What’s in a name? Savvis changed its name today to CenturyLink Technology Solutions, building on an integration with the global network services provider that began with CenturyLink’s acquisition of the company back in April 2011. Designed to bolster CenturyLink’s developing capabilities in emerging IT delivery markets, the acquisition was intended to draw together complementary capabilities: while CenturyLink is the third largest U.S. telecom and recognized as a leading network services provider, Savvis was widely viewed as a key player in managed hosting, cloud and collocation services markets. Since 2011, the companies have worked towards greater coordination of delivery strategy and to the development of new capabilities. In the fiercely competitive world of cloud, for example, CenturyLink purchased AppFog in June 2013, a PaaS solution that was quickly made available to Savvis private cloud enterprise clients and to the developer community via the Savvisdirect online channel, and in November of that year acquired Seattle-based Tier 3, a cloud management firm that brings advanced capabilities to Savvis offerings. In a word, name change is about more complement, more coordination and more capabilities.
Commenting on Savvis’ new moniker, Bik Dutta, director of product management for CenturyLink Technology Solutions Canada, described the name change as “a natural part of integration” that has perhaps been more active in the U.S. where CenturyLink commands a broader network presence. According to Dutta, early efforts to cross-sell services by CenturyLink and Savvis into each other’s accounts have proved successful and will improve, with greater overall brand awareness the result: “As customers of both companies have realized who the others are, the overall value proposition of having the telecom/network services that CentryLink has brought combined with the IT services, hosting, colo and cloud services that Savvis has brought, is a message with resonance. It’s clear that customers are beginning to look at us as a unified company. There are great synergies when you have a telco with a broad network combining with the traditional hosting services that we offer.”
Currently, CenturyLink maintains some network presence in Canada through wholesale telecom partners to support U.S. managed network services customers with Canadian branch locations or to support Canadian multinationals with global operations that have need of international or southbound linkages. Projects are now underway to evaluate the potential for extending the CenturyLink network north of the border as part of a global expansion, a result that would see these network/hosting synergies develop in Canada going forward.
In Dutta’s opinion, the name change is largely part of a branding exercise, highlighting integration that has been underway for some time, as opposed to a revolution in organizational structure or offerings. In fact, he pointed to CenturyLink’s ongoing commitment to investment in CenturyLink Technology Solutions, the business unit that Savvis is now part of and “the high growth area” for the telecom operation overall. “We continue to be the growth engine for the company so there will be continued investment, as evidenced by our new data centre builds and expansions around the world, including Markham this year, our acquisitions, and the continuing evolution of our product set,” Dutta explained. While Savvis heritage colocation, managed hosting, cloud and consulting services will constitute a major portion of CenturyLink Technology Solutions delivery, some products/services, Dutta maintained, will continue to be identified with the Savvis brand.
One investment that stands out is the Tier 3 acquisition, which was announced with great fanfare by the company back in November: “Tier 3’s products, roadmap and vision are now the foundation of CenturyLink’s cloud strategy and anchor the new Seattle-based CenturyLink Cloud Development Center,” a company press release announced. According to Dutta, this acquisition has meant that the new CenturyLink Technology Solutions business has been able to accelerate development of its cloud portfolio by a year or two. “We are going with the CenturyLink cloud — so the Tier 3 infrastructure and vision in terms of public cloud will permeate the organization,” he noted. The new public cloud that CenturyLink Technology Solutions will offer (and is now selling) is based on the innovation coming out of Seattle, which the company is looking to foster and highlight through establishment of its western centre of excellence. At the same time, the acquired Tier 3 talent and organization are also rolled up into the newly formed Technology Solutions group.
Advanced capabilities in the Tier 3 platform include an improved user experience, higher levels of self service for developers, DR capabilities, greater configurability for the network (to support cloud portability) and a user interface that will also be extended across traditional managed hosting and hosted private cloud offerings to enable single pane of glass management for legacy Savvis services. Dutta believes these attributes will allow CenturyLink to compete more effectively against some of the other public cloud companies that have established market presence: “The two companies combined now have a much better story with which to tackle the burgeoning public cloud market that is here to stay,” he added. At the same time, this combination provides an approach to hybrid cloud delivery that is leveraged by Savvis’ existing and extensive data centre footprint, dedicated hosting and private cloud services.
Together, Savvis-heritage assets, the Tier 3 platform and CenturyLink networking provide customers with “choice in how they consume IT and in how they run their IT,” Dutta argued, and “unifying” customer choice through single pane of glass management and expanded cloud marketplaces will serve to provide additional advantage. It may be that the ultimate goal of CenturyLink consolidation is to shift customers to public cloud implementation, but this strategy will not dominate the near term future — the growth of Savvis’ varied service offerings attests to the wisdom of a delayed timetable. “We recognize the need for hybrid solutions. The market tells us that and our performance within the product areas has demonstrated that as well,” Dutta stated. ‘Stay the course’ appears to be the key message in the CenturyLink name change. While capabilities will continue to evolve as new services are brought on board, Canadian customers should expect no revolution in operational service, but rather continued, and singular commitment to building local data centre infrastructure and services. A rose by any other name….