NWN Corp.'s acquisition of Carousel Industries, announced May 12, fits into the anticipated rise in hybrid work environments and the resulting need for as-a-service offerings.
The combination of the cloud communications and infrastructure companies, backed by New State Capital Partners, creates an entity with a projected 2021 revenue run-rate of $1 billion. NWN, based in Waltham, Mass., and Carousel, based in Exeter, R.I., "will become an integrated company under a unified brand -- though that will take a bit of time," said NWN vice president of marketing Andrew Gilman.
The unified company will focus on high-growth market segments such as devices/endpoints; business communications applications, including contact center and unified communications; and cloud infrastructure, including networking, security, wireless and public switched telephone network; Gilman said.
"The timing of this transaction is great, as IT delivery and consumption is rapidly changing to adopt to hybrid work models," said Kevin Rhone, practice director of channel acceleration at Enterprise Strategy Group, a division of TechTarget.
"ESG research on overall trends shows that almost half of enterprises want to consume IT via as a service and/or consumption-based models," added Mark Bowker, an ESG senior analyst who covers the digital workspace market.
ESG's IT Decision Maker research revealed that increased employee productivity and improved digital collaboration ranked among the top three considerations for justifying IT investment in 2021, Bowker said.
"We believe that distributed, intelligent workspaces will drive knowledge worker productivity and create a great opportunity for partners to add long-term value," Rhone noted.
NWN grew revenue 20% in 2020, benefiting from its September 2019 launch of a solution-as-a-service cloud communication portfolio and a management layer called Experience Management Platform. The cloud services lineup, and the technology for managing cloud communications platforms, attracted customers that devised work-from-home strategies during the pandemic.
NWN now has an opportunity to further deploy its services and technology.
Andrew GilmanVice president of marketing, NWN Corp.
"The acquisition of Carousel Industries by NWN is highly strategic for our customer base," Gilman said. The combined company has more than 6,000 customers, with fewer than 40 overlapping accounts, he noted.
Accordingly, NWN has an opportunity to provide additional service to the customer base, as well as automation and cloud management via the Experience Management Platform, Gilman said.
The deal also "brings tremendous scale and differentiation" for the combined business and an expanded national footprint, Gilman noted. As for the latter, Carousel Industries adds offices in eight states, bringing the companies' total footprint to 15 states.
"For providers, scale definitely matters -- especially as more organizations consider offerings from large service providers," Rhone said.
Carousel Industries also provides NWN an expanded set of technology partner relationships, including Fortinet, Nice InContact, RingCentral and Zoom. Prior to the acquisition, NWN's partner roster included AWS, Cisco, Dell, HP Inc., Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Intel, Microsoft, NetApp and Riverbed.
"The combined company will continue to integrate and extend the capabilities of [Carousel Industries'] strategic OEM partners," Gilman said, citing customers' ability to deliver better user experiences through the Experience Management Platform.
OSF Digital readies acquisition push
OSF Digital, a digital transformation company and Salesforce partner based in Quebec City, plans to acquire as many as seven companies in 2021 on the back of a $43 million round of funding.
Delta-v Capital led the funding and also provided an earlier round. Other investors in the new funding include Salesforce Ventures, OSF Digital board chairman David Northington, board director Jeff Rich and board advisor Gary DiOrio.
OSF Digital CEO Gerard Szatvanyi said his company has four deals lined up for 2021, with two to three more acquisitions possible this year. The company plans on acquiring another three to four companies in 2022.
OSF Digital is seeking skills in Salesforce's B2B Commerce, Marketing Cloud, Experience Cloud, Service Cloud and Commerce Cloud -- "all in order to have a better multi-cloud commerce go-to-market," he said.
As for OSF Digital's post-merger strategy, Szatvanyi said "all acquired companies will be fully integrated." The founders and executives of the acquired firms will join the OSF Digital team as it aims to build the leading independent Salesforce partner and digital transformation company.
OSF Digital has been a Salesforce partner for more than 10 years.
NetApp updates partner program
NetApp will transition its partner base from technical certifications to solutions specializations and business competencies.
The change is among the updates to the company's Unified Partner Program. Under the revised program, Solution Specializations include Cloud Preferred, FlexPod, SAP, AI/ML, Data Protection, Data Security, Hosting Service Provider, Infrastructure and Spot by NetApp Preferred. The company also offers Services Certified Specializations that include Integration Services Certified, Lifecycle Services Certified and NetApp Keystone Services Certified.
The specializations are available immediately, but partners have until the end of April 2022 to shift from the previous certification tracks to the new structure. "We are not springing anything on our partners very quickly," said NetApp Americas channel chief Jim Elder. The partner program will give each partner a customized roadmap to determine where they stand in the transition process.
In addition, NetApp has expanded its partner ecosystem, which now encompasses partners who pursue resell, managed services and influencer/consultancy sales motions, said Chris Lamborn, head of worldwide partner go-to-market and programs at NetApp.
The company also revised its partner awards program to incentivize participants for actions that close deals, such as setting meetings and registering deals. NetApp has adjusted its partner program in recent years to accommodate the shift to cloud-based storage offerings.
Hybrid cloud, AI get top billing at IBM Think
The IBM Think digital event this week underscored IBM's emphasis on hybrid cloud and AI as the way forward.
