The anywhere, anytime network: this is the principle that United Network Services Inc. (UNSi) set out to put into practice when it started out as a broadband aggregator in 2001. Now, 12 years later, it’s taking its connectivity and channel strategy further to create an ecosystem approach to business communications requirements. The idea is to support an environment in which businesses can mix and match networks with application and collocation services in a highly customized and managed fashion.
UNSi was founded in 2001 as American Broadband Inc., and quickly established a reputation as a broadband connectivity aggregator with 2,000 providers and servers nationwide. It still has one of the largest broadband footprints in North America. But in 2011, the company decided to change its name to UNSi to signal its growth strategy of adding new types of network offerings to its large-scale broadband implementation capabilities.
Allan Schwartz, UNSI SVP of Strategic Planning and Business Development
To that end, in January 2012 it acquired IPNetZone, which gave it its own MPLS network and exchange platform. “So instead of just managing networks for others, we created a next-gen carrier network,” said Allan Schwartz, senior vice president of strategic planning and business development at the provider. “So we aggregate, we’re a managed services provider and a carrier. It just goes to show that the old paradigms
are completely gone. There’s no right or wrong business model answer – it just comes down to enabling flexibility.”
Now, the provider has more than 2,000 underlying networks and 18 points of presence (PoPs), plus at least 150 network-to-network interfaces (NNIs) that allow it to interconnect to buy and sell Layer 1 and 2 network connections directly with other carriers, globally. The result is the ability to bring a range of connectivity options to the table.
“We can build a private line with an Ethernet over copper (EoC) connection here and connect it to a private line over there,” explained Schwartz. “No one else is doing something that creative. We basically solve a lot of headaches. And for European and Asian customers, they may have a hard time getting to secondary markets like Austin or Knoxville. We can help them with that.”
In terms of coverage, copper, fiber, fixed wireless, 3G/4G and cable coax all are part of the portfolio. “But we can offer the same IP address regardless of which circuit happens to carry the traffic” Schwartz noted. It’s the same IP Address to fail over to as well. So we can mix and match the technologies across locations, manage all the devices and offer them access to one portal to view all of them.”
From a back-office standpoint, the company proactively monitors all on-net endpoints and sends notifi cations when they aren’t performing up to task. Information from managed routers is handled by UNSi’s primary NOC in the United States, with three other secondary NOCs available for redundancy.
Thus, underpinned by the concept of the intelligent network, UNSi’s main goal for the ecosystem is to engender a fl exibility that allows the infrastructure to support smart applications.
“Maybe today you just need a DIA, but tomorrow you’ll require an MPLS connection,” explained Schwartz. “As a company, you may just be looking for price and bandwidth now, but later you’ll have a need to reach, say, a cloud app. Instead of worrying about being locked into a three-year contract or having to forklift the infrastructure, UNSi offers a company the ability to evolve its services as needed.”
UNSi also works with a number of hosted application partners, amongst whom Schwartz says they have seen a large shift. “A few years ago they wanted to sell the whole solution—router, apps, networks,” he explained. But margins on networks are not as good as they are on applications,
so many are turning to long-term networking partners to help with that piece.
“That’s where the whole ecosystem is getting some traffic,” Schwartz said. “All the stakeholders can come together, enabled by a smart, fl exible network.”
“We’re not built for everybody,” Schwartz said. “We are geo-diverse, support complex installations and are there for the entire lifecycle of the relationship.”
This dovetails nicely with what master agents and their teams can help bring to the table. In fact, UNSi has been ramping up its channel strategy in an effort to get closer to its sales opportunities. Partners bring in a consultative piece to the conversation that can help establish what’s required by the end user from a technical standpoint and create an ecosystem based discussion of the company’s specifi c applications needs.
UNSi has signed on a handful of partners so far and expects to announce who they are in the fi rst part of the year.
By Tara Seals