Windstream is upping the ante of its emerging SD-WAN offering, adding a set of improved customer experience and network connectivity options for business customers.
The service provider’s SD-WAN solution now includes additional broadband flexibility, improved self-service monitoring and control options, and a new SD-WAN Concierge managed service that automatically optimizes application performance, lowers costs and simplifies network management.
Windstream’s enhanced SD-WAN solution is available immediately to businesses in Windstream’s nationwide service area.
Customers also have the option of combining SD-WAN with Diverse Connect to achieve a 100 percent availability service level agreement (SLA).
Mike Frane, VP of product management at Windstream, said this latest effort builds on the efforts of Windstream and EarthLink. He has an intimate knowledge of SD-WAN after helping develop the same product at EarthLink prior to being purchased by Windstream earlier this year.
“Windstream had been doing some really great things around the solutions portfolio that we were able to build on and make even better with the lessons learned from the six months head start that EarthLink had in terms of a generally available product,” Frane said.
Managed options, visibility
Since all business customers have different needs and mentalities on how to manage data, Windstream is offering various management options.
By using the Concierge service, which was initially developed by EarthLink, Windstream’s SD-WAN customers get a fully-managed service that helps customers get the most from SD-WAN by having Windstream proactively monitor and optimize network environments.
“We’ll now have two different products—an advanced product for those customers that may want to do it themselves and the Concierge—which is a white glove fully managed service for those customers,” Frane said.
With the Integrated SD-WAN Management Tool, customers also have the option to maintain control over their network from a centralized location rather than manage various individual routers and firewalls.
By leveraging the portal, customers can manage and gain visibility.
“This is different than the way other companies are doing it where you’re provided access to visibility-only access to the orchestrator or management tool, but taking steps beyond that by providing control,” Frane said. “The way we’re doing it is unique because we built our own portal for the customer so we can provide even more than you would get if you were to buy the technology from an underlying vendor.”
Some customers want to manage the SD-WAN network themselves while others want a fully managed solution.
While the amount of management different customer wants will differ, the portal is a standard feature.
“Customers are interested in having us manage their service for them, but they still want oversight to make sure we're managing it right so we give them that capability,” Frane said.
Besides offering management, Windstream will also help tie in the SD-WAN connectivity capabilities with its broader suite of IP and cloud-based offerings.
Windstream can provide what it says is a tailored network to connect to services including UCaaS, Cloud Connect, Secure Wi-Fi and PCI suite. These services are supplemented with Windstream’s consulting and professional services teams who have guided many well-known companies through a migration to the cloud.
“The release is also integrating the full suite of the Windstream service portfolio based on the cloud core architecture that’s supported on multiple gateways deployed throughout the country,” Frane said. “The service is integrated directly with the MPLS network, UCaaS services, security, all of our IP transit, and our cloud connect services for direct interface with Microsoft Azure or AWS, giving customers a central nexus to consume all of their cloud-based services.”
Hybrid network growth
Windstream’s evolution of the SD-WAN product ties in with the service provider’s dedication to hybrid networking.
Being a large carrier, Windstream can deliver SD-WAN over multiple connection options, including broadband, T-1 and MPLS.
To accommodate more SD-WAN customers, the service provider is planning to expand its reach to get to 90% of prospective areas with some form of broadband connectivity. This connectivity will be delivered by Windstream and its array of network partners.
“We have become that single point of interface for the customer,” Frane said. "They have a single partner to deal with and they don’t have to call five different carriers and use Windstream and our breadth of access options and have a single source provider.”
Frane added that Windstream will manage the broadband connections at each site regardless of who provides them.
“We don’t just order broadband for you,” Frane said. “When there are problems we proactively manage it even if the access is not provided by Windstream.”
The telco also enables customers to bring their own broadband access and provide visibility into service quality, but in this case the customer would have to resolve any issues with their access provider themselves.
“If you chose to bring your own access, which we support, we’ll notify you and provide visibility into the performance of the circuit,” Frane said. “A customer would be able to see jitter and packet loss and if the circuit goes down at a location we’ll notify them so they can take action.”
Expanding the SD-WAN offering into more markets should not be any great surprise.
Having completed the acquisition of EarthLink, the service provider told investors in May that it is ready to present its business customers with a unified SD-WAN product set across all of its markets. It will also be able to leverage the assets it purchased from Broadview Networks.