten executives of major incumbent and competitive service providers serving the business markets, a couple of common themes came to mind.

Given the challenging economy every business is facing these days, the most pressing question posed to the service providers' business units were typically 'how can you help me cut my costs?' And that can be done in a number of ways by the service provider taking over non-core functions of a business such as managing their IT functions or hosting their call center applications.

And while cost cutting is still a major issue, Paget Alves, president of Sprint Business Markets Group, told me that the tide for his customers is starting to change from not just saving money, but a question of 'how can you make this more productive?' 

"What we have seen now is that in the third quarter people are beginning to make plans for short-term projects that have little more of a forward looking view," Alves said. "This has shifted from a question of 'how do I cut my costs to how do I improve my productivity?"

Sprint may have a wide arsenal of IP and other related managed services to serve the customer, but improving productivity to most, if not all businesses, is not about technology but rather it's about improving a business process.

Along with spending time with service providers serving businesses, I have been talking to some end-users as well. Take Interface Security Systems (ISS), a provider of electronic security solutions, managed broadband and IP security applications. Serving major Fortune 500 companies and retail establishments with multiple locations means that ISS had to manage multiple service provider contracts. Instead, IIS outsourced that process to Vertek, which acts as a virtual network operator of sorts to manage all of the disparate contracts and circuits for each location that it needs telecom circuits, be they T1s, Ethernet or even wireless broadband.

"Until these systems were capable of running side by side on a converged network, applications were siloed and individual store locations were handled in a serial manner rather than in a parallel manner," said Jeffrey Frye, Director of Corporate Sales and Marketing, Interface Systems. "Vertek compresses the amount of time required for a large order of applications ranging from projects of 25 locations up to thousands."

But for other large enterprise customers such as the NYSE Euronext (operating its own network by purchasing and then lighting its own dark fiber for two new data centers it's building), the drive is around reducing network latency. NYSE Euronext's answer was to build out two new fiber-based 100 Gbps-capable new data centers.

Andy Bach, SVP and Global Head of Communications for NYSE Euronext told me in an interview I did before I joined the FierceTelecom team in July, any latency could be lost business. "In our industry, latency equates to a large extent market share," he said. "He who connects the order faster gets the order, so anything we can do to speed that up is a good thing."

And perhaps that's one of the biggest pains of all: losing a customer because your network was not fast enough to enable you to respond to a new customer order before the next guy gets it. -Sean