Service Providers: The Land of Opportunity

As you may have heard, there was a pretty big announcement out of my company yesterday:

Shift in Ownership at Peak 10

There have been any number of blog posts with conjecture on what this means for Peak 10 and what it says for the larger Service Provider landscape.  We are a privately held company, so don’t look for any inside scoop from me here.  I like my marketing team, and while I occasionally revel in pushing them a little out of their comfort zone on the socia media front I don’t want to see anyone’s head explode… 🙂

What I do think the overall message is, revolved around the opportunity that Service Providers represent in general.  Despite the economy and despite the scarcity of capital, we have continued to exceed our internal expectations from every standpoint.  I’m biased, of course, but I think a lot of that growth is directly attributable to our IaaS platform’s emergence and our message around the cloud and how it can be an evolutionary step forward for our customers, not a disruptor of their business.  It’s fair to assume that the process of selecting a new equity partner was most likely a very competitive one, but why is that?  Why are investors so interested in this space?

My opinion is that the answer lies in the relationship between flexibility and standardization that we bring to bear when designing solutions for customers.

On one side, a Service Provider has to be ruthlessly standardized.  Operational efficiency is the key ingredient to everything that we do, and designing for scale is something we have to keep in mind, both from an infrastructure and a people perspective.  This is where our relationships with our hardware partners becomes key, and where our continued investments in converged infrastructure show their value.  In a good Service Provider environment the SP becomes the proxy between the customer and the hardware vendor, filtering the purchasing decisions through the prism of the services that the customer wantsto consume.  SP customers buy services, not hardware.  As an SP, I can’t rely on my hardware/infrastructure to differentiate me, since most/all of the hardware is a commodity to some extent.

But don’t get me wrong: the hardware is important!  It’s important in two respects: it establishes a base of flexibility for the SP and it establishes a level of reliability (which over time equals a level of trust) between the SP and the customer.  Does it matter if a Service Provider uses EMC, NetApp or (ahem) Compellent to support a cloud environment?  Only in as much as it’s reliable, efficient to manage and has a feature-set that is broad enough to enable you to be flexible when putting together solutions for your customers.

On Monday, I did an interview with and we talked a lot about what is required to be successful in the SP space.  My response was simple but important: listen to the customer.  It’s important to remember that the Service Provider isn’t driving this bus, we are responding to (and sometimes creating) demand from our customers.  It’s important to be flexible, it’s important to listen to customers and then it’s important to have a rock solid infrastructure  that can scale available to deliver on the promises we make.  The announcement yesterday, to me, signifies that we are headed in the right direction.  Now we get to see where we can take it from here!