BARCELONA, Spain – Orange is one of the more diverse operators in terms of offering enterprise customers software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) options, although that’s not necessarily by choice.
“We are offering our customers what they want, though with all the options we are really having to be more of a services and support provider,” said Didier Duriez, EVP for business global solutions at Orange.
Orange’s current SD-WAN efforts include one through Cisco-Viptela and another through Riverbed. Duriez, speaking at this week’s Mobile World Congress 2018 event, said that most customers prefer the Cisco platform as it offers more advanced features, but that it was also working on updating its Riverbed offering.
Orange earlier this month conducted the first on-boarding of a Cisco SD-WAN virtual network function (VNF) on Cisco Enterprise Network Compute System (ENCS) hardware. The test followed Cisco’s purchase of Viptela for $610 million.
Orange is continuing with its current strategy of offering SD-WAN to customers that want to use their existing Cisco routers. Previously, these customers used Cisco IWAN technology on their Cisco routers. But now, these same routers can be updated with Viptela SD-WAN software.
Duriez indicated Orange was not particularly happy with the IWAN platform, but it has seen much better performance and comments from customers on the Cisco-Viptela product.
“[IWAN] was a Swiss army knife, but not seamless,” Duirez said, adding that he was happy the company did not put much of a push behind the offering. Looking ahead, he indicated that the Viptela-powered platform was likely not the “end-game” for the carrier.
“Viptela is really a more mid-term strategy for us,” Duriez said, noting that longer term he expected greater capabilities from more virtualized platforms. “We see a very handsome pipe moving forward.”
While happy for now with the Viptela-powered Cisco platform, Duriez said there remain challenges in terms of expanding the current platforms. He cited ongoing issues around standardized on-boarding of VNFs, which results in the need for more support.
“Most of the technology is still not mature,” Duriez said. “There is no standard way to onboard a VNF that is very effective.” He said there was good progress being made in terms of standards, but that it’s been “much slower than anticipated. It will come because it has to come.”
The evolution of standards will also help Orange advance its own technology footprint. Duriez said that most of its customers want at least two vendors to be involved in PoCs, which requires greater interoperability in the market.
“Most of our customers want PoCs that involve at least a couple of suppliers,” Duriez said. “This is interesting and sensible, but interoperability issues cause a bit of confusion for some enterprises.”