M2M Now talks to Wyless’s Steve Boyd, Director of Network Services and Art Nava, Technical Services Director about their M2M strategy and tactics.
M2M Now: Art or Steve, let’s start with the obvious question. Can you expand on what you mean by ‘M2M: Get connected, stay connected’?
Art Nava: It’s probably best to look at it as a multistage process where we work with our partners to ensure that they have a stress-free implementation and on-going support in the operation of their M2M solution. So we’re talking about Project Management support from initial design to deployment of the partner’s services.
Art Nava,Technical Services Director, Wyless
This requires an on-boarding process that defines the partner’s requirements upfront, then carefully maps out what needs to happen from both a technical and operational standpoint to ensure a smooth launch of services, and the on-going support to ensure that any issues are quickly resolved as they arise. Because there will always be issues.
M2M Now: OK, now let’s get connected. What does this involve?
Steve Boyd: Well, it’s a whole host of things. First of all it depends on the scale of the project and the technical requirements involved. For instance some customers may need Private Fixed IP addressing through IPSEC VPNs. That network security layer is something we’re known for Sometimes a partner might need mobile-to-mobile communications enabled, or they might want to limit access only to servers on their network, essentially blocking general internet access and need special access lists on the firewall side. Some partners need special redundancies, for instance dual Peer VPNs. So that’s the network connectivity layer.
Steve Boyd, Director of Network Services, Wyless
Obviously, carrier selection is key but that’s more of an upfront sales and project management issue. Then there’s any device issues that might come up. We have special Tier 2 Support working in Art’s team to help our partners on the device side.
M2M Now: It sounds like device connectivity is the ‘tip of the iceberg’ and your support services shield the customers from the complexity of the global network. Can you give us more details?
AN: I think that the goal of any partner is to have a successful implementation of their M2M application and get a Return On Investment, and as soon as possible. We all know that there is not a one-size-fits-all mobile operator that covers every nook and cranny in the world, so geography is a key consideration in carrier selection. And the more mobile operators you need, the more complex the project.
That’s what we feel we’re here for, to provide a consistent global front end platform and a suite of services so that our partners can focus on their core business and not have to worry about the network.
M2M Now: What other considerations are there?
SB:Scalability is another key consideration. In any M2M project, one needs to understand how many devices are likely to be deployed over what period of time and ensure the scalability of the deployment. For instance all aspects of the network need to be scrutinised – including things like IP address ranges, service delivery platforms and database servers. And remember we are not talking about one’s own infrastructure, but that of every partner in the supply chain that is supporting the project.
And speaking of Supply Chain, there’s then the question of what other ancillary services might be required of the project, as Wyless is now opening up a broad range of services like billing and deployment, things that are thankfully not in my department. (Laughter)
M2M Now: Right, and now that you’re connected, how do you stay connected?
AN: A Managed Services Provider such as Wyless must be able to host and deliver a robust, redundant global network with resilience, security, change control, and scalability. This means that the MSP offers a private network layer on top of the multi-carrier networks, and can typically offer an SLA on the end result. To ensure that the partner ‘stays connected’ the Wyless network has four Network Operating Centres in three countries and 24 x 7 x 365 support available.
The partner is now connected across multiple carrier networks to ensure that they get the coverage required, whether nationally or globally. Not unreasonably, they should expect one point of contact for global support from their MSP, be that email, phone or through an online reporting system.
This means the support team needs to handle all queries including device and application support, coverage issues and escalations for business-critical solutions on a 24 x 7 x 365 basis. This centralised ‘one-stop’ support is essential if we are going to ensure that our customers have reduced costs and improved efficiencies because of less downtime.
M2M Now: Steve, what would you say you are doing better than your competitors?
SB: Well, I’m too busy running our own network to pay much attention to our competitors, and anyway our leadership tells me we don’t have any! (Laughter) But I can tell you what we’re good at, and that’s adding and managing instances of connectivity (APNs) into a mobile operator, whether we’re already connected to them or not.
What I mean by that is that the way we’ve designed our services, we can host multiple customer-specific connections in the same MNO networks, and if we don’t have a connection to the operator already, we can add it in. It doesn’t sound like much, but it is. What it means is that both our network and our platforms segment the partners’ various APNs into the cellular provider, allowing for customer-specific connections across multiple operators.
After that, I’d say flexibility and a real dedication to supporting the customer. You won’t find many partners pulling 24 hour shifts on network migration, and then turn around and spend another couple of hours bringing up a customer because they need a quick turnaround for a demo the next day. That’s been a point of pride for years; more recently we’ve ramped up Project Management and have woven it into our business, it’s now a strength and we rely on it heavily
M2M Now: So, how do you ensure that the customer is fully engaged in the project?
AN: Understanding that it’s a two-way street – it’s important to keep everyone honest when it comes to project management. Sending out regular updates and having schedule calls is key, and admitting when something is going to slip and that there are risks is always better than pulling a surprise. So, the key to being fully engaged is keeping the lines of communication open in a structured way