Changing landscape

IT Reseller spoke with Ian Kilpatrick, chairman of value-added distributor Wick Hill, about how convergence moved into IP, and the subsequent challenges and opportunities for the channel.
Although first and foremost a value-added infrastructure distributor that has historically operated in the 'plumbing' of network infrastructures, Wick Hill has increasingly found itself involved in the wider technology space often referred to as convergence. Chairman Ian Kilpatrick explained that the company started out primarily in connectivity, so IP security is one of the areas around the plumbing that it has become increasingly involved with. And, within that complexity space, Wick Hill offers its VAR partners solutions and support services that best fit their needs and the needs of their end customers. "So, for us, convergence is another element on that same connectivity pipe," he said. "However, we are fully aware that there are gaps between the different markets and how solutions can be 'glued' into those markets."
Kilpatrick comments that the essential platform for convergence is IP. "So, for data resellers they've got an IP platform on their network and now they're finding convergence is actually coming in on that network and affecting how they deliver services to their customers," he said. For example, he makes the point that this is affecting how they deliver services such as managing the bandwidth, understanding what's happening on the network, providing quality of service and managing the links.
Kilpatrick also explained that Wick Hill has become increasingly aware of the needs of its resellers to manage the other areas that are coming into the network. "We realised that data resellers were at risk of voice-aware and convergence-aware resellers stealing some of their lunch," he said. Also, as part of their increasingly diverse service offering to the end customer, Kilpatrick has observed that resellers often add things on to the network that they then have to take responsibility for. "For example, VoIP creates different risk profiles around what's going on in your network," he said. "And you're often not fully aware of what's going on in voice and you don't pick up what the risks are."
Security is an area that Kilpatrick has been involved in for many years. However, when Wick Hill first started to become involved in convergence it didn't look at the concept as majorly different to the company's other activities. "But the more we become involved in it the more we realised there are many vulnerabilities that are unique to convergence," he said. Now, from the vantage point of experience and involvement, Kilpatrick says Wick Hill is in a good position to help its partners when queries arise. "There are issues that people who have been securing data networks for years suddenly realise they don't know about until we discuss it with them," he said.
Security and convergence
According to Kilpatrick, one of the key challenges for voice-based resellers at the moment is migrating across and being able to deal with some of the data issues and data questions that get put to them. The whole area of security is one example. He makes the point that a good example of both a voice data device is the smartphone. "However, as technology develops certain important elements can be put to one side," he said. "In the case of security, many people think antivirus isn't needed on their smartphone even though the smartphones of today can have the power of a laptop of about four or five years ago." Because of this, Kilpatrick stresses that data security related to smartphones should be taken a lot more seriously. "If people use their smartphones in a 'free hot spot' area at an airport or coffee shop I could potentially pick up those signals because you've left them open," he said. "Or if I do a 'man in the middle' and set up my own hot spot that overlaps with that of the coffee shop then I could potentially use the signals to access your network information. And if I've got your network login details and I've got all the information that was connecting you to your corporate network I can now log in and effectively be you."
Major opportunities 
Kilpatrick explained that when most organisations give their staff a laptop particularly staff in the field they make sure it has an encrypted EBN. "So if I log in to a coffee shop hot spot with an encrypted EBN, other than some risk points on that connection everything I'm sending is covered and protected and is encrypted," he pointed out. "However, many companies don't provide the same protection to people using smartphones, even though these devices can be used more or less for the same purposes as a laptop. In fact, many organisations don't have a smartphone policy at all. So, in terms of smartphone security it's miles behind where it should be. There are millions of smartphones out there, so the opportunities for VARs around security are enormous."

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