Since launching its managed SD-WAN offering in May 2017, Sprint has updated the service and expanded its footprint. But in 2019, the provider is looking to make its biggest updates yet in order to offer a more flexible and diverse SD-WAN service.
When Sprint first launched the service it focused on the U.S. However, throughout 2018 the provider expanded the footprint and reach into Canada, Mexica, Asia Pacific, and Europe.
Originally Sprint also selected VeloCloud, which has since been acquired by VMware, as its technology vendor for the managed SD-WAN. At the time, the provider said it selected VeloCloud based on its ability to take services to market quickly, as well as its orchestration, monitoring, and ability to onboard cloud applications. VeloCloud remained Sprint’s primary vendor throughout the global rollout of its SD-WAN services.
As Sprint looks ahead to 2019, however, it plans to expand its managed SD-WAN to include other vendors. “We felt that we went to market with what was a market-leading vendor with VeloCloud,” said Sean Chavis, product marketing manager at Sprint. “Velocloud is very good for purpose-built, best-in-class SD-WAN.” However, moving forward Chavis said it makes sense to launch with additional vendors that bring different capabilities and benefits to Sprint’s customers.
Sprint is looking at SD-WAN services including Fortinet, Cisco Meraki and Cisco-Viptela, and Silver Peak. Each of these vendors can bring something different to Sprint’s managed offering, Chavis said.
Fortinet, which launched its SD-WAN in July 2018, would serve customers with a strong focus on security. “It kind of makes sense to branch out and say well we can offer a turnkey solution on a Fortinet platform, or in a Fortinet ecosystem if we expand what we do from a security perspective to also include SD-WAN,” said Chavis.
Cisco Meraki is “really good at WiFi,” which would serve Sprint customers that are interested in a WiFi platform. Selecting this as an offering would “make it simple to also evolve that into including SD-WAN, by Sprint launching and including a Cisco-Meraki solution our portfolio,” he noted.
Sprint customers are requesting WAN acceleration and WAN optimization features in an SD-WAN service. For this, Sprint is considering vendors like SilverPeak.
Another way that Sprint might add flexibility to this offering is by evaluating universal customer premises equipment (uCPE) options. “Rather than having, say, a purpose-built device for SD-WAN, having flexibility to have that universal piece of equipment where we can just load virtual network functions [VNFs] on the device that customers can decide on to support security, SD-WAN, and other solutions as well,” said Chavis.
The strategy that Sprint is using to select a uCPE vendor and middleware vendor is to find one that allows the provider to support new capabilities and SD-WAN benefits in a similar way to how it’s selecting vendors for the managed SD-WAN offering. William Garrou, a senior product manager at Sprint, noted that the uCPE would also support VeloCloud, Fortinet, and SilverPeak as VNFs on the device.
This doesn’t include Cisco Meraki, noted Garrou, as Meraki is “still kind of on their own from providing a purpose-built hardware platform because of their ecosystem,” which is all bolted together “very, very nicely.”
For selecting both the uCPE and additional vendors, Sprint is still in a vetting phase and has no expected dates for the launch of either.
Supporting Third-Party Transport Options
When Sprint launched its managed SD-WAN, it wanted to differentiate its offering by supporting multiple transport options with the SD-WAN.
“SD-WAN in and of itself isn’t really a transport solution. It’s more a high-powered VPN [virtual private network] solution that rides over transport,” said Chavis. To stand out, Sprint will provide its managed SD-WAN over any transport. So, “if for some reason a customer has a particular site where they want to ring their own broadband or transport option, we have the flexibility to still support that within the realm of an entire turnkey managed SD-WAN solution.”
And while currently Sprint cannot offer third-party broadband-type solutions, it is something that the provider is looking into. What Sprint can do through its managed services organization is work with third-party vendors to resolve any issues that come across the transport.