Managed Services

Verizon Tempts Retailers With Managed Services

Verizon Enterprise Solutions has announced a new initiative designed to help retail customers modernize their IT infrastructures using an open standards approach. As part of this initiative, announced at the National Retail Federation show in New York City this week, Verizon also announced its support for the Association for Retail Technology Standards (ARTS) and unveiled its own open standards framework for retail services.

The first service to be offered via the Verizon Retail Framework will be a wireless security solution, in partnership with Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT). The managed wireless security solution is aimed at protecting the growing number of in-store wireless LANs being used both for internal purposes and for customer use, said Ravi Bagal, global managing director, retail and distribution, Verizon Business.

In general, retail use of IT technology suffers from what Bagal termed “point solution pollution” -- the development over time of many individual solutions that don’t interoperate, some of which may also be outdated and inefficient.

”The Verizon Framework for Retail is intended to address the need for interoperability of these systems,” Bagal said. “Rather than having to rip out existing systems or repair them, retailers can use solutions hosted in the cloud to integrate new capabilities and use the functionality of existing systems.”

For example, a basic application, such as enabling customers to buy a product online and pick it up at the store, will touch many different IT systems operated by a retailer, from the Web-based ordering, to inventory management, pricing, control of delivery using third-party operators, and more, Bagal said. What the Verizon Retail Framework is offering is a way to orchestrate those interactions, using the existing IT systems for individual functions.

The use of open standards enables retailers to take a best-of-breed approach to buying IT from multiple vendors and move away from dependence on proprietary systems that don’t interoperate, according to Bagal.

Verizon Business and Motorola chose to partner on a managed wireless security service to address a growing problem that the increasing use of WiFi and other wireless LANs is creating, said David Thomas, director of product management and strategy for Motorola AirDefense, Motorola Enterprise Mobility Solutions.

Critical information, such as credit card numbers and social security numbers, is being put at risk by transmission over unsecured wireless networks, Thomas said, and retailers are coming under fire when such customer information is compromised.

Verizon will offer a range of solutions using Motorola AirDefense wireless security products, which were developed by AirDefense -- acquired by Motorola in 2008 -- to protect 802.11 wireless LANs against unauthorized access of any kind, Thomas said.

Verizon can monitor the service or fully manage it, depending on customer needs, Bagal noted. The new offering will bring retailers into compliance with Payment Card Industry (PCI) security standards.

The retail initiative is one of several industry-specific efforts by Verizon Business in recent years. To move away from more generic sales approaches, Verizon hires experts within a specific field, such as retail or healthcare, both to help design more specific IT and telecom solutions for that field and to enable its sales personnel to speak the language of the customer, Bagal said.

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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