More than five years ago—before the term "management service provider" was ever uttered—Wyndham International Inc. went looking for an outsourcer that could take over day-to-day management of its WAN.
At a time when most such services were provided by the telecommunications carriers, the hotelier found startup NetSolve Inc. offering what it claimed was a compelling mix of multivendor expertise and technical flexibility. Wyndham took a chance.
The result has been a successful relationship that highlights the principal points in an MSP pact: lower costs and speedy problem resolution. Not just a survivor of the subsequent service provider shakeout, NetSolve—one of the few profitable, publicly held pure-play MSPs—recently renewed its frame relay WAN management agreement with Wyndham after seeing the hotel and resort company through three network upgrades in two years.
Wyndhams choice today mirrors its choice five years ago. "Initially what I saw was that I had more freedom and less bureaucracy compared to working with a long-distance carrier," said David Kendrick, communications manager at Wyndham in Dallas. "I could Telnet into the routers and see what was going on myself. Long-distance carriers wouldnt let me do that. [And] with NetSolve, the customer engineers have been well-trained, very experienced."
Nearly double its size of five years ago, Wyndhams network today connects 180 sites in the United States, London and the Caribbean. Most of those sites connect hotels into a central property management system that allows managers to register guests and generate bills on checkout. Wyndhams reservation systems are also networked directly to each hotel so that all managers have access to available rooms and facilities. The network also supports messaging and the ability to purchase supplies.
Because the central property management system is essential to the hotels operation, any performance problems or outages have to be dealt with swiftly. With NetSolve, Kendrick estimates that Wyndhams average time to fix problems is 2 to 4 hours.
When outages occur, NetSolve technicians dial in to the site to look at the router, check to see if it has power and "see if they can see whats going on with the router or circuit right there," said Michael Shannon, NetSolve customer engineer for the Wyndham account, in Austin, Texas. "If the circuit is down, we will open a trouble ticket with the carrier, and well own that ticket to resolution. When [the carrier] finishes trouble-shooting and has recovered, [NetSolve will] go back to Wyndham and make sure they are satisfied."
Wyndhams Kendrick said NetSolves technical expertise and its well-defined escalation procedures and problem resolution methodology are extremely useful. "They have the normal customer service reps with limited knowledge, then they have the Level 1 techs that have a pretty good working knowledge and work well with the carriers. If a problem goes on for more than 24 hours, I can escalate to Level 2. Theyll hammer away at it until the problems resolved."
NetSolves Shannon estimates that Wyndham sees an average of two trouble tickets per day, although fluctuations can push that up to as many as 10.
To provide the kind of 24-by-7 coverage that Wyndham requires, it would have to hire 15 to 20 people to handle the peaks. Because NetSolve can more easily handle fluctuations in workloads across multiple clients, it can get by with a smaller staff. That is where the real cost savings come in for Wyndham, according to Kendrick.
When Wyndham first chose NetSolve, the MSP was very small and Kendrick had concerns about its stability. "But the more we investigated, the more we realized they had a strong contract with AT&T [Corp.] at the time," he said. "We felt theyd be solid for several years."
In fact, NetSolves ability to partner sets it apart from other pure-play MSPs, said Eric Goodness, an analyst at Gartner Dataquest, in Lowell, Mass. "They are not afraid to partner and private-label their services. That is the sword most service providers fall on—they feel they have to create their brand first and worry about revenues second. NetSolve built their brand through good work."
With NetSolve handling monitoring, problem resolution and adds/ moves/changes, as well as providing some consulting on network design issues, Kendrick said he is free to pursue bigger and potentially more lucrative projects for Wyndham.
For example, maintaining PBXes in each hotel to provide phone service has become an expense for the hotel.
"Im working on voice-over-IP projects, trying to cut long-distance costs to all hotels and long-distance costs to guests," Kendrick said. "We want a converged voice/data network that carries long-distance so we can offer Wyndham guests much lower phone costs," he said.