From the editor: This is the second article in a two-part series on the telecom carrier's role in customers' IPv6 transition plans. Read part one to find out how to sell enterprises on IPv6 migration by focusing on how IPv6 will enable business continuity.
Enterprises have very little appetite for an IPv6 migration today, but service providers shouldn't pull back on the IPv6 evangelizing. The opportunity for profiting with IPv6 transition services may not be apparent, but many carriers believe their efforts will pay off in the years to come as they use the IPv6 migration as a way to build stronger relationships with enterprise customers.
Any fundamental transition like this provides the opportunity to win business … and I believe that not just Qwest but all carriers will try to take advantage of that.
"We want to be a trusted and valued supplier, and with any relationship, you've got to show a lot of value-add for that relationship to be in place," said Pieter Poll, CTO of Qwest Communications. "If we go out there and we help them more than the competition may, they will remember that."
Like service providers, enterprises will need to formulate and execute IPv6 transition plans to ensure that their network infrastructure and applications -- inside the local area network (LAN), across the wide area network (WAN) and out to the Internet -- can support the next-generation Internet protocol once today's predominant protocol, IPv4, fades into obscurity.
Many enterprise IT organizations have hesitated to make the IPv6 migration because of concerns about cost, complexity and minimal return on investment (ROI). But at the same time, enterprises are looking to service providers for IPv6 guidance. Operators should be aggressive in providing that guidance in order to stay competitive, according to John Mazur, principal analyst at Ovum.
"[Operators] want to show their concern for their customers and their welfare," he said.
Traditional telecom operators, including AT&T and Verizon Communications, have been stepping up their IPv6 talk to enterprises. Cable operators like Comcast have also started aggressively publicizing their IPv6 transition plans for consumers and enterprises, Mazur said.
Enhance IP network services upgrades with bundled iPv6 migration consulting
Qwest, which in July announced its plans to offer IPv6 addressing to enterprise and government customers, sees an opportunity to use IPv6 as a way to win new accounts, Poll said, "as enterprise customers are addressing the IP issue in general."
As enterprises investigate a move from legacy Layer 2 services like frame relay and asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) to multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), Qwest "can get a leg up on our competition," he said, by offering IPv6 transition planning services with the network upgrade.
"Any fundamental transition like this provides the opportunity to win business … and I believe that not just Qwest but all carriers will try to take advantage of that," Poll said. "Every time you're in front of a customer, you have an opportunity. And as an industry, I think we should be leveraging that."
Can carriers monetize their IPv6 migration efforts with enterprises?
IPv6 migration strikes service providers and enterprises alike as labor-intensive and expensive. Likewise, simply meeting with customers to educate them on the IPv6 transition will not rake in the cash for service providers.
In fact, operators haven't shown much enthusiasm for charging a premium for IPv6 transport alone or as part of a bundled service.
Verizon, which has been sending sales representatives out to enterprise customer sites to promote IPv6 migration, has no plans to charge customers for IPv6 transport on an existing link, according to William Schmidlapp, senior consultant for product marketing at Verizon Business.
"We don't charge for transportation of the v6 protocol because it is [compensating for] a protocol deficiency," he said.
Although Qwest has not yet decided how it will monetize its IPv6 migration outreach with enterprises, Poll said he expected consultancy and business services would be more successful than selling it as a product.
"No, I think there is no direct IPv6 bundle you could do that is somehow going to generate incremental revenue," Poll said. "But there's a lot behind that, including consulting, [which] you could do to take some of the burden off the enterprise customer -- where you absolutely can create [revenue] opportunity."
If service providers want to monetize their IPv6 migration efforts with enterprise customers, they need to be creative about tying it to services, according to Mike Jude, program manager of Stratecast, a division of Frost & Sullivan.
"I think you can actually make the case in the enterprise space that you're not only providing IPv6, but you're providing some of the bells and whistles with security and things like that," Jude said. "I think you can make the case for IPv6-unique services."
Carriers should make their IPv6 migration pitch to enterprises "service-centric" rather than technology-focused, he added.
"The point of this isn't the mousetrap. It's catching the mouse," Jude said. "You're not saying, 'Gee, this mousetrap has 10,000 gears in it. Isn't it slick?' It's, 'We have a service that catches mice.'"
Back to part one: How to sell enterprises on IPv6 migration.
Let us know what you think about the story; email: Jessica Scarpati, News Writer