In the wake of this week's launch by Level 3 Communications of the company's new SD-WAN product, Level 3's CTO Andrew Dugan was on hand to talk with Telco Transformation in more depth about the offering, as well as, in general, Level 3's hopes and dreams for SD-WAN and network connectivity.
In Part I of this Telco Transformation Q&A (lightly edited for length and clarity) Dugan speaks about the current state of the SD-WAN market while detailing Level 3's plans for how the company's own SD-WAN offering will fit into the networking market in greater detail.
In Part II, Dugan will elaborate yet further on these ideas, getting into some of the use cases of SD-WAN and how SD-WAN can augment MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) and other modes of networking by complementing them.
Telco Transformation: Of Level 3's customers, partners, etc., what is the current level of SD-WAN penetration in the market versus how many are thinking about it? And what verticals does SD-WAN seem most primed for or most apt for?
Andrew Dugan: SD-WAN is in the early stages of adoption by our customers. Level 3 has had a hybrid WAN offering in the market for a number of years and that's been pretty successful for us. And it fits the same market -- a lot of the same market position -- as an SD-WAN offer, but it's based on more traditional networking technologies, traditional customer-premise equipment, in terms of routers and firewalls.
TT: What trends are you seeing now and in the next few years with SD-WAN?
AD: SD-WAN, even though it's early in its adoption stage, I think you can see that there are a lot of market studies that show that many enterprises are looking to leverage it in their next generation of networks. And we certainly see that with the customer RFPs that we get and the requests that we're seeing from our customers. So we do expect over the next couple years, it will become a much more important part of enterprise customer networks.
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TT: We've talked previously about the release of Level 3 SD-WAN. (See Level 3 Launches Premises-Based SD-WAN .) What can you tell me about the new SD-WAN solution announced earlier this week?
AD: As I talk about it, a lot of the features that we will include in that offer are certainly going to be a part of what we think is important for the SD-WAN market... Some of those capabilities represent what we think our customers are looking for in an SD-WAN offer.
Our goal with [Level 3 SD-WAN] is to satisfy what we see as our customers' need for secure and agile networking that helps them with their digital transformation. Enabling them to use multiple different access technologies to build a network, but also give them the security and the control that they need through centralized policy management for that WAN offer. And one of the key features that we think are important for our customers is that ability to leverage different types of networking resources using multiple access types. So things like DSL, cable, LTE, dedicated Internet access and MPLS, we think, are all an important part of what has to be included in an offer for SD-WAN.
The ability to rapidly deploy to customer-premises sites, to self-install and have zero-touch configuration; the ability to do performance-based routing and traffic steering by customer application; an ability for them to have control through centralized policy management of things like traffic-routing policy or their security policies; direct connectivity from the enterprise into the cloud without having to backhaul it to a central point so that they can access their SaaS applications in the cloud with good performance; the ability through portals or other mechanisms to see how the performance of their network is working 7x24; and the ability to use that same interface to manage the policies on their network are some of the key capabilities that we think are important, and what we're hearing from customers [as important in] an SD-WAN offer.
TT: Listening to what you just said, it kind of sounds like, yeah, SD-WAN's important, these features with SD-WAN are important, but MPLS and all of these other technologies don't really compete with SD-WAN so much as they're complementary. What are your thoughts on that summation?
AD: I think that they're certainly complementary in Level 3's view. We do have customers that have MPLS-based networks, and they're wanting to leverage other access methods, including cable and LTE, as part of their network needs. And so being able to meet those customers' needs -- including a variety of access types -- we think it's important to build a network solution.
— Joe Stanganelli, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation