Tuesday, October 7, 2008

BroadSoft Connections 2008 - Day 1

This is my third BroadSoft Connections event, from what I�ve seen during Day 1, it gets better every year. BroadSoft is ten years old, and this is their sixth Connections event (my third, including last year). The events keep getting larger, not just because their customer base keeps growing (and with that, their partner network), but they also have a growing sense of confidence as a market leader.

Ten years is a long time for companies in the IP communications world, and BroadSoft is, of course, way past being a startup. I say that because this has been my world for almost as long, and I�ve seen lots of comparable companies come and go � some very good and some not so good. Industry events too, for that matter � and we can all name most of those.

In my mind, BroadSoft is in unchartered waters, and I�m not sure what this means. Most companies that survive this long have gone public by now � such as Acme Packet, Aastra or AudioCodes � or are on a track to become acquired by a Tier 1 vendor. I don�t see either happening soon for BroadSoft, especially in today�s financial market. They�ve been primed to go public for a while, but I�m not inner circle enough to say any more than that.

So, what�s a company like BroadSoft to do, especially with so few peers in their position? I suppose they could take private equity money like MetaSwitch or become a mid-market consolidator and grow via acquisition. Very few companies have had success with the latter, and I�m not so sure there are that many attractive targets out there aside from niche technologies � where I do think they�ll look, especially to strengthen their BroadWorks platform and Web 2.0 focus.

They are obviously in a strong position market-wise, have a stable core of senior management, and have adopted a leadership role for innovation and moving the market forward. This is not an easy thing to do, but they�re showing the way for how carriers � and their customers � can integrate Web 2.0-style services into their value proposition. To support this, they have really built up and diversified their partner network, and this is a key part of their success. So, for me, it�s not the network stupid, it�s the partner network, stupid. This was a key part of CEO Mike Tessler�s opening comments. The theme of the conference is to �xtend� your network. They talk a lot about the importance of having open networks that can support rich Web 2.0-style applications.

With open networks, you can extend your network and offer a more powerful communications experience for end users. This is certainly the BroadSoft mantra, as they have about 70 partners in the Solutions Showcase. They�ve opened up BroadWorks to a large ecosystem, and that�s helping them drive innovation and separate themselves from the competition by pushing the definition of hosted services beyond plain vanilla IP PBX features.

So, back to the question � how do they grow? Well, nothing wrong with organic growth, right? As Mike Tessler noted, they have over 400 service provider customers now, and are in 61 countries. That�s a pretty good critical mass of international customers, and while many have been Tier 2/3 carriers, they are certainly winning business from larger carriers, and with their Web 2.0 focus, are in a pretty good position to keep this momentum going.

As BroadWorks scales to support more applications and more communications touch points in both our work and home lives, I think they have a good shot at becoming the platform of choice for carriers of all size, especially those that see the value and potential of the �xtend� vision on tap here. There�s also some news coming today about how they�re working with Microsoft that further validates this.

As a sidenote, with so much difficulty in the conference business these days, it�s hard not to see that Connections is rivalling the trade events in size now. There are over 700 attendees here, and Connections is as good as any Tier 1 customer/partner event I�ve been to. They�ve put a lot of thought and money into staging this event, and it�s very slick, right down to the lighting, the music and the opening video which was very Cisco-like in terms of selling a strong vision about the future of communications, and of course how BroadSoft is at the epicenter of innovation for voice and web services.

What I like about Connections so far is that I don�t feel like I�m being sold on this happy vision. Everything about being here feels very real, and that BroadSoft is very much in touch with its customers and partners. More than the technology itself, this is why I think they�ve been successful, and hopefully they won�t mess with that recipe.

On to Day 2 now, and will post about that later, along with some photos.

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