Level 3 says its SD-WAN debut builds on its long-running hybrid service set

A Level 3 Communications network monitoring center (Image: Level 3)
Level 3 is seeing initial interest from larger enterprises that want to equip satellite offices with lower cost broadband.

Level 3 may be the latest service provider to put its hat into the SD-WAN ring, but the service provider says the service is really an evolution of its well-honed hybrid IT vision.

Andrew Dugan, CTO of Level 3, told FierceTelecom that it continues to see SD-WAN listed on various customer RFPs and it has the capabilities to deliver it on its network.

Andrew Dugan. Image: Level 3 Communications
                        Andrew Dugan

“It’s not something completely new to Level 3 in the sense that we have had a hybrid WAN offer that’s been successful in the market,” Dugan said. “It supports the capability to connect an office location over multiple connection types, including MPLS, broadband and cellular connectivity over a hybrid WAN offer.”

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Leveraging its own SDN and NFV investments, Level 3 says the application of SDN to the network edge in the form of SD-WAN offers enterprise customers even greater promise for dynamically adjusting bandwidth in real-time.

Level 3 SD-WAN provides direct internet connectivity for access to public clouds and SaaS applications to improve local user experience.

Dugan said that it was the right time to add SD-WAN to its broad suite of enterprise services.

“We think it’s the right time to round out the offer for our customers’ hybrid IT needs, but it’s just one component,” Dugan said. “You have to have the SD-WAN for the connectivity piece, the cloud connection piece, the security piece, and bundle it all with private network services and voice services as well.”

Smoothing broadband capabilities

Like other service providers offering SD-WAN, Level 3 allows customers to use various access types.

Regardless of access or backbone method the service provider’s SD-WAN platform allows customers to create secure private networks over a mix of public and private infrastructure, with site-to-site encryption.

Customers that use Level 3’s SD-WAN service can leverage a variety of access types, including DSL, cable, wireless LTE, internet and MPLS. Because Level 3 has been offering hybrid WAN service for a number of years it understands how to offer managed broadband services.

“Another thing the managed hybrid WAN service has given us is a managed broadband capability,” Dugan said. “We have established relationships with a number of broadband suppliers out there and gone through the growing pains of understanding how do you make those broadband networks work with enterprise services.”

Since the performance of broadband can vary by supplier, Level 3 will work with each broadband provider to ensure uptime and resolution.

“We have worked with those ISPs to understand how their networks are built, which modems work with what services and protocols to make sure they’re configured properly to make this whole thing work end to end,” Dugan said. “We’ll be able to leverage that experience as we go into the SD-WAN offer.”

Smaller office, retail resonating

While still early in the game, Level 3 is seeing the initial interest for SD-WAN from larger enterprises that want to equip satellite offices with lower cost broadband and retailers.

Such a trend should not be all that surprising since the majority of its hybrid WAN users have come from these two segments.

Branch offices and retail often don’t need large amounts of bandwidth so the SD-WAN option to use broadband connections is a good fit.

“One of the perfect uses for this, and the main use cases for the branch office hybrid WAN offer, has been the branch office application,” Dugan said. “Branch office and retail are the types of customers that will have lower bandwidth needs to use broadband connectivity for cost effectiveness and use MPLS for priority traffic.”

Dugan added “there’s a lot of those smaller office locations and retail locations that need networking solutions so SD-WAN could be a good fit for them.”