Managed service providers (MSPs) have a unique perspective during this time of extreme remote workforce transformation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only do they have to ensure remote worker productivity for their employees, but they also need to deliver the same quality of service (QoS) to their customers.
A recent CompTIA members study revealed that only 41% of IT professionals had “strong capabilities when it came to remote work.” And 42% said “they needed better support options” and saw significant benefits to investing in remote work capabilities such as virtual private network (VPN), cloud, collaboration applications and cybersecurity. A total of 67% of respondents said: “To overcome these challenges and implement these investments, they were very likely or somewhat likely to explore third-party assistance for building remote work capabilities.”[i]
This is why partnering with leading managed service provider CDW has been a lifeline to many enterprises on Platform Equinix®. CDW understands the challenges of remote workers because they put the infrastructure in place to support their telecommuting employees and the employees of their global customers. And they are successfully doing it on Platform Equinix by working closely with another important Equinix partner, Cisco®. This is how they’re getting it done.
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Making flexible collaboration work
To help their employees effectively work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, CDW is leveraging its eight years of experience as a Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS) provider. CDW has been delivering on-premises managed and partner-hosted Cisco HCS solutions, rebranded as its “Managed Collaboration Anywhere,” for corporate telephony, conferencing, unified communications and contact centers. Customers connect to these services via a private circuit, MPLS network or colocated VPN hardware on Platform Equinix. Managed Collaboration Anywhere (MCA) is a Cisco Collaboration platform that includes Cisco Unified Communications Manager (UCM) Cloud as a key component.
As the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded in early 2020, CDW jumped at the opportunity to offer the Cisco UCM Cloud solution to its remote workforce via Platform Equinix. Internally, CDW connects its partner data centers to Cisco UCM Cloud using direct Equinix Cross Connects and Equinix Fabric, which enables “anywhere-to-anywhere” connectivity via software-defined interconnection. Provisioning access to UCM Cloud takes significantly less time via Equinix Fabric than using traditional methods ̶ typically in minutes versus months. This enabled CDW to deliver UCM Cloud capabilities to its remote workforce and allow greater productivity much faster.
Delivering managed collaboration anywhere
Once CDW successfully deployed Cisco UCM Cloud services to its employees, it was time to spin up a managed service for its global customers. CDW delivers IT managed infrastructure, workspace, security and support services from its own data centers, as well as in Equinix International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data centers.
CDW MCA service on Platform Equinix is a cost-effective solution and allows end users to communicate and collaborate from wherever they are. Equinix Fabric also provides CDW customers direct access (avoiding the public internet) to Cisco Webex® via Cisco Webex Edge Connect across Equinix’s global platform, including in London, Amsterdam, Tokyo and Singapore. For customers looking for fast access to UCM Cloud or want to use Cisco Webex Edge® Connect for greater remote collaborations services, CDW now offers the best connectivity options for those clients.
In addition to its presence in a third-party provider’s suite in the Equinix Dallas Infomart facility, CDW now has a footprint in the Chicago Equinix IBX data center. This provides direct access to the Cisco UCM Cloud in the Chicago IBX facility via Equinix Fabric as well as in Dallas using Equinix Cross Connects. This allows CDW to aggregate its customers through Equinix Fabric and connect them directly and securely to Cisco UCM Cloud. CDW customers can now seamlessly transition to Cisco UCM Cloud, while preserving the same feature set between on-premises and cloud environments.
CDW Managed Collaboration Anywhere (MCA) with Cisco UCM Cloud on Platform Equinix
Connectivity to Cisco UCM Cloud via Equinix Fabric is fast and resilient due to its redundant virtual circuits and physical connections. This gives CDW the ability to quickly and efficiently deliver reliable remote communication and collaboration solutions to users. It also enables CDW to deliver the highest quality of service to its employees and customers. Current roundtrip latency between the Equinix IBX data center in Chicago and CDW’s data center in San Jose via Equinix Fabric is just under 40 milliseconds (ms), whereas it would typically be double (>80 ms) using legacy connections. Offering Cisco UCM Cloud access to CDW users via Equinix Fabric doubled the performance and substantially reduced the cost of delivering the solution.
In addition, CDW gained greater visibility of the customers’ connections via the Equinix Fabric Portal, allowing the operations team to maintain greater control over the QoS when delivering Cisco UCM Cloud as a managed service. According to Michael Satterfield, Network Engineer, CDW, “I can see everything via the Equinix Fabric portal. It’s all in one spot versus having different carrier or different provider interfaces. This makes it a lot easier to visualize our connections and also look at bandwidth utilization.”
CDW also leverages separate, dedicated private circuits on Equinix Fabric to keep a specific customer’s traffic separate and secure. CDW provides enormous added value to their employees and customers who are using its Managed Collaboration Anywhere service with Cisco HCS and UCM on Platform Equinix. It’s a robust, communications and collaboration infrastructure that meets remote worker requirements today and in the future.
[i] CompTIA, “What’s Driving Business for MSPs During COVID-19?,” April 14, 2020.