It’s easy to see that the technology world has begun to move more aggressively towards the cloud in recent years. While there’s still a lot of opportunities left for growth in the market, companies of all shapes and sizes are now beginning to recognise the versatility and potential of the cloud environment for growth and scalability.
Formation is a relatively new brand in the cloud communications world, designed to build cloud-focused solutions for customers. It’s their aim to integrate UC, SIP, and many other technologies to deliver end-to-end fully managed solutions. I spoke to co-founder Dan Cholerton about where the company came from, and where it’s headed as we move into 2018.
What is Formation, and Where Did It Come From?
Formation is still a relatively new entrant into the UC space. I asked Dan where the idea for “Formation” came from, and how the business journey began.
“In 2003, me and my business partner Mark formed an Avaya reseller called “Aurora Networks“. We were one of the biggest resellers in the UK based on revenue, and we were pushing the boundaries of what IP Office could do back when it was an SME product. In 2012, our business was acquired by a large MSP, and we were excited to get involved in a cloud focused company. At the time, the brand was building out their own data centres, they had their own network, and their own SIP network laid over that.”
Mark and Dan quickly integrated Aurora into the group, in doing so creating the UC division for the overall business. It was here that some of the ex-Aurora team helped launch Avaya’s first EMEA cloud offering in 2014. In the same year, Mark and Dan left the business and spent some time strategising over how they wanted to re-enter the market.
“We knew that the Avaya cloud offering was strong, but we didn’t feel that the current resellers were really grabbing hold of the cloud in the right way. We saw an opportunity to get back into bed with Avaya and start really delivering the cloud product to the mid-market”
How Does the Formation Offering Work?
The Formation solution for IP office runs through a private cloud environment. Dan told me that the team has been recently discussing the opportunity to build out into Azure or AWS because these areas are starting to come up to speed in terms of hosting real-time cloud solutions. However, for now, they’re in their own private cloud environment on Virtual1.
“We’re doing really well with Virtual1. Following the acquisition, Mark and I assumed group roles. I became the MD of data for the business, and Mark was the MD of UC, so we were deeply involved in the cloud and hosting. We knew how data networks and cloud environments were built and operated. When we started Formation, we didn’t want to build our own network from day one. Virtual1 was a great partner for us to work with.”
Dan also noted that Formation is network agnostic – something that’s been a part of their design from the very start. With Virtual1, they’ve been able to build their own private environment, and an aggregated security layer to protect each individual customer in their network.
How Are You Differentiating Yourself in The Marketplace?
As the cloud market grows ever-larger, it’s worth noting that companies like Formation are facing a great deal of growing competition. Dan told me that in January 2017, the company signed up their first two significant deals. “The Chapter 11 announcement couldn’t have come at a more challenging time for us when we were getting those important customers onto the network.”
Dan noted that while chapter 11 had been something of a challenge for the brand, it hadn’t been as significant as competitors might assume.
“There’s been a lot of doom and gloom in the channel, but our customers weren’t really worried about the situation. We could continue to bring on new customers, and I think part of that was due to our differentiator. When it comes to Avaya Cloud – quite frankly – we get it.”
From the very beginning, Formation has been focusing on developing bigger and better things for the cloud environment. “If you look at when we set up Aurora in 2003, VoIP was very new, and the marketplace was just starting to get to grips with new networks and ideas.”
“If you push to where we are now, when we’re looking at virtualisation and the cloud, there’s a whole different set of skills that are necessary for brands to succeed. Most established resellers are struggling.”
According to Dan, part of what makes Formation so successful is the way they chose to build their team.
“We’ve always been recruiting IT people and training them on voice. Now we’ll be recruiting developers and software experts. We’ve always had our eye on the future.”
What’s Your View on The Coming Year?
In terms of 2018, with Avaya finally coming out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy and entering the public market, it seems that things can only get better for Formation. Dan told me that he believes that Avaya, as a business, has shown that they truly understand the power of the cloud.
“Avaya is doing some great things. There’s a good chance they’re going to commit to some acquisitions and cloud is now an absolute focus for them. Business transformation using applications such as Breeze will also be big for Avaya and our customers.
In terms of Formation and 2018?
“It’s quite simple. We want to become recognised as the go-to Avaya Cloud people”.