Orange Business Services has been dipping its toes into SD-WAN since 2016. But as the service provider expands its offerings it is looking to create a “one-stop shop” for SD-WAN, according to John Isch, the director of the network and voice practice in North America for Orange Business.
Orange currently offers its SD-WAN, which it calls Flexible SD-WAN, through both Cisco-Viptela technology and Riverbed’s SteelConnect technology. Orange integrates the SD-WAN with what it calls vendor managed internet (VMI) as well as an array of security components. In addition, the provider can resell managed internet services in around 120 countries.
The VMI is part of Orange’s managed services offering, which enables it to also provide the automation and cost-saving associated with SD-WAN as well as direct access to cloud service providers. For security, it offers cloud-based, premises-based, or hosted security services that can be managed by Orange or the customer.
As Orange builds out its SD-WAN to be a one-stop shop, the flexible part of the offering refers to the customer’s ability to choose. Currently, customers can choose the type of security and other factors surrounding how the offering is deployed and managed. Going forward, it will offer additional vendors’ SD-WANs.
Orange is in the process of selecting additional vendors, but hasn’t yet made any selections. According to Isch, while there are a lot of SD-WAN vendors (he estimates 30), Orange’s customer base has specific requirements that significantly narrow down its choices.
Namely, the SD-WAN must be built for global enterprise customers and must have manageability, advanced routing capabilities, and security. “The [SD-WAN] itself has to be secure, but we also need flexibility and integration with other security platforms,” he said. “We need to have a way of integrating into a lot of different [security] solutions.”
When looking at what customers want in an SD-WAN, Isch said some customers are looking to integrate MPLS and internet connectivity, but many of its customers and prospects are looking to SD-WAN to create a network using the internet. “We’re posting SD-WAN in our network and it allows for us to integrate the customer-side SD-WAN with a network solution, so it kind of gives it the best of both worlds.”
Regardless of what the customer is looking for, Orange views SD-WAN as an integration project. The provider leverages its global points of presence (PoPs) as integration points to drive the integration between the customer’s underlay network and Orange’s overlay. Currently, it has 20 of its 900 PoPs enabled with SD-WAN. It expects to have up to 40 enabled by the end of the year.
With more customers looking to the internet and cloud to manage and connect services, many enterprises want to push cloud traffic further out to the edge. “SD-WAN is a great thing, but it’s part of a bigger project,” said Isch. “It’s SD-WAN, it’s a migration, it’s an integration, it’s MPLS, and it’s internet that bring all those things together.”
And while Isch sees that SD-WAN may become the “de-facto for the way networks are run,” the technology still has a ways to go. One of the ways Orange sees this coming to fruition is through standardization and vendor interoperability. Specifically, he sees the creation of a “common language” in which advanced APIs talk amongst orchestration platforms and SD-WAN on the SDN and NFV level.
uCPE Still a Ways Off
According to Isch, universal CPE (uCPE) is something that Orange has looked at extensively, but the market isn’t quite ready yet.
While the uCPE will be largely beneficial for managed service providers and global carriers, he said that the cost of the hardware and software licensing for the virtual network functions (VNFs) is not where it needs to be. And in many cases the software is not yet optimized for virtualized services.
Orange does, however, have the ability to offer some virtualized services on Cisco’s Enterprise Network Compute System (ENCS) hardware. In February 2018, it completed the first of a Cisco-Viptela SD-WAN VNF on the hardware, and it can also deploy additional functions such as security.
Orange has had a number of big customer wins in recent months.
Last March, it signed a $294 million contract with engineering firm Siemens AG to replace its MPLS with SD-WAN. Orange is halfway through deploying SD-WAN in all 1,500 of Siemens’ sites. Isch claims that this is the largest deployment of SD-WAN in the world.
In January Orange signed an agreement with Weener Plastics to deploy SD-WAN across its 24 sites. This deployment “is about bringing together multiple independent networks and creating an environment that’s more cloud-enabled or cloud-friendly than their existing networks today,” said Isch.
The Weener, and even Siemens, deployments follow a similar pattern as a number of Orange’s customers do, said Isch. Both of these companies are working to digitize their business and route their services through the internet. According to Isch, the majority of its customers are looking to push anywhere from 55 percent to 95 percent of its traffic to the internet.
“They’re looking at their network and saying, ‘I have a lot of cloud traffic today and it’s not going down — so I’m heading more and more in that direction,’” he said. “‘SD-WAN really helps us to enable that by creating a hybrid environment where I have local internet that I can push that cloud traffic out locally.’”