CenturyLink says SD-WAN is just one part of the edge network

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CenturyLink is certainly keen on taking a bigger piece of the burgeoning SD-WAN market, but the service provider says that its ongoing implementation of SDN and NFV will enable it to deploy a wide variety of virtual business services.  

Travis Ewert, VP of software defined services and big data for CenturyLink, told FierceTelecom during the recent MEF17 trade show that SD-WAN is only one component.

“The WAN is just one function and bigger strategic view is as we move to a network disaggregation approach, whether that’s bare metal or a virtual machine, we’ll use all of those,” Ewert said. “You need now an orchestration and controller framework that can manage all of those types of cases.”

RELATED: CenturyLink says MPLS share continues to grow in face of SD-WAN competitive threats

These use cases could be uCPE edge cluster or a local gateway, for example.

“There’s lots of early cases where we could go after these use cases by not only how we evolve our traditional managed services business, but how you leverage for that for more over the top use cases,” Ewert said. “The early driver for SD-WAN is bring your own access or internet.”

Management is key

By bringing together the CenturyLink and Level 3 network facilities, the combined company will have not only a larger set of fiber and other internet network assets, but greater management capabilities.

Ewert said that network management will enable it to set apart its SD-WAN platform for large business customers from cable and other competitors.

“The performance of over the top or how you manage those access connections partners is key,” Ewert said. “We have done traditional hybrid WAN where we are managing the access or internet on behalf of these large enterprises, which means we bring a carrier SLA for that day one and assurance day two.”

Ewert added that network management is something that’s very challenging for a business to do on their own.

“Any enterprise that thinks that they’re going to do that themselves, it’s not easy,” Ewert said. “As a carrier that’s what we do as a living so what we’ll do to manage that experience that’s going to be one of those differentiators for the SD edge.”

MPLS, SD-WAN will coexist

While CenturyLink acknowledges that SD-WAN could threaten its long-standing MPLS revenue base, the service provider seems unfazed for now. In fact, the telco told investors during its third-quarter earnings that MPLS services are still growing.

During the third quarter, CenturyLink’s MPLS service penetration grew 5% year-over-year, rising above the average market growth rate.

What will be the more likely near-term scenario is that businesses, particularly those that have an embedded base of MPLS, will run in a hybrid mode using a mix of SD-WAN and MPLS services.

“We have not suffered to this point from these companies coming in and competitors coming in and taking these customers away from us,” said Glen Post, CEO of CenturyLink, during the third-quarter earnings call.