Frontier admits that while it trails its larger telco counterparts CenturyLink and Verizon on the SD-WAN front, that will enable it to learn from past issues others have faced in rolling it out to businesses.
What will perhaps make Frontier’s movement to SD-WAN a bit less painful than for its larger ILEC counterparts AT&T and Verizon is that it does not have a large MPLS customer base to cannibalize.
Scott Mispagel, senior VP of network architecture and engineering for Frontier, told FierceTelecom that it will take those lessons so it can properly train its sales force and educate customers on how SD-WAN could be valuable.
“We’re late to the game so I don’t think we’re breaking ground by saying we’re launching an SD-WAN product,” Mispagel said. “We want to learn from some of the bumps and bruises that CenturyLink and Verizon had going out with a product early on and having some challenges not only on the technology side, but also the solutions side.”
But delivering SD-WAN is not just about finding the right technology balance. Frontier must still navigate through several logistical elements before it does a widespread release of the product to its customer base with sales and customer education.
“Besides the technology, we must not only deal with the solutions selling, but how to help the sales team present it and how to educate customers on the value of it,” Mispagel said. “There’s a lot of components involved in launching a product besides the technology behind it.”
Complementing managed services
As Frontier moves ahead with its SD-WAN plans, it is using a phased approach to roll out features and elements for business customers. The service provider sees SD-WAN as an extension of its existing managed service offerings.
“We’re not going to offer product at once, but the goal is to get the sales team comfortable selling a managed solution that’s a complement to our existing services,” Mispagel said. “It adds another element to our value chain and gets us into another part of the conversation where we’re not with the customer today.”
But the overall goal with its SD-WAN product is to help businesses simplify how they access and procure managed services. In a typical business’ IT department, one group manages servers via an interface inside of a data center, while another group oversees the network side that must do the manual network provisioning.
“Our approach is to bring the interface into the conversation where there isn’t another group that’s needed to configure service,” Mispagel said.
Frontier sees the opportunity to position SD-WAN across various access methods whether they are supplied by themselves or by another network provider in an off-net fashion. This will include a mix of traditional Ethernet with QoS as well as copper and fiber-based broadband that Frontier will provide. Frontier will roll out its access options for SD-WAN in two phases: it will deliver SD-WAN over its own or third-party Ethernet circuits and then allow customers to effectively procure their own circuits.
“We’ll offer SD-WAN on our own metro Ethernet services with QoS and SLAs so it will be fully integrated with our MPLS service,” Mispagel said. “We’ll also offer it over our own broadband and bring your own broadband is phase 2 where there does not have to be Frontier relationship.”
Like other service providers, Frontier is aware of the array of SD-WAN vendors selling their wares. However, Mispagel said that while it is working with and evaluating various platforms, the differentiator for Frontier is being able to package a solution for its customers.
“We’re coming up with what we believe is the right combination of solutions,” Mispagel said. “I think the carrier that can bring it together where it is one bill, one seamless network experience is the value proposition the customer is going to be interested in versus chasing after what the next industry solution is being touted.”