John Isch, a practice director at Orange Business Services, said other types of SD-WAN overlay technologies would add unwanted complexity for customers. “If I add anything to the existing infrastructure, I’m adding complexity,” he said.
Many SD-WAN offerings in the market require some kind of additional customer premises equipment, either a proprietary appliance or at least an x86 server. But by using already-deployed Cisco routers and IWAN technology, Orange can help businesses offload some of their traffic via a broadband connection.
BT also uses Cisco routers and IWAN for its BT Connect Intelligence IWAN service. Like Orange, BT was loathe to add another box at the customer premises and opted instead to re-purpose the existing routers.
Isch said many business customers want to offload some of their non-critical traffic at the edge, from private circuits to public broadband. “Adding code to the router gets that done,” he said. “Is it the most elegant way? Maybe not. [But] there are customers who are happy with their Cisco environment, and they see this as a way to extend the life of the Cisco environment.”
Multitudes of Providers
Besides adding more equipment in the network, Orange isn’t enamored with the prospect of creating business relationships with scores of Internet providers around the world, which would be necessary as part of an SD-WAN overlay service.
At least one service provider in the U.S. — CenturyLink — is happily reaching out to other providers outside of its own regions. It wants to ensure that its SD-WAN customers can select a variety of Internet connections, which will all be managed by the SD-WAN overlay. CenturyLink is looking at these partnerships as an opportunity to expand outside its own network footprint.
Similarly, AT&T may be looking at SD-WAN as a way to expand its footprint.
But that tactic could become super complex on a global scale.
Orange has been supplying hybrid networks to customers for a long time, integrating local ISP connections into customers’ overall network environments. However, it’s one thing to integrate ISP connections from a technical perspective, but it’s another thing to develop business relationships with scores of providers and manage their connections with an overlay. That’s the part Orange doesn’t find particularly appealing.
“Our customers are global in nature,” said Isch. “When Orange talks about SD-WAN or Internet integration, we think of it from global perspective, not regional or domestic.”
The Cost Savings
One of the primary reasons SD-WAN is spreading like wildfire is because it promises big cost savings. Enterprises get to replace some of their redundant MPLS connections with cheaper Internet connections.
But Isch said if you’re replacing an MPLS connection with a business-grade Internet connection, the cost savings aren’t that great. Nevertheless, enterprises do want to offload some of their non-critical traffic to broadband. And Orange works with them to do that.
“Orange is not burying its head in the sand with the Internet,” said Isch. “It’s about working with customers and their security policies. We want to be part of customers’ network environments. Those environments include the Internet.”