In March when the coronavirus officially became a pandemic, Verizon Business had to act quickly - just like all other wireline service providers - to meet customer demands, which materialized practically overnight. Verizon Business’ Chief Product Officer Aamir Hussain said four categories of Verizon Business services are hot commodities.
Those categories are security; collaboration; virtual VPN/extended SD-WAN; and voice.
Hussain said in terms of voice, he’s referring to Verizon’s One Talk that enables a business to run virtual applications on its employees' cell phones. “It’s basically a virtual PBX,” he said. One Talk for small- and medium-sized businesses assigns one number for compatible mobile devices, desk phones and PCs and rings them all during a call.
For collaboration, Verizon struck a deal in the middle of the pandemic to acquire the video conferencing company BlueJeans Network. It closed that transaction on May 18.
Verizon had already been a BlueJeans distributor for several quarters, and it was considering buying the company even before the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Hussain said his group was catering to all kinds of businesses from small to medium to very large, and it was customizing solutions, not only based on company size but also on the type of enterprise. “We definitely catered it to different segments and had to come up with different packages and offerings,” he said. “Retail got a different solution; hospitality got a different solution.”
Perhaps the most interesting technology that Verizon Business is providing is SD-WAN for individuals who are suddenly working from home.
Hussain acknowledged that to date SD-WAN has been about creating a virtual network between different branch exchanges. But the technology is now being used to connect individual employees at their homes. “You can create a virtual network with a 20-employee network,” he said. “It’s SD-WAN, point to multi-point and you manage policies depending on the subscriber and what you want to provide to the subscriber.”
Verizon has, of course, been providing VPN services for years, but SD-WAN provides extra benefits such as priority of applications and access to services all connected back with security parameters.
Covid-19 has further accelerated the demand for SD-WAN. “The opportunity was there to begin with,” he said. “Covid has shed some light on being able to go fully virtual if you need to and get access to services above the network by not worrying about whose broadband you have.”
Verizon has had its Virtual Network Services (VNS) platform for a few years. It provides a variety of virtual services, including content delivery and security. But Hussain said SD-WAN is by far the most popular service on its VNS platform. Verizon use technology from Versa Networks but also works with other SD-WAN vendors such as Cisco, VMware, Fortinet and SilverPeak.
Hussain said, “We’ve got a two-pronged strategy. We offer VNFs through a hosted platform on Verizon Cloud Platform, our own internal cloud. That would be a VNF that customers want managed from us. The second way we offer services is through a virtual CPE platform. We just added Cisco’s uCPE, which is managed through our orchestration on Cisco’s ENCS platform.”
He said Verizon did this because some of its business customers ask for Cisco ENCS. “Other options would be our own universal CPE on x86 hardware from the likes of Dell and others with our software on top.”
Hussain has been with Verizon for about seven months. He previously was the chief technology officer for CenturyLink before that company bought Level 3. And he was CEO of Collinear Network for about a year. Hussain reports to Verizon Business Group CEO Tami Erwin.