Vendor Action Increases in the SMB Segment

    The small- and medium-sized (SMB) market is a potential jewel to carriers. It’s always been that way, but legacy technology made it expensive and cumbersome to tap into and kept the focus trained on enterprises.

    SMBs, like enterprises, always need more bandwidth and sophisticated services. The emergence of carrier Ethernet, the flexibility of the cloud, and other new and improved networking elements mean that efficient means now exists to serve smaller customers in an automated fashion. The bottom line is that the potential is readier than ever to be realized.

    A good example of the new technologies and deployment options to which SMBs have access is the concept of hyperconvergence. BizTech defines this as the tight integration of compute, storage, networking and virtualization into one box. The functions are managed through a common interface. Replacing the myriad systems and devices that formerly provided these services reduces complexity and cost, increases efficiency and agility, quickens deployment and increases scalability and disaster recovery capabilities.

    This sounds like just what the doctor ordered for midmarket organizations:

    Given those benefits, hyperconvergence can serve a very real role in an SMB because it lets even a one-person IT department invest in the whole stack, one bite at a time.

    Attention is being paid to this sector. Indeed, SMBs apparently were a main topic of conversation at J.P. Morgan’s 45th Annual Technology, Media and Telecom Conference this week in Boston.

    Channel Partners reports that CenturyLink and Level 3 Communications, which hope to close their merger by the end of September, predict that the combined company will compete with cable operators to be champs of the SMB sector. The combined company will be the second largest in the enterprise wholesale market, which is a position that it can leverage to gain market share in this segment. The comments were made by Level 3 Executive Vice President and CFO Sunit Patel and CenturyLink CFO Stewart Ewing.

    Another service provider at the conference also discussed its SMB strategy. Frontier Communications’ CFO Perley McBride told the conference that the carrier consolidated its overall midmarket offering, including sales, marketing and commercial product management, during the third quarter of 2016.

    Frontier expects those efforts to pay off as it moves beyond the integration of wireline infrastructure that it acquired from Verizon in California, Texas and Florida. McBride said that Verizon had focused on large enterprises in those territories. It will aggressively market Ethernet, cloud and voice services to midmarket businesses in those states.

    Comcast Business, one of the leading providers of platforms to the SMB market, certainly doesn’t plan to stand still while the other providers try to chip away at its core business. The company said last week that it is beta testing software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) technology that is aimed at midmarket and enterprise customers. The beta test of the Versa Network’s Cloud IP Platform will continue throughout the summer and a commercial launch is anticipated later this year.

    Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.

    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk is a long-time IT and telecom journalist. His coverage areas include the IoT, artificial intelligence, artificial intelligence, drones, 3D printing LTE and 5G, SDN, NFV, net neutrality, municipal broadband, unified communications and business continuity/disaster recovery. Weinschenk has written about wireless and phone companies, cable operators and their vendor ecosystems. He also has written about alternative energy and runs a website, The Daily Music Break, as a hobby.

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