Engineering excellence and network knowledge key to sealing the PlanNet21-Agile deal

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10 April 2017 | 0

The PlanNet21 senior management team has been executing a growth strategy over the past three years to take PlanNet21 to a €50 million business. This included opening a 3000 sq m headquarters in Citywest, Dublin and a new data centre in Blanchardstown which will deliver incredible energy efficiency, with 500 racks and 500sqm of office space.

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As part of its growth strategy, PlanNet21 was also looking at the market for potential companies that would fit will with the PlanNet21 organisation. A list of companies was drawn up and top of that list was Agile Networks.

Early in the discussions about a potential acquisition, PlanNet21’s managing director Peter Carroll told me he had kept his CCIE networking credentials. That detail told me a lot about the company ethos and how we would fit together. Both businesses have a strong heritage in network architecture and a culture of engineering excellence. That focus and expertise is what our respective customers have bought from us over the years.

In fact, the big challenge many of those customers face is getting access to local engineering talent, skills and experience, whether in-house or out in the market. I believe it is a challenge that our combined group is well placed to provide.

Together, our total combined team of 110 people is made up of 60% technically qualified staff, which is a higher ratio than any of our main competitors. Bringing the two groups together creates a larger combined engineering-led entity that is able to serve medium to large organisations in the Irish market.

“The strategy addresses a noticeable trend in the marketplace for larger, organisations to take a dual approach to building networks by using hardware from two vendors, such as both Juniper and Cisco. This is also apparent with network security, where we are seeing many customers looking for dual firewall providers”

The key in combining our companies is to retain the identity of what made them individually strong in the first place. The strategy is for each company to keep its own brand as well as maintaining its vendor relationships and accreditations.

Fortunately, there is very little overlap here again. PlanNet21 is closely associated with brands such as Cisco, Palo Alto, NetApp and Dell. PlanNet21 is a Cisco Gold Partner and provides critical infrastructure technologies across public sector, multinational blue-chip companies, financial sector, and Irish enterprise customers.

For Agile Networks’ part, we are the only Juniper Elite Partner, in addition to being a major partner for vendors such as Aruba, Extreme Networks and F5. We have designed, built, and we support networks carrying traffic from 2.3 million end users across 4,900 sites for 100 major customers, including 16 of the top 25 ISPs in Ireland.

Together we have a strong, broad portfolio; Agile and PlanNet21 and will continue to invest in our technical relationships. With offices across Ireland, the US and UK and a best-in-class team, our business is focused on implementation and provisioning solutions in the areas of collaboration, mobility, enterprise networks, and data centre.

This addresses a noticeable trend in the marketplace for larger (especially US) organisations to take a dual approach to building networks by using hardware from two vendors, such as both Juniper and Cisco. This is also apparent with network security, where we are seeing many customers looking for dual firewall providers, but there hasn’t been huge choice in marketplace.

In the past, this approach would have meant splitting projects between different partners, with all of the potential for headaches that managing multiple stakeholders would bring. Getting access to a broad portfolio of manufacturers from one local partner is more attractive, beneficial and cost-effective for our target market. The projects and the relationships are easier to manage from their perspective, and consequently there’s a much greater chance of faster implementation, quicker return on investment and overall project success.

Another trend we are focused on is the growing adoption of managed services. Most of the managed services offerings in the Irish market are from very large telecoms players who serve a small amount of very large customer organisations. By their nature, these offerings have strict parameters and they tend not to be very scalable. From our perspective, many customers don’t want that inflexibility or to be completely locked in.

Both Agile Networks and PlanNet21 have been developing our own managed services offerings, and it makes sense that by combining the two, we can achieve much greater economies of scale for our customers—with one crucial difference to the competition: flexibility.

Together, Agile and PlanNet21 can provide managed services with the scale to make the proposition cost-effective, while retaining a level of customisation that allows small and medium-sized organisations to avail of a more bespoke service that can be tailored to their needs.

Over the medium term, our ambition is not just to glue the businesses together but to grow them significantly as a combined entity. At the time of announcing the deal in March, the aggregate revenue for PlanNet21 and Agile totalled €50 million. Our intention is to double the business to €100 million turnover within three years.

We think that is an achievable aim because our size allows us to bid for more substantial projects than we could as individual companies. Potential opportunities into the future include new foreign direct investment projects or business relocations to Ireland driven by Brexit. That is in addition to the further value we can continue providing to our existing customer base. We are looking forward to the challenge.

 

Darragh Richardson, CEO, Agile Networks

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