IBM CEO Arvind Krishna pointed to those technologies as key to successful organizations -- and an opening for IBM and its partner ecosystem. "Most of the opportunity is still ahead of us" with hybrid cloud, he said, noting that about 25% of workloads have moved to the cloud thus far.
As for AI, Krishna cited an IBM-commissioned survey in which 43% of IT professionals said their companies had accelerated the rollout of AI amid the pandemic. The survey polled respondents in 5,501 businesses.
IBM's two-pronged hybrid cloud and AI initiative hasn't been lost on HCL Technologies, an IT services and consulting company based in Noida, India.
IBM has sent "a very clear message … about how they are pivoting their entire core into driving a focus on hybrid cloud and AI down to the customers," said HCL Technologies CTO and head of ecosystems Kalyan Kumar B.
Speaking at IBM Think, Kumar said his company's focus on hybrid cloud and AI includes wrapping security around them. Financial services, telecommunications and Industry 4.0 are the top vertical market opportunities for hybrid cloud and AI, he added.
HCL Technologies in 2020 launched an IBM Ecosystem Unit, which contributes to the company's global systems integrator, MSP and engineering services businesses among other sales motions, Kumar said.
Professional services firm EY, meanwhile, has tapped IBM's AI technology to create customer offerings. EY global technology consulting leader Dan Higgins cited Diligence Edge, which uses IBM Watson Discovery to facilitate the M&A due diligence process. In addition, EY offers a platform for risk-scenario planning that builds upon the IBM platform, he said.
Partners can expect more ecosystem-oriented cloud news to follow. David La Rose, general manager of IBM global sales and the partner ecosystem, told event attendees that IBM plans to unveil a "cloud partner center," which he described as a consumption platform.
Channel partner programs and products
- Nerdio, a Chicago company that provides a Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) deployment offering for MSPs, unveiled a partner program and certification courses. The Nerdio Partnered Program aims to help MSPs build cloud practices in Azure and WVD. The four-tiered program offers an asset library with cases studies, content white-labeling capabilities, discounted pricing and custom training sessions, according to the company. Nerdio certifications include Nerdio for Azure and Nerdio Manager for MSP, which are free for MSPs' staff as they move up in the partner program's tiers. WVD partners are generating business among SMB and enterprise customers.
- CloudBlue, a cloud ecosystem technology company based in Irvine, Calif., launched a channel revenue management offering. CloudBlue Rev, based on HarmonyPSA, automates quoting, billing and reconciliation. The offering is available in the United Kingdom with rollouts planned globally, according to the company.
- SkyKick, cloud automation and service provider management software provider based in Seattle, upgraded its Cloud Manager product. The updates focus on help desk automation, cloud security and management of cross-cloud applications. The new features include automation that enables partners to provide repeatable Microsoft Teams customer deployments.
- Pax8, a cloud distributor based in Denver, has acquired Sea-Level Operations, an education firm. The transaction lets Pax8 provide partners with training, coaching and scorecard analytics. Sea-Level Operations founder and CEO Rex Frank will join Pax8 as vice president of Pax8 Academy. The academy provides instructor-led courses and digital content on cloud business and technology topics.
- BeeCastle, a software provider based in Australia, added features to its activity dashboard to support data-driven sales. MSPs use BeeCastle's data analytics offering to keep tabs on their business relationships, the company said.
- The U.S. Department of Transportation has selected AT&T for a $175 million task order that includes Managed Trusted Internet Protocol Services (MTIPS). The task order, which spans 12 years, falls under the General Services Administration's Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract. MTIPS provides Trusted Internet Connection-compliant managed security services through the federal government's EIS and Networx contracts. AT&T's task order spans virtual private networking, IP-based voice services and cloud access technology.
- MTX Group Inc., a technology consulting firm based in Frisco, Texas, launched its Safe at Work offering for organizations returning to in-office work. The offering includes daily wellness surveys and COVID-19 testing site locations, among other features. The company said sports venues and event organizations can also use Safe at Work to validate the authenticity of vaccination cards and COVID-19 test results.
- Otava, a cloud solutions provider based in Ann Arbor, Mich., said Form I-9 Compliance is using its self-managed private cloud and storage offerings to protect personal identifiable information. Form I-9 Compliance, based in Newport Beach, Calif., provides technology and consulting services, focusing on Form I-9 and E-Verify
- Crayon Group Holding cited strong software and cloud demand as factors boosting first-quarter gross profit growth by 23%. The IT services provider, based in Oslo, Norway, said its gross profits in the U.S. market expanded 34%. Separately, Crayon said its Norway team has been certified as a Snow Software Expert Partner.
- Semcon, a technology company in Sweden, acquired Squeed AB, a digital services company also in Sweden. Semcon cited Squeed's software development and Agile change management capabilities as drivers behind the deal.
- Upstack, a web platform that sells cloud services through cloud sales agents, named Paula McKinnon as its vice president of vendor relations. McKinnon will lead the New York-based company's vendor management strategy. She joins Upstack from Telarus, where she was vice president of supplier management.
- Pixel Health, a healthcare consulting ecosystem based in Holyoke, Mass., promoted former chief corporate counsel Brad Mondschein to president. Barbara Casey, former Cisco global healthcare lead and Nectar Strategic Consulting CEO, has been promoted to CRO. Nectar is one of Pixel Health's portfolio companies.
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