Carriers are increasingly seen as the logical managers of SD-WANs, according to Orange Business Services' John Isch.
Isch told Telco Transformation that more enterprises are opting to offload SD-WAN tasks to carriers. The decision to not deploy SD-WAN as an OTT overlay, Isch said, enables automation and deeper results that would typically be obscured by encryption and other functions in an OTT environment.
In Part I of this Q&A, Isch, Orange Business Service's practice director, network and voice, North America, discussed the progress the service provider is making in its partnership with Riverbed Technology Inc. (Nasdaq: RVBD) and the status in general of the SD-WAN sector. In Part II, Isch spoke about how SD-WAN services complement the cloud.
Telco Transformation: Orange Business Services announced in March that it would use Riverbedís SteelConnect software to provide an SD-WAN service that was part of its Easy Go Network platform. (See Orange Adds SD-WAN to Hybrid Net Strategy.) How is it going?
John Isch: We have started a pilot with one customer and expect to have more customer pilots within the next 60 days or so. The initial pilots will be on a standalone basis. SteelConnect will use its own cloud-based management platform. It will use a universal CPE by the end of this year and move it into our orchestration platform by the first quarter of next year.
TT: Who is this aimed at?
JI: Our customer base is global in scope and it ranges from very, very large companies that have very large IT staffs to what I would call mid-range customers who have a global scope, but they don't have a global IT reach.
The goal is bringing automation into a small site, so IT doesnít have to worry about many of the different functionalities. It can be the classic wide-area network stuff like routing, optimization, path selection and firewalling. It also can stretch into other things like LAN services. Maybe print servers and things like that. Very large organizations look for those kinds of features.
Smaller customers and mid-range customers would look more to answer questions such as "How do I deal with my entire enterprise" and "How can SD-WAN help me automate, digitize and improve the performance of those?" That said, the main factor for SD-WAN in our customer base is that nothing really gets done unless it has an ROI associated to it.
The message directly from SD-WAN providers to a lot of enterprises is: "You can save massive amounts of money off your wide area network by moving to SD-WAN.Ē Essentially what they're talking about is migrating away from MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) or reducing MPLS and moving more towards Internet as connectivity. That message lands really well with executives.
Your next question has to be, "How am I going to procure that Internet? If I have 100 locations throughout the world am I going to have 100 contracts with local ISPs?" Then the next question is, "What's the quality of that Internet?" There are tricks or methodologies they can use to improve the performance of an Internet connection, but if you have an ISP that doesn't staff on the weekends or has a two week window for repair, there's nothing SD-WAN can do about that.
I think from our global customer perspective the first question around SD-WAN is, "Okay, how much can I save?" Then the next question is, "How do I insure that I meet the service levels that my users require?" When we're out there talking to network customers, the SLA is always very important. It's network uptime. It's round trip delay. There only is so much an SD-WAN provider can do. At that point, the provider can either reset expectations or figure out how to make the whole thing work together.
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TT: Are enterprises coming to you as a carrier as opposed to going directly to vendors?
JI: They are saying, "I like the idea of SD-WAN, but I don't want to necessarily want to own that. I would love to consume it, but I still want somebody else to own the technology and own the responsibility end-to-end." This could just be our customer base. I don't think it is, but it could be. In the last three months weíve had six RFPs that Iím aware of -- and Iím sitting here in North America -- that are SD-WAN RFPs, but they were issued to carriers.
Customers are really interested in the technology, but there's something to be said for end-to-end network responsibility. SD-WAN gives me a lot more visibility into what's going on in my network or what's going on with my applications. But if I'm hooking up an SD-WAN and it's a classic over the top network, I don't necessarily have visibility into what's going on in the MPLS or the Internet that's connecting those.
We sort of lose that intimacy with a customer, insight into what's going on in their environment, if they go into an over the top network and start doing encryption and all that kind of stuff. We really have seen a lot more with customers looking for us to provide the SD-WAN solution rather than them doing it on top of our network.
TT: How would you characterize the growth of carrier involvement?
JI: I think it's a trend. Partially, it is off-loading responsibility. But there's another angle to this that blends SD-WAN and SDN/NFV that came up when I was talking to customers last week. They ask "What training and what knowledge do I need my IT guys to have to deal with virtualized networks?" It used to be that the most important guy was the CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert). One customer said to me, "It's almost like I have to go back to my data center guys and find the people who are comfortable with this. Rather than doing that, I'll have you do all that stuff. Just give me the portal."
— Carl Weinschenk, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation