As a systems integrator, World Wide Technology (WWT) has its finger in just about all of the telecommunications pies due to ongoing work in its lab.
WWT was founded in 1990 as a small product reseller company, but it has grown into a technology solutions provider with $10.4 billion in annual revenue and more than 5,000 employees.
While WWT is somewhat closed-mouthed about some of the service providers that it works with in its Advanced Technology Center (ATC) labs, which are used for product demonstrations, proofs of concept, building reference architectures and other tasks, it counts Cisco, VMware, NetApp, Dell EMC, F5 Networks, and HPE among its vendor customers.
"There are probably about 200, 300 different OEMs that we do regular business with, so most of Silicon Valley," said WWT's Neil Anderson, practice manager of mobility, access and IoT solutions, in an interview with FierceTelecom. "We are a systems integrator that focuses on a lot of different spaces in IT; everything from networking to security collaboration, software development, cloud and data center.
"We help very large organizations with everything from upfront consulting about what they may need, and what are the different transitions that need to happen for the business outcomes that their C-levels are looking for, all the way to mass deployment at scale for them."
WWT's market segments include large global service providers, large enterprise customers and public sector customers, according to Anderson.
As service providers travel down their virtualization pathways, they have three basic choices for their transformations: do the work internally, work with a system integrator or adopt open source technologies. Service providers can mix and match those choices as they see fit, but Anderson said WWT works behind the scenes in its labs with even the do-it-yourself service providers.
"You'd be surprised to learn that even some of the major global service providers used us as the back end for a lot of what they are doing themselves," Anderson said. "You'd be surprised that we are a big logistics arm and integrator in the back end helping those guys to scale their businesses."
Anderson said that WWT's decision to buy software developer Asynchrony in 2015 is paying off in spades as it develops end-to-end solutions for its customers. The software development division is WWT's fastest growing, as it has increased its number of employees from 200 when it was acquired to close to 500 employees today.
"That software team is now getting much more integrated into network programmability problems," Anderson said. "They look at 'How do we help companies automate,' whether it's automating cloud adoption or using the programmatic interfaces, the APIs and SD-WAN to help customers operationalize or get better analytics out of it. We have such a tremendous software arm that a lot of our competitors don't have."
SD-WAN is burning up
As it has been the case for telecommunications in general, SD-WAN in particular has been red-hot for WWT. Anderson said WWT spends a lot of time with its customers helping them understand what SD-WAN is and how they can get the most out of deploying it.
Anderson said a lot of companies have been kicking the SD-WAN tires in its labs over the past two or three years, but he expects to see "massive deployments at scale this year" that will go forward over the coming years.
"To me, the most critical thing is in how its evolving," he said. "At first, I think people were using SD-WAN as a router for router replacement. Our view of this is if you're just doing a router for router replacement, then you're missing the benefit of SD-WAN because it enables you to have an incredibly agile, flexible architecture that you can do new things with and deliver user experience that were just not really possible with CLI (command line interface) and the old way of doing things.
"As SDN moves up the edge of the network, we're seeing it also starting to take a foothold in the access layer of the network, the wireless and the edge switching. It's a little bit slower, but we're also seeing the benefits there are more around 'How do I implement security policy at a scalable and consistent way?' It's fairly impossible to do it with traditional CLI, but with programmatic interfaces, I can use the automation that SDN provides to really push that consistent policy out there at scale."
VNFs are improving
Service providers have groused over the past several years that vendors' virtual network functions (VNFs) that are used for virtualization were too specific to each vendor, but Anderson said there has been progress on that front.
"I think the VNFs are starting to become universal," he said. "You're seeing even Cisco supporting third-party VNFs from other vendors. I think the remaining problem to solve there is at the end of the day they're still tentacles into each one of those services. If something goes wrong, who's on the hook to support that cluster of virtualized services?
"But I think virtualization coming along. We're seeing more customer interest in it. When you look at service providers, I think they're farthest along in that model. Enterprise customers, the organizations that we deal with, I think it's very early. They are looking at virtualized models, but not in the same sense as the service providers."
uCPE a challenge
WWT is also helping service providers untangle their universal customer premises (uCPE) boxes, which he said have become more complicated with virtualization.
"There's been challenges there," he said. "One challenge is that when you look to operationalize those boxes, it gets a little bit difficult. It's one thing to say, 'Well, we're just going to virtualize some. We're going to collapse, you know, three or four boxes that are at our branch office, down to one.' You can do that technologically, but if you look at the orchestration of that and the management of that, you're still managing each of those platforms.
"You end up with this spiderweb of tentacles into a single box. Making all that work has been really troublesome for some of the larger providers that are trying to move to that model. It's one thing to get it running on one box, but it's a different thing to operationalize that across thousands and thousands of boxes that are each running four or five or more services."
Anderson said that historically, WWT's primary competitors have been channel partner companies such as Presidio, DiData and CDW, but he sees WWT moving into other arenas of competition.
"We can really put together that end-to-end solution for a customer," he said. "We can help them architect a network all the way up to the consulting for them, almost like an Accenture or someone else would do. Where we see ourselves competing next is in that realm with the Accentures and the IBMs of the world."