Canuck firms taking long-term view of IP


A global survey conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) for AT&T recently concluded that 48 per cent of companies surveyed worldwide have implemented IP convergence, compared to 37 per cent in Canada. There was a silver lining, however: Canadian businesses were found to be more inclined than other countries’ businesses to look beyond the bottom line when it comes to network convergence.

This makes the story of AT&T and its 10-year-plus relationship with Whirlpool all the more relevant. AT&T Canada worked with Alexei Petrov, Whirlpool’s Canadian-based Global Principal Network Architect, in an enterprise-wide rollout of a VPN that linked Whirlpool’s seven Canadian sites. AT&T has taken the responsibility for managing the day-to-day operations of the solution. This has provided some much-needed relief for the Whirlpool IT team: Previously the internal IT team had built out, and was saddled with maintaining, point-to-point network connections across Canada.

However, Petrov’s role — and Whirlpool’s goals — are best seen in terms of an international strategy, begun two years ago, in which AT&T helped Whirlpool convert to MultiProtocol Label Switching (MPLS), which secured their network on the same global backbone.

“Whirlpool wanted coverage around the world,” said David Denault, general manager, AT&T Global Services Canada. Denault claims that it is this reach, plus the financial stability of a large company like AT&T, that helped commit Whirlpool to the larger strategy. “Whirlpool is a global manufacturer, and the network has to be accessible from various regions.”

The choice to go with a global backbone also made sense given future demands, as Whirlpool will now be able to layer VoIP and Web-based applications across the enterprise. Petrov said, “Five years ago the network just had to be up and running at the office. Now, with CRM applications and remote access, the availability requirements are greater than ever.”

Petrov, given his role within Whirlpool, is an excellent example of Canadian ties being leveraged by a multinational company. Whirlpool may be U.S.-led, but because its global architect is in Canada, the company needed to work with someone who could provide a consistent touch and feel across borders. In fact, the initiative started in the U.S., with each of the regions then weighing in on whether the cost model made sense. Canadian resources were then lined up and linked with U.S. decision-makers.

“What we are doing in Canada is expanding our presence — our coverage, our sales organization — to actively pursue clients,” said Lisa Petrielli, director of sales, AT&T Global Services Canada. This is important to AT&T. Its customers are moving beyond driving the best prices out of local competitors. They are examining global infrastructure requirements, as well as the ability of their network to handle changes brought on through acquisitions and innovation.

“Whirlpool is a good example of the type of customer we best serve,” said Denault, “Our strike zone is global multinational corporations. These are world-leading products, and they need to be more efficient as other hard costs, like energy and raw materials, go up.”

From Whirlpool’s perspective, it has seen AT&T expand its knowledge base through strategic acquisitions, and it expects to not only benefit from it, but to have it shared. Going to a top consulting firm would have resulted in a learning curve. “We share the knowledge,” said Petrov.

“AT&T already knows what we are going to ask. They know the pain points, and can address issues from the call centre, to disaster recovery, backup, as well as contributing to data centre strategies.”

As well, part of the simplicity for Whirlpool is that pricing fell under the rubric of AT&T’s single offering, BusinessDirect, which allows all AT&T customers to see their account data. With a client as big as Whirlpool, however, the relationship is deeper than a Web interface: Whirlpool has full access to AT&T’s leadership and a direct line into their offices for security services.

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