CenturyLink pushes SD-WAN into Latin America

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CenturyLink is targeting China and India for the next deployments of its SD-WAN offerings. (FierceTelecom)

CenturyLink checked off Latin America from its software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) deployment list and is now drawing a bead on a few more countries later this year.

CenturyLink is deploying Cisco's Viptela SD-WAN solutions in Latin America across various connectivity options that include multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), dedicated internet, broadband aggregation and 4G/LTE. Enterprise customers can also opt user their own network connectivity, which is subject to technical feasibility and availability.

RELATED: CenturyLink adds Cisco's Viptela technology for managed SD-WAN service

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CenturyLink first launched its SD-WAN service in 2016 with Versa Networks, and it also uses Cisco's Meraki SD-WAN technology as part of its managed services offering for enterprises. Last year, CenturyLink added a managed SD-WAN service that's powered by Cisco's Viptela SD-WAN platform.

"Latin America kind of has been a slow adopter," said CenturyLink's Stephanie Waibel, senior manager of product management for hybrid networking. "We have had folks talking to the Latin America community for some time. One of the things that maybe delayed it a little bit is that the interest in Latin America was in a Viptela solution."

CenturyLink's service includes not only the SD-WAN layer but also the underlying connectivity layer's operation and design. With CenturyLink SD-WAN, customers in Latin America can respond to shifting business demands with rapid site deployment through the Viptela-based zero-touch configuration.

Visibility and analytics are table stakes for SD-WAN offerings, and CenturyLink's Viptela customers in Latin America have access to a dedicated SD-WAN portal.

Last year, CenturyLink, through the completion of its Level 3 deal, announced it had rolled out its SD-WAN service to more than 36 countries across the globe. CenturyLink's SD-WAN service has stretched out of North America and into regions such as Europe, Africa and the Middle East, but Latin America and the Asia Pacific were still on the to-do list.

"Asia Pacific is still on the roadmap for this year," Waibel said. "We are currently working on China and India, which we expect to have by third quarter of this year. That will be our next big push."

While CenturyLink has the network in place for its SD-WAN services, it typically needs a CPE and procurement supply chain to be able to get equipment into a new country, according to Waibel.

"Specific countries have different rules and regulations about import and export and what you have to do there," she said. "You also have to make sure that you have legal approval to do business in that area. We are working with a partner that does. That's another one of the big challenges."

Complying with the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has put a new twist on offering SD-WAN across Europe. In some SD-WAN environments, users can be identified through the monitoring data.

In countries such as China and Russia, there are requirements around Internet Protocol Security (IPSec) that dictate what SD-WAN solutions can and can't see. China's "great firewall" also makes it difficult to get traffic out of that country when using internet infrastructure.

As CenturyLink works its way through the remaining countries and regions, it also plans to keep its three-pronged approach intact for deploying the Versa, Meraki and Viptela SD-WAN solutions.

"We still have global expansions for all three on our road map, and we'll adjust accordingly as far as interest is concerned," Waibel said.

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