Orange Business Services' Isch on the creation of a one-stop shop for SD-WAN

Orange Business Services is offering its customers an integrated SD-WAN service. (Pixabay)

As business customers continue to fan the SD-WAN flames, Orange Business Services has learned a few lessons that have led to it hitting the refresh button on its SD-WAN service. 

While Orange Business Services' initial SD-WAN offering was launched with vendor partner Viptela—prior to its acquisition by Cisco—in March of last year, Orange rolled out a new version earlier this year.

The newest SD-WAN offering by Orange Business Services is called Flexible SD-WAN, and it's available in all but a few of the 220 countries and territories that are in Orange's global footprint. In order to make it easier for customers to deploy its SD-WAN service, Orange has developed its Vendor Managed Internet service, which is available in nearly 100 countries.

FierceTelecom spoke to John Isch, director of the network and voice practice in North America for Orange Business Services, about Flexible SD-WAN, the Vendor Managed Internet Service and how Orange Business Services is set up as a one-stop shop for its SD-WAN customers. His answers were lightly edited for clarity and length.

John Isch, Orange Business Services (Orange Business Services)
John Isch (Orange Business Services)

FierceTelecom: What sort of issues do you run into when talking to your customers?

John Isch: A lot of times when I talk to customers they are so focused on the SD-WAN technology that they look at the technology as a stand-alone. They are forgetting that they need internet. They need somebody who can supply internet globally.

We've had customers that go out and try to do that on their own and look at sourcing internet locally. You do that everywhere in the world and that becomes a mess of contracts, of mixed technologies, bandwidth that doesn't support what they are doing and peering that changes. There are a lot of things.

So, we've developed the Vendor Managed Internet Service and the idea being that we're a one-stop shop for SD-WAN that includes not only the SD-WAN technology, but also the underlay network, whether it's MPLS—which of course, we've been doing for many, many years—or internet services.

We have a portfolio where we can purchase local ISP services and then the customer has one contract with Orange. We operate and manage that internet service for them. It really is an enabler for SD-WAN for customers who are looking to do it globally. Again, so they don't end up with 500 locations and a 100 different ISP contracts.

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The SD-WAN environment that I've been involved with has a return on the investment as part of it. That's the reason for doing SD-WAN. I think there are a lot of other benefits that we get out of it. But most IT projects today need some sort of return on investment against deploying it.

The replacement of expensive MPLS with a cost effective ISP is part of that equation. Right? So, that's why we feel that we want to be part of that. We feel that being able to see and control the underlay and overlay, allows us to provide a level of service that a regional provider wouldn't be able to do because, we can do it on a global basis everywhere.

FierceTelecom: What's it like dealing with ISPs of all sizes around the world?

Isch: We've found that ISPs are very different from telcos. Maybe that's obvious, but telcos have come from a regulated environment where they're very careful and cautious with design layout, records and those kinds of things. It's fairly easy to tell what path a local loop or leased line is taking from our POP into the customer prem. We can get that mapped out.

If you're using the internet as your network, number one, the last mile is very hard to map out. The ISPs don't keep those kinds of records. Number two, there is necessarily a peering agreement that's happening somewhere in the environment that you have to be concerned with.

Those are things that we'll manage with part of this internet sourcing program that we have. We manage those things for customers so that we can help them get as much redundancy and resiliency as possible with their connections.

We've had this product and program in place for some time. But, the focus of this changed from "Hey, we can source the internet for you" to "Hey, we can deploy a fully integrated SD-WAN deployment—including the internet aspects of it." We've embraced it more as an integrated SD-WAN enabler.

FierceTelecom: What other aspects are included in Orange Business Services' role as an integrated SD-WAN enabler?

Isch: What I always tell customers when they ask me about the deployment of SD-WAN is, "You really have to think of it like you're deploying a new network." Okay, maybe the underlay isn't changing and you're just deploying an overlay network with SD-WAN. But the overlay network has an independent routing infrastructure from the underlay to the point that I've got to figure out how to integrate that. And doing that on a global basis means that I've got to figure out how to integrate as I'm migrating from my old network to my new SD-WAN network.

That's a huge integration project from a global perspective and there aren't many entities in the world that handle that on the scale that we can. I've talked about sourcing the internet, but just the project of integration is big.

Cisco-SD-WAN is the technology that we're deploying in our network. In order to enable that global environment, we're deploying virtual Cisco-SD-WAN gateways into our network so that we can more easily integrate these MPLS networks into SD-WAN networks as we deploy them. That helps with a migration plan.

I can't stress enough how important a migration plan is. Having those gateways to be able to easily integrate underlay and overlay just makes that so much easier because the customer does not have to worry about that. We'll take care of that and the network.