Cincinnati Bell Business’ NaaS bundles integrate SD-WAN capabilities for multisite businesses

Cincinnati Bell's NaaS offering will bundle various functions, including cloud integration, security, switching, Wi-Fi, management, monitoring and SD-WAN.

Cincinnati Bell Business and CBTS are hoping to make businesses' migration to the cloud a snap with their new Network as a Service (NaaS), a fully managed solution that bundles integrated SD-WAN capabilities to connect multiple, remote business locations.

NaaS enables customers to leverage Cincinnati Bell Business and CBTS to deliver a fully managed network.

The service provider will bundle various functions, including cloud integration, security, switching, Wi-Fi, management, monitoring and SD-WAN. Customers pay a single, predictable monthly price for equipment and support.

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The NaaS offering is based on Cisco's Meraki technology and is designed for both SMB and midmarket companies with 1-1,000 employees. It can also accommodate enterprise organizations with over 1,000 employees.

Tom Simpson, CTO of Cincinnati Bell, told FierceTelecom in an interview that the goal of the NaaS offering is to take the guesswork out of the businesses' hands.

“It is everything in a box for your LAN, Wi-Fi and firewall stack on a by-the-month utility service,” Simpson said. “A customer can go in and get best of breed Wi-Fi and threat management.”

At a later date, Cincinnati Bell Business and CBTS will introduce a complementary product set that allows businesses to purchase NaaS integrated with SD-WAN or purchase either of them individually.

“We’re layering another product with this to provide the true SD-WAN infrastructure,” Simpson said. “You can take the network as a service stack standalone, the SD-WAN stack standalone or take the products tied together and provide the promise of effectively shutting down your MPLS connections and using broadband.”

Poaching competitors’ MPLS revenues

While Cincinnati Bell has a well-established MPLS and Ethernet service base, the advent of SD-WAN could be a threat to that steady revenue stream.

What’s compelling for Cincinnati Bell Business and its business customers is that it requires a low capital requirement because it can run over any broadband connection, whether that connection is provided itself or through a cable competitor. A growing multisite customer can quickly add new locations to their network without the expense incurred by expensive MPLS solutions, for example.

But Simpson said he’s not worried about eroding MPLS revenues.

“When we talk about Network as a Service and SD-WAN that’s somewhat cannibalistic to MPLS or Metro Ethernet business, but I don’t care because it’s better for the customer,” Simpson said. “The main foray for us is because we’re a regional metro company, we can actually manage and deploy NaaS and SD-WAN from anywhere.”

Since CBTS and Cincinnati Bell Business can deliver the SD-WAN offer as an over the top option that can be offered in any location, Simpson is anxious to steal MPLS market share from other providers.

“It’s an opportunity for us to eat into other service providers’ MPLS,” Simpson said.

Customers that are purchasing the SD-WAN and NaaS offerings today are bringing their own broadband connections, but the service provider is considering a strategy to aggregate broadband services. The service provider is providing necessary management and monitoring capabilities to ensure the connections work properly.

“Usually the locations individually will look to get the high speed internet themselves, but that’s something else we’re investigating,” Vorwald said. “We’re looking at how we could provide that on top of everything else so they don’t have to worry about that.”

Retail likes it

While the initial attraction for NaaS and SD-WAN will be with small businesses, the service provider foresees potential interest from large companies that have retail locations.

Like other SD-WAN and NaaS players, Cincinnati Bell is also seeing interest from large companies that have multiple retail locations.

“The obvious play is for small businesses where you need a single AP, a single firewall and a switch and it is cookie cutter, but we’re seeing a lot of interest from customers that have large numbers of retail establishments,” said Jim Vorwald, VP of solution design and management at CBTS. “It’s your standard piece of cake to get it installed and everything you want in a retail establishment.”

As part of the service experience, Vorwald added that CBTS and Cincinnati Bell Business will also coordinate the installation and ongoing network monitoring that’s “fed into our ticketing system here.”

While they could not name any specific targets, the service provider has a number of customers for the NaaS and SD-WAN offerings.

In the retail space, the service provider is seeing a need for retail establishments that reside in strip malls and larger malls where there’s no presence of fiber requiring these services.

“We’re actually seeing with retail headquarters within driving distance from us there’s a big movement for this,” Simpson said. “I think the use case of retail going into a mall, a lot of those places are not served by fiber, but are using TDM or DOCSIS and this helps solve for that.”