In the Beginning...
Sparked by the desire to deliver better IT services and solutions, Shaun Antram founded PC Network Inc. (PCN) in 1988. Before standing up PCN, his early career included product resale, network support, and launching a LAN practice for Micro Marketing International (MMI) in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. From MMI, Shaun worked on a government contract supporting Novell Networks for the FAA. Over the years, he developed technical and commercial skills and gained a keen appreciation of what customers wanted and needed.
From inception, PCN offered Value-Added Resale (Servers, Desktop computers, Backup solutions, Novell NetWare, and Microsoft products) in combination with IT Solution Delivery (Project Work and Staffing).
The business operated out of the basement and garage of Shaun’s home at in Egg Harbor City, New Jersey. Using credit cards to fund payroll and finance initial technology resale transactions, Shaun hustled to build a customer base. His approach to business was – and continues to be – simple: Strive to build long term, mutually beneficial relationships and follow the Golden Rule.
Growth Through Y2k
PCN gained traction and grew throughout the 1990s. It moved out of Shaun’s house and into a 10,000 square foot office and warehouse space in Egg Harbor City, New Jersey.
PCN’s customers included public and private, local and global entities. PCN’s approach to customer service was a success and helped grow and maintain long term relationships with key anchor customers like ExxonMobil (15 years), Amtrak and other regional transportation authorities (20+ years), and the Pennsylvania Parole Board (8 years). PCN was also awarded a New Jersey State contract, enabling sales of IBM compatible computers as well as associated products and services to hundreds of school districts, and state, county, and local government. From its start as a guy in the proverbial garage, the business grew to employ over 100 people.
Then the Y2k and dot-bomb economic boom and bust cycle hit the industry hard. Only 1 in 5 technology companies PCN’s size survived. But PCN focused on strategic lines of business and made difficult business decisions, emerging stronger and smarter.
Repositioning the Business
Katrin Hillner met Shaun on-line and the two clicked. Katrin worked for Katalyst at the time, an accelerator fund of funds working with venture-backed technology start-ups in the greater Philadelphia region. With experience advising technology founders and investors, and a variety of enterprise and consulting roles in her background, Katrin was a consultant to PCN initially. After kicking the tires, looking under the hood, and checking chemistry with the founder, Katrin acquired a majority interest in the company in January 2007 and became PCN’s President & CEO. Under her leadership, the company introduced project management services as a core competency, refocused the business on services and staffing, and exited lower margin cabling and resale work.
During this time, PCN headquarters relocated to 100 S. Broad Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to have better access to technical and business talent.
DDI Practice Launched
While collaborating in a solution design workshop with a partner to respond to a Japanese Automotive manufacturer’s RFP, Shaun came to believe that there would be a growing need for fully managed DNS, DHCP, and IP Address management (DDI), a need that large corporations could no longer meet with internal generalist IT staff.
DDI as a niche was specialized enough, and the services foundational enough, to give PCN a true shot at becoming a world leader in a critical IT segment. IP management was becoming more complex due to the exponentially increasing use of IP-enabled devices – what is now called IOT, the Internet of Things – and the arrival of IPv6. This complexity came hand-in-hand with certain vulnerabilities – simple mistakes could take down critical infrastructure and bad actors were increasingly targeting DNS to steal data and commit other crimes.
PCN launched its DDI practice in 2009 under the technical leadership of Dave Champagne. To effectively integrate service delivery with global System Integrator partners, PCN made strategic infrastructure investments in its service management platform and ebond capabilities. As a result, over the next few years PCN established reseller and partnership relationship with the leading DDI OEMs and negotiated partnership and teaming agreements with 10 of the world’s leading service providers.
PCN’s network operations center is still based in Philadelphia; however, our DDI Team has grown to include people in three countries providing round-the-clock, full lifecycle support for complex DDI infrastructures globally. PCN has designed, deployed, and managed DDI solutions that include: Infoblox, BlueCat, BT DiamondIP, Men&Mice, Nokia VitalQIP, Cisco, ISC, Microsoft, and others.
Three years after launching the DDI practice, PCN’s global customers were looking for access to in-country resources to serve the market. PCN was selected by Alcatel Lucent (now Nokia) to be their sole distributor and service provider for Canadian VitalQIP customers and developed relationships with a number of large Canadian retailers and financial organizations. As a result, PCN established its first wholly-owned subsidiary – PC Network Canada, Inc. – in 2012. The newly launched “PCN Canada” quickly recruited a premier DDI talent, and current GM & CTO of our DDI practice, James Nutt, from CSC’s managed DDI practice.
PCN’s other key geographical focus was EMEA – particularly, the UK. Supporting multinational retail, banking, and power generation customers meant providing DDI support and conducting business and technical meetings across several time zones. PCN established its second wholly-owned subsidiary – PC Network (UK) Limited – in 2014 to hire in-country technical talent, to support multinational accounts, and strengthen pursuit of EMEA opportunities. In 2016, PCN UK was further strengthened by the strategic acquisition of Calleva Networks, a UK-based DDI-focused company. As a result, renown DDI subject matter expert Paul Roberts joined the team and has become our UK technical account manager.
