Sprint launches new partner program

In an effort to help its customers build a complete solution, Sprint Canada Inc. has announced the launch of its new program for Canadian businesses, the Solutions Alliance Program.

But one customer of the program indicated that the company might still have some work to do in order to meet all of its customers’ needs.

The program is designed to enable customers to take advantage of Sprint’s partners’ solutions instead of having to outsource, which alleviates having to potentially deal with three or four different companies, according to Ken F. Wilson, the president of enterprise communications solutions for Sprint.

Sprint’s customers vary in size and in needs, he said, some of which would normally be outside of Sprint’s offerings. But companies are now looking towards Sprint to be able to bring other suppliers to the table, and “put it all together in a completely end-to-end proposal,” he said.

There have been examples in the past where customers approached Sprint to provide this kind of offering on a customized basis prior to the launch of the program, according to Dale Bagnell, director of the Solutions Alliance program for Sprint, but he said this is now a standard offering to customers.

“In an ideal sale, one of our customers would give their account manager a call and indicate what kind of a project they are trying to put together. We have Solution Alliance managers in each of the major cities across the country…and that person would go in and try to understand what the customer’s trying to do and bring the appropriate partners to the table,” Bagnell said.

Some partners involved in the program include Nortel Networks, Lucent Technologies, 3Com Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc.

Toronto-based Envoy Communications Inc. was with UUNet, another service provider, up until late last year when it decided to give Sprint’s Solution Alliance program a try.

Stephen Simmons is the director of IT for the new media e-marketing company, which is made up of a number of marketing and advertising agencies.

“We had a series of companies in Toronto that we had acquired, and they all had different locations and different Internet providers, and they basically had no security,” he said.

The company wanted a single cost-effective solution to connect all the locations together behind a secure firewall, with common Internet access.

It was also important to have centralized management, with the ability for the sub-companies to have some autonomy, Simmons said. Also, a VPN needed to be established so that employees on the road could have access to the network.

The company could have implemented that with a number of different solutions, Bagnell said, but as close to 50 per cent of the company’s computers are Macs, there were some roadblocks.

ISA Network Associates, one of the partners in the Sprint program, came up with a solution that allowed for a Pretty Good Protection (PGP)-VPN client on both Macs and PCs, Simmons said.

To meet security demands, Sprint recommended that Envoy set up a firewall at each of its locations. Routers from Cisco were put in place, as was a firewall solution from ISA. A T-1 Internet connection was provided from each of the four locations, because fibre to build a WAN was not available.

Envoy is able to pay for the additions on a monthly basis — the charges appear on its Sprint telephone bill.

While for the most part the whole process was painless, Envoy’s Simmons said, “I think they’ve (Sprint) got a bit of growing pain in the sense that UUNet…is a business-oriented provider.”

During the process of organizing what Envoy required, Simmons explained it “needed DNS entries done. You could talk to people (at UUNet) who could do that. With Sprint, they didn’t have that set up very well — that was probably our biggest problem. We were looking for multiple DNS entries per site, and they said we could only have one. One of our sub-companies is a Web provider, and they have forty.”

Simmons said Envoy eventually got what it wanted from Sprint, but the problem held up the whole process.

“I think they just hadn’t run into it before,” he said. “They were just getting into this service.”

Sprint Canada, a subsidiary of Call-Net Enterprises Inc., is at www.sprintcanada.ca.