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Atrion: Beyond the network, it’s all about applications

What the heck does a network integrator intend to do with a interactive multimedia company?

That was my first reaction when I heard the news that network integrator and managed service provider Atrion Networking (based in Warwick, R.I., and a company I know well), is buying Shazamm (a company I’ve never heard of—but one that is apparently an Atrion neighbor in Providence, R.I.) I have no idea what Atrion paid, but after thinking about the whole situation for a few minutes late tonight and checking out the Shazamm Web site, I think I do know what Atrion is after: Shazamm’s digital signage management and distribution application called Z-One and a Web asset management system called Z-Media.

As networking companies like Cisco will tell you, the best way to inspire new infrastructure sales in today’s world is by providing a business imperative to do so through some sort of industry application. This is the whole idea behind its Industry Solutions Partner Network, which encourages partners to hook up with application developers. I should disclose that I work with Cisco’s ISPN in a communications advisory capacity, but I was writing about the idea of wedding industry applications to networking more than five years ago. I’ve believed in this a long time.

I’m not any kind of rocket scientist, but this just makes sense when you look at the PBX world. As annoying as voicemail might be, it’s an application most of us can’t live without. Who would dream of buying PBX or telephone hardware without it? So, why wouldn’t you expect certain applications to develop a similar status on networks?

Shazamm’s applications, in this case, could apply to a company’s internal communications needs (think lobby signs or surveillance) or customer-facing uses, such as in a retail environment or public transportation hub. Right away, Atrion will look at potential solutions for the technology among its roughly 490 customers.

This is a case where thinking out-of-the-box REALLY could be said to be thinking beyond-the-box.

Heather Clancy is a business journalist, blogger and strategic channel communications consultant with SWOT Management Group. She can be reached at

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Heather, FYI you can find a managed service provider via the Cisco Powered program