Deepening our DDI Offerings
In the first years of PCN’s DDI practice, we developed a robust monitoring platform to track key performance indicators (KPIs) of DDI appliances and issue alerts to our team for incident response when appliances deviated from these KPIs. Tracking these KPIs is also essential for baselining our customer’s DDI performance and capacity planning. PCN continued to evolve these and other tools for the DDI practice, but this in-house development activity has taken a quantum step forward in recent years.
From the beginning of the development of the monitoring tool, our vision has always been a simple, powerful, management tool that can be used for any customer with any flavor of DDI infrastructure. With an eye toward lowering delivery costs and enabling digital transformation, PCN set out to develop a platform with a much broader set of capabilities. The result is PCN’s DDI Portal.
PCN’s DDI Portal is a management overlay that interfaces via API with a number of industry-leading DDI OEM platforms to provide governance, automation, and intelligent self-service, all in compliance with PCN and customer safety protocols. Our DDI Portal is a purpose-built, best-in-class DDI management tool set that helps organizations with multi-vendor eco-systems get the most out of their existing DDI platforms.
PCN has had a strong outward facing project management and PMO practice for over a decade. We know how easy it is for technology projects to go off track or have scope creep and we know that having the right project manager is often the difference between success and failure. A critical element of our success is that we apply the same project management principles internally and to all customer projects – not just our DDI practice customers. PCN’s internal PMO is run by Stacy Winters a talented PMP, certified scrum master and ISO/IEC 27001:2013 internal auditor. She ensures that every project PCN undertakes has the right project manager to drive it to a successful conclusion
With respect to DDI, our practice has continued to grow in both numbers and complexity. There are always a number of projects running simultaneously from new customer stand ups to modifying or adapting existing customer solutions. PCN’s PMO and our disciplined approach to project management keep these projects running as smoothly in complex multi-vendor ecosystems.
As part of ramping up to meet the requirements of our global partners, PCN’s NOC team gained certifications in a range of DDI OEMs. We deliver services in accordance with ITIL and ISO9001 compliant quality management systems.
Feeling deep stewardship and responsibility for our customers’ DDI environments, PCN takes information security very seriously. Accordingly, PCN sought and in April 2018 achieved ISO27001 certification of its DDI managed services processes and security management system. Security is central to everything we do and we have security hardened our entire service delivery infrastructure.
PCN is also a certified woman owned enterprise.
Disaster Recovery Tested
Our systems were given a real-life business continuity stress test on July 3, 2018. A century-old Philadelphia Water Main collapsed, sending a tidal wave of 14 million to 15 million gallons of water into the streets and PCN’s headquarters building was ground zero. Basements and street-level floors were flooded, electricity, plumbing, digital and even analog communications circuits were disrupted or destroyed.
PCN was locked out of our headquarters and main operations center for a month, requiring a full execution of Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery plans. During this crisis, which shut down other businesses in the affected buildings, PCN was able to quickly transition to a fully remote model and continued to provide full operations support for all of our customers – without missing a single SLA.
While our people and plans exceeded expectations in this test, this turning point resulted in PCN implementing a secure remote work model for headquarters personnel and even more thorough plans for remotely supporting customers in a disaster. This event was a precursor to, and left PCN well prepared to continue delivering uninterrupted services to our customers during the COVID 19 lockdown of 2020.
ITIL Service Desk & Staffing Lines of Business
PCN’s DDI Practice is complimented by our ITIL Service Desk and Staffing lines of business. Our well-organized DDI operations team benefited from the lessons learned in our nearly 20 years of delivering outsourced service desks. Presently, PCN provides an SLA-based Service Desk in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, as part of CenturyLink’s delivery of Enterprise Network Services to Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s agencies. This group is led by Robert Salevsky.
Connecting the right talent to the right roles is key to delivering technology projects. PCN’s recruiters have placed 100s of IT roles for customers for decades. Our staffing services customers include Amtrak, Deloitte, Unisys, and Verizon, among others. PCN’s staffing business was managed by Sam Levy prior to his promotion to VP of Business Operations.
PCN today has ongoing projects in EMEA, APAC, North America and LATAM. We deliver managed DDI services directly to enterprise customers and through large service provider partners. We have performed 1+ Million production DDI configuration changes without SLA penalty. We also perform white label pro services engagements for Infoblox, BlueCat and Nokia.
Strategically, we have become a software and services company. We continue to invest in developing tools to enable automation and self-service to support our managed services customers.
Based on our cross-platform expertise and experience working with some of the oldest to the newest DDI environments, our reputation as the go to company for major DDI transformations aligns particularly well with mergers and divestitures requiring quick and efficient take overs, understanding, and separating or merging of large corporate IP estates.
In June 2019, PCN relocated its headquarters to suburban Philadelphia and in January 2020 launched a new Security Governance Risk and Compliance (GRC) practice area.
While the Covid19 pandemic introduces unprecedented economic uncertainty, PCN is fortunate to deliver essential services and to have experience operating with a remote work model. We are excited about our team, our offerings, and our partnerships and are optimistic about the future.