Cbeyond to offer virtualized, white-label IP PBX.

Product, designed to let channel partners offer VoIP services, can be deployed in minutes.

By Adam Stone | Posted Jan 19, 2011
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Last October, Atlanta-based hosted IP PBX provider Aretta Communications announced the release of a new white label program to enable resellers to create branded IP PBX solutions for their customers.

Soon after, the company was acquired by IP phone service provider Cbeyond, and the white label product got put on hold as the newly joined companies worked to integrate Aretta's technology into Cbeyond’s overall product line.

Now the company has returned its attention to the white label product, which is slated for February release. Executives say a white label offering will help Cbeyond to expand its footprint, while giving resellers a new way to reach out to their existing client base.

"Cbeyond has always embraced channel partners as the core of its business," said vice president of sales and marketing Jeff Uphues. "From a Cbeyond perspective, the Aretta offering really introduces a new term that people are not accustomed to seeing, which is cloud PBX."

While the details of the Cbeyond offering still are being worked out, October’s Aretta announcement should provide a sound guideline for what the company will be bringing to market.

The product is based on an open source software solution running on the Linux operating system, virtualization, and an Asterisk-based IP PBX application, which resellers will brand as their own offering.

The cloud-hosted system will be fully automated, enabling resellers to provision new IP PBX systems for their customers in a matter of minutes. The entire reseller account administration will be managed online from a central Web interface. The cost to resellers has not yet been established, and resellers will set their own retail end user price points.

Cbeyond is not the first in the industry to make such a play. Last month for example, TelCentris announced its IP telephony platform was open for reseller-partners, and MSP Terrapin partnered with PacWest to create a similar offering.

Uphues foresees the white label product fulfilling a need among resellers who want to expand the depth of their product line, but who may lack the finances necessary to implement a cost-intensive system on their own.

"A lot of small value added resellers don’t have the tools and the resources to become their own PBX, to deploy their own hosting tools, so we feel it is a natural fit to enable those customers to extend their offerings," he said.

In addition to building out their product base, resellers may look at the white label as a way to grow their business beyond their present geographies. While many have made inroads into major markets, they still may be looking to grow in subsidiary areas. "They want to take that Cbeyond offering into those smaller markets, and this is a way for them to extend their reach," Uphues said.

Training will come from channel managers within each of the 14 major markets presently served by Cbeyond, with the depth and content of that training to be determined by the needs of the specific reseller. "For that channel partner or that reseller, we want to understand their needs and what they are trying to accomplish," Uphues said.

For Cbeyond, the new program should open doors into markets beyond its present base, with the help of resellers who may already have an established footprint. "A lot of these PBX resellers and VAR resellers have worked long and hard to establish their own name and their own brand," Uphues said. White labeling creates room to ride those coattails.

Even as it looks to expand beyond its present 55,000 small-business customers, Cbeyond intends to take an incremental approach to any expansion. "We’re going to have to have the same diligence we have had in rolling out Cbeyond as a company," Uphues said. "You won’t see us signing up hundreds of people at one time. We’re going to move methodically from one reseller to the next, from one channel partner to the next."

There’s been a rash of phone-company white labeling going on in the past few months, a trend Uphues attributes to the rise of the cloud.

"You had the client server side in the ’90s, you had modular computing in the 2000s. Then in 2005 to 2010 you had virtualization. All that has prepared us from the unprecedented disruption across the IT stack that we now see in the cloud," he said.

By helping resellers deliver that technology, white labeling "allows them to build up a more robust reoccurring revenue stream, without having to invest the capital that it would take to do it themselves."

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