SD-WAN is a lever in the door for the new world of software-defined telecoms says Verizon’s Cantor
Oliver Cantor is associate director of product strategy at Verizon and is focused on communicating the company’s software defined and virtualisation strategy to enterprise customers. The emergence of these technologies is enabling the telecoms industry’s transformation into a provider of digital infrastructure for enterprises. At the same time, enterprises are transforming through digitalisation and Verizon has developed products and services to support them in this agile, new world he tells VanillaPlus managing editor George Malim
George Malim: Oliver, you’ve spent 21 years at Verizon, how has your role changed over that time?
Oliver Cantor: I spent the first 15 years in engineering having previously worked at Ericsson but in the last five or six years, I’ve been in product development and strategy. It’s a sign of the times and a lot of technical people have been moved upstream into product development. There are now a lot more technology specialists in product development and, in the last two years, my manager has focused me as a one man show to explain why we’ve done what we’ve done, what our strategy is and what our products are.
We’ve spent a lot of money to build a lot of products in this complex environment and we’re doing this faster than ever before. My job is to explain why all the changes going on matter and what customers can get from it. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting lots of customers over the last few years and hearing about what they want and whether our solutions are solving their problems. This is important for product development so we can understand how this new, agile world is really helping enterprises.
GM: Is SD-WAN still the service that’s leading providers’ portfolios of software defined and virtualised products?
OC: Certainly it helps with the question of what’s in it for me as an enterprise? From a vendor and provider point of view – and we are a little like a vendor now unlike 20 years ago – customers business models are changing so rapidly. Customers want agility, they want new products more quickly and, of course, they want low cost. The telecoms supply chain has been semi-industrialised for many years with low cost as a driver but this is changing and it’s now cost plus speed that customers want. They will spend more if a service meets their needs.
Enterprises recognise they’ve got to do everything digitally now so they know they have the costs of replacing infrastructure and also transforming to digital business. They will sometimes be able to get more spend if they can prove the upside and offerings such as universal customer premise equipment (uCPE) and SD-WAN look like they will create savings and do what they say they will.
SD-WAN is a lever in the door. I went through the TDM to VoIP transformation and there’s always a lot of hype with the reality playing out a few years later. The same is true now. It’s a necessity to get things into software if you’re going to have the agility being demanded of networks. SD-WAN is a necessary and significant step and every RFP has SD-WAN in it. It’s definitely happening and customers are definitely paying for it but there’s no flash cut to it, migration is happening over time.
The number of virtualised network functions (VNFs) we are deploying whether for SD-WAN or session border controllers (SBCs), or firewalls is exponentially increasing.
GM: To what extent do you need to hold customers’ hands and help with constructing the business case for adopting software-defined solutions?
OC: Quite a lot and ideally as much as we can. A lot of customers, without being rude, are in such a bind that they haven’t got time to look at all the technological changes and plan years ahead. Also, this is compounded because they don’t necessarily know where they are going. If customers look at us as an old-fashioned network provider and just want a price, you really have to explain to them that this is much more likely to be a consultative sale. It’s all still the network but complexity is going up because of there being more use cases, more movement and more bandwidth.
This is complex and we can help with the business case. RFPs come to us that are not presented in a way that we can answer so we’re no-bidding some US$25m plus deals because the RFP doesn’t allow us to show our best side.
Today it’s not just about cost. We know there’s a cost element but we need to show we can bring in new technologies over a period of time. What you implement in the next year just to keep the lights on is a foundation but we want to try and do is provide the whole world around telecoms and not give customers only the Hobson’s Choice of MPLS, which is reliable and secure but expensive, or broadband, which is cheap and good enough but not available in some geographies or can’t meet specific service level agreements.
The telecoms industry is trying to find a level where customers shouldn’t know what technology is in the network. They should just be able to connect to whatever access technology is available and get the performance they expect, if we do that, we simplify the communications challenges.