Spanning the globe: CenturyLink goes worldwide with its SD-WAN service

Thanks in part to its deal to buy Level 3, CenturyLink has rolled out its SD-WAN service to more than 36 countries across the globe.

CenturyLink's SD-WAN service has stretched its legs out of North America and into regions such as Europe, Africa and the Middle East ahead of availability soon across Latin America and the Asia Pacific.

"We built out a global procurement model for this service as well as an SD-WAN director controller infrastructure in regions to support our customers’ digital businesses," said Adam Saenger, CenturyLink's vice president of networking solutions, in an email to FierceTelecom. "However, we are leveraging resources locally in each region—supported by our global operating teams from legacy Level 3—for this service."

With the 36 new countries in its footprint, CenturyLink is now able to compete against global SD-WAN offerings from other service providers such as France's Orange, particularly as part of a holistic hybrid networking solution whereby CenturyLink can provide all aspects of the global solution, according to Saenger.

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CenturyLink first launched its SD-WAN service in 2016 by working with Versa Networks, while Level 3's premises-based SD-WAN service got off the ground last year. CenturyLink also uses Cisco's Meraki SD-WAN technology as part of its managed services offering for enterprises in the U.S., but Saenger said the global SD-WAN solution uses just Versa.

"If a customer is looking for SD-WAN and requires high availability, dynamic routing and failover and next-gen firewall, we use Versa for those applications," he said. "We have a great partnership with Cisco. We want to make sure we stay focused on customer service and experience."

What customers, large and small, want from SD-WAN

While CenturyLink sells its SD-WAN as a standalone service, the telco has a hybrid networking solution that includes MPLS, broadband services, direct internet access, voice services and even another carrier's service in a "bring your own network" model. The hybrid networking solution allows CenturyLink's customers to use only the types of connectivity that are needed at a given point in time. 

"At the core, SD-WAN is a key component of a customer’s overall hybrid networking solution whereby private, such as MPLS, and public—dedicated internet, broadband and wireless—networking come together with SD-WAN," Saenger said. "This allows customers to evolve their networks in concert with their ever-changing business requirements.

"One such example is that customers are looking for redundancy and additional bandwidth in almost all cases to deal with the growth of cloud dependency. As a result, we are seeing a lot of high-availability configurations, higher throughput by hardware upgrades, more security management services and more integration options into their management environments."

Saenger said that how business customers choose to use SD-WAN depends on the size and type of customer. 

"Smaller customers are telling us their desire is simplicity, while larger ones are asking for dedicated director controller environments and other more complex functions," he said. "We will continue to listen to our customers when making future enhancements and seek ways to 'get hands out of the process,' thereby improving delivery intervals, reducing the likelihood of human error and improving the overall experience."