Masergy says large enterprises desire a hybrid MPLS/SD-WAN path

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CTO Tim Narramore says most of Masergy's larger global customers don't see SD-WAN working in every one of their network sites.

Masergy may be hot on the SD-WAN trail, finding success with customers that need more effective network access, but the problem is the environment is relatively static.

CTO Tim Naramore told FierceTelecom that most of Masergy's larger global customers did not see SD-WAN working in every one of their network sites.

Masergy's Narramore
Tim Naramore

“Our SD-WAN offering like a lot of other SD-WAN products today is a closed environment, meaning it’s typically a bookend environment where the data you put into this box you have to have another box to get the data out of it,” Naramore said. “That works really good for greenfield kinds of opportunities and for customers that have a ubiquitous location base, but what we found is that [while] our global customers were very interested in the technology and the concept of using broadband as an access method, they were less comfortable with the idea of having to convert their entire network to this type of environment.”

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Customers interested in SD-WAN cited two main benefits: forward error correction to ensure greater quality of service on a diversity of broadband links and the ability to offload nonessential traffic like employees streaming music. While offloading streaming traffic securely off a company’s network is certainly positive, traditionally SD-WAN solutions called for the business to deploy a second device. Masergy took a different approach that calls for a single client that can serve multiple functions: a firewall, a router, and tunneling WAN capability to bring the tunnel back into their core MPLS network.

As part of Masergy’s SD-WAN development, the service provider recently debuted its SD-WAN Go, an extension of its Software-Defined Platform. This dynamic network service is an agile solution that can be rapidly deployed at locations around the globe. SD-WAN Go complements its existing SD-WAN Pro solution, giving customers two options to address any budget and connectivity requirement. Both services offer seamless integration with Masergy’s Hybrid Networking solutions.

“For customers that are saying for the subset of the sites they don’t really want the expense of a full private network, this is a great solution,” Naramore said. “It gets them where they want to go in terms of the feature set, and it is available now to customers who can go into our portal and pick what VPN they want to insert that node into and then we’ll ship them a device that will give them WAN acceleration and firewall capabilities.”

What these solutions do is enable large business customers to keep their important traffic—even e-mail applications like Microsoft 365—off of the public internet, which can offer unpredictable performance depending on time of day or traffic peaks.

“It is kind of a lightweight on-ramp to the corporate network,” Naramore said. “For corporate applications, a lot of businesses are saying they don’t want to traverse the public internet because of the jitter and latency issues.”

Hybrid implementations prevail

SD-WAN may have a lot of new attributes, but in the near term Masergy realized the hybrid opportunity was ripe for the taking. John Dumbleton, SVP of business development for Masergy, said a number of customers interested in the SD-WAN Pro solution at remote offices did not want to have to deploy more network infrastructure at their main sites.

John Dumbleton

“Probably 70% to 75% of the opportunities that were interested were saying they had 35 branch offices and they wanted to use SD-WAN for secure internet offload without having to deploy across their other 35 corporate headquarters,” Dumbleton said. “It’s seamlessly integrated so you don’t have to deploy it everywhere and the internetworking between our global fabric and that’s the difference between our products.”

Similar to other industry segments like optical in the 1990s, the SD-WAN market has become flooded with an array of vendors. But as more large vendors turn to developing software-based solutions, the segment has begun to consolidate.

Cisco recently purchased Viptela, an SD-WAN software provider, for $610 million. This acquisition enables the routing giant to immediately expand its SD-WAN portfolio with cloud-based software functionality and access to Tier 1 carrier channel partners like Verizon.

Naramore said that while it expects more SD-WAN vendor consolidation, Masergy will continue to support an array of solutions for its customer base so they don’t have to worry that a company might either go away or be purchased by a larger competitor.

“We tell our customers to not worry about the label on the box because you’re buying this set of features, this capability and we’re going to support you regardless of that,” Naramore said. “I think a lot of the hype that got going on this is that you’d hear companies mention as competitors and in some cases they were enterprise box providers being compared to an AT&T or Verizon.”

Multiple circuit options

While some of Masergy’s competitors like Sprint offer customers the option to bring their own broadband, the service provider maintains that most customers prefer to have the company manage their circuits and delivery for them. Naramore said that customers would rather have Masergy oversee implementing connections and troubleshooting issues so they can focus more on their own core business.

“In the survey feedback we have gotten is that people don’t see this as a move away from managed services,” Naramore said. “If anything, they want to move more toward managed services to free up resources to work on digital innovation within their enterprises.”

In some cases, customers will use their own wireless LTE bandwidth for initial turn up and as backup at remote sites. Some of Masergy’s retail customers will only build new facilities so those customers will use LTE as the initial connection.

“We can give you a private connection or a dedicated internet access connection or a broadband connection,” Naramore said. “The only difference between the two is that with broadband we don’t know exactly what it can do until we install it.”

Naramore added that while broadband circuits may cost less, repair intervals are much longer.

“While everyone likes to say I only pay $100 a month for my Comcast cable modem at home, the reality is that when it breaks what they’ll commit to in terms of an SLA is 48-72 hours,” Naramore said. “For most businesses that’s not feasible.”