Sprint is serving up SD-WAN to its multi-national customers in order to help them manage their bandwidth while also reducing complexities in their hybrid networks.
SD-WAN over a hybrid network is attractive to service providers that want to retain their legacy MPLS infrastructure while also tapping into the fast-growing opportunity in cloud-based services. Sprint's SD-WAN customers are also looking to integrate lower-cost broadband options and use centralized management to provide comparable quality-of-experience. Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) chose VeloCloud Networks Inc. to help provision its hybrid SD-WAN offering. (See Sprint Plans Global SD-WAN Launch for 2017.)
Don Briscoe, manager of product marketing for Sprint Business and acting product development director this past year, led the team that was responsible for Sprint's SD-WAN business case approval and SD-WAN commercialization.
Telco Transformation: Who are typically your customers and what are they looking to achieve with SD-WAN?
Don Briscoe: We have a large multi-national customer base ranging from midsize to large enterprises. Customers want to remove complexity and cost from their networks, improve awareness of applications, ensure a quality experience for those most critical applications and deploy a platform that supports cloud services. Their bandwidth needs have been growing at 30% or more annually while their budgets have increased marginally if at all. They are looking to use lower-cost transport options such as broadband Internet for applications that do not require a private networking platform like MPLS.
Secondly, the centralized management and dynamic traffic steering capabilities of SD-WAN allow customers to meet their demands for network simplicity, agility, and improved application performance. IT departments are dealing with networks that are becoming increasingly complex. They are being asked to focus on strategic activities while outsourcing the day-to-day activities to service providers. SD-WAN helps them to simplify network oversight via centralized controls.
The third major motivation is the increasing adoption of cloud-based applications. Sprintís SD-WAN customers have the options to leverage cloud gateways that provide a secure on-ramp to cloud applications.
TT: In your strategic relationship with Velocloud, what is it that Sprint brings to the table?
DB: Sprint provides a global network, customer support and Compass. Compass is a management portal that provides access to customer network inventory, network performance reporting and diagnostics. Compass supports all of our wireline and managed services including security, unified communications, MPLS and SIP trunking.
The SD-WAN orchestrator has been integrated into the Sprint Compass tool providing our customers visibility into their network and access to Sprint SD-WAN performance metrics, change management and ticketing features. While VeloCloud is providing the underlying SD-WAN technology, Sprint provides the ability to offer customers comprehensive WAN solutions that include SD-WAN along with Sprint managed services, VoIP solutions, security, unified communications and wireline/wireless transport.
TT: SD-WAN is a crowded space now. Your vendor partner, Velocloud, is also providing management and orchestration services to several other telco service providers. How do you differentiate yourself in these circumstances?
DB: We bring a wide choice of local broadband access options, DSL, cable, Ethernet options with service level agreements (SLAs) from 200 partners. Sprint brings a long history of designing and deploying fully integrated solutions with a reputation for customer service and support.
TT: How does the hybrid network that undergirds your SD-WAN solution gain control over the traffic traversing the Internet while also ensuring performance comparable to that possible with an MPLS network?
DB: The performance metrics are achieved via the centralized orchestrator that defines the business policies and priorities for different types of traffic such as video and voice. In times of network resource contention, congestion or performance degradation, the key is ensuring that the most critical business applications continue to have a quality experience. Congestion is mitigated through dynamic multi-path optimization.
When a link is experiencing performance issues, dynamic multi-path optimization steers traffic [as defined by the business policy] -- in sub-seconds -- to another path with spare capacity. Additionally, SD-WAN provides forward error-correction and jitter buffering which bolsters performance for real-time traffic.
TT: How does Sprintís SD-WAN solve specific problems for the enterprise such as connecting branch offices that cannot afford expensive IT and need sophisticated applications like UCaaS?
DB: Sprintís SD-WAN solution provides customers with zero touch provisioning and centralized control. Both provide significant benefits for branch offices with little or no IT support. Branch office locations have thin client devices which allows them to access applications hosted on the SD-WAN. The beauty of SD-WAN is that you no longer need IT resources at the branch location.
TT: What specific services do you provide for mobile and remote workers?
DB: Sprint provides a full suite of business mobility solutions for mobile and remote workers. Sprint offers mobile office productivity and collaboration solutions such as Microsoft Office 365, G Suite, Dialpad Business Voice, Skype for Business and Cisco HCS UCaaS. Sprintís SD-WAN solution fully integrates with these mobility solutions to ensure application performance is optimized.
TT: What are the tools for analytics or artificial intelligence you plan to use and what do you hope to achieve with them?
DB: Current SD-WAN reporting capabilities leverage features inherent within the SD-WAN orchestration platform such as application-level utilization reports and quality of experience. Through API integration, we plan to expand this reporting to include end-to-end performance reports and additional real-time application reporting. The intent is to provide the level of detail necessary to fully understand application performance and to be able to drive real-time or near real-time adjustments to policies, as needed.
TT: Achieving the desired SLAs is the chief objective for Sprint. How do you ensure that this is achieved?
DB: Sprintís objective is to create SLAs that are meaningful to customers and while also meeting the performance expectations of the service. SLAs for Sprintís SD-WAN service is no different. Sprint has a long history of experience with network SLA performance and fully understands MPLS and broadband performance metrics. This knowledge -- coupled with actual SD-WAN performance that we have observed in our lab and with customer trials -- has enabled us to develop SLAs with full confidence in our ability to meet these SLA performance metrics.
— Kishore Jethanandani, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation