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Posted on: September 9, 2019 By: Lauren Epperly

Business communication case study: MyEyeDr.

Founded in 2001 by a group of optometrists executing a high-growth-through-acquisition strategy, MyEyeDr. is a network of more than 400 local, well respected practices in 11 states and the District of Columbia. The 10,000-plus employee company offers eye-care services and a wide variety of prescription eyewear and contact lenses. By using innovative technology and empowering its doctors to do what they love, the company is championing a new path for vision care.

“As a longstanding customer, we have a deep level of trust in Vonage®, not only as our business communications provider, but as a partner that is equally focused on creating a better and more personalized experience for our patients.”

Alex Healey, Director of IT, MyEyeDr.

Background

When joining the MyEyeDr. family, the majority of the company’s optometry-practice acquisitions typically lack the business communications infrastructure that supports both the organization’s signature level of customer service and its post-acquisition integration model’s under-90-day cutover time. The eye-care provider needed to avoid the traditionally excessive construction costs and setbacks associated with a new addition (e.g., the frequent 6- to 12-month delays created when pairing a new location’s pre-existing T1 line with a new fiber-optic network connection), reuse their pre-existing broadband connections without exacerbating packet loss or downtime, empower their acquisitions to engage with in-person and call-in patients in a HIPAA and PCI-compliant manner, and more.

Challenge

To provide a scalable, standardized, healthcare-tailored unified communications solution, MyEyeDr. needed a communications partner who could lay a foundation that would foster the company’s ongoing growth, seamlessly deploy a better, cloud-based communications solution as the company acquires optometry practices, maintain a positive brand transition for loyal patients, and supply the process-driven expertise that would help the vision-care network’s assimilation cycles go smoothly.

Solution

MyEyeDr. chose Vonage for its enterprise-grade unified communications as a service (UCaaS) platform, advanced call center technology, award-winning SD-WAN product, and proven success in deploying thousands of cloud seats for rapidly expanding organizations. The future-proofed solution enabled the company to bolster owner trust and confidence before, during, and after acquisition talks, support efficient call flow and voice prioritization, enhance the quality of patient interactions, avoid delays of revenue, support regulatory compliance, maximize uptime reliability, and realize a 28-percent reduction in support tickets between 2016 and 2018.

Results

Creating an Unsurpassed Patient Experience
The Vonage Enterprise UCaaS platform facilitates MyEyeDr.’s nimble, rapid-growth business model by freeing the company from having to accommodate the legacy technology of each new location (e.g., adding new fiber-optic network connections, etc.), providing each addition an encrypted, private MPLS network solution for enhanced productivity, regulatory compliance, and real-time collaboration (which has directly contributed to a 98-percent post-acquisition talent-retention rate), creating a consistent, seamless experience for all patients, no matter which location they visit or call center they reach, ensuring business continuity by automatically rerouting calls to a predetermined backup number in the event of a loss of power or internet connection, and more.

Freeing In-Store Associates to Focus on In-Store Traffic
Vonage Call Center gives MyEyeDr. the ability to successfully optimize pre-existing broadband connections, minimize on-hold times, optimize the call center experience for its patients, maximize the in-person customer service experience for its visitors, and prepare itself to deploy a communications platform as a service (CPaaS) solution with APIs. During peak periods of in-store traffic, the solution’s automatic call distribution (ACD) functionality promotes a positive patient experience by intelligently rerouting calls to a MyEyeDr. call center, offering call-back options, and encouraging online-booking alternatives, while its interactive voice response (IVR) system provides a voice-driven menu that offers callers streamlined pathways to the live agents who can serve them best.

Getting All Calls Answered and All Appointments Set
By managing critical quality of service across all locations and pinpointing bandwidth utilization problems, Vonage’s SD-WAN solution, SmartWAN, ensures MyEyeDr. can prioritize voice traffic, rely on real-time stateful failover capability (i.e., in the event of a carrier’s disconnection, all calls are diverted to a secondary carrier—in real time—so the appointment-driven organization can maintain an exceptional level of uptime and 24/7 availability to its patients), elastically increase its network capacity, and more.

Posted on: September 5, 2019 By: Lauren Epperly

Your guide to understanding UC white-glove service

“White-glove” means marked by special care or attention1 . Companies often throw this term around, but rarely take the time to explain what it means for their company. And with good reason. White-glove service can vary from a range of meanings from something slapped on marketing materials to the company’s very heartbeat.

But when does our white-glove service begin? Our simple answer is: from the very beginning.

The moment you speak with a Momentum representative, your white-glove experience starts and this continues throughout the sales process, implementation, training and ongoing support.

The experience’s first phase, the sales process, is uniquely highlighted by three characteristics:

Engagement

Our sales process includes input from our sales management, solution design engineers (SDEs), operations, engineering and (most importantly) you! We do this because we value creating getting the right solution that works for your enterprise. All of these parties add a particular value to creating a solution that allows Momentum to achieve the optimal proposal to take each and every organization to the next level.

Data Collection

The Momentum team takes the time to ask and discover what the enterprise actually needs and what they want. On top of that, learning about the business processes and current network configurations helps create a solid understanding of the company’s network, processes and IT challenges.

Design

Once we have engaged with the customer and collected data on their company’s needs and configurations, our team turns to our innovative product line to collaboratively build a customized and truly comprehensive communications solution designed to work for your company’s needs.

Posted on: September 4, 2019 By: Lauren Epperly

Technology requirements of mid-market organizations (ranging from 1K to 5K users) are becoming increasingly complex. The potential of digital transformation to redefine business models and customer experiences is gaining the attention of smaller enterprises. More specifically, companies are looking to enhance collaboration among remote workers and dispersed teams, quickly add locations and users and streamline infrastructure.

UCaaS solutions that bundle basic collaboration with additional functionality such as perimeter security and the SD-WAN flexibility can help businesses address these challenges and boost competitive advantage. Historically, however, the needs of mid-sized businesses have been overlooked. Providers have focused instead on plug-and-play solutions for small businesses at the low end, and on resource-intensive sophisticated solutions for the high end. In the process, mid-sized companies have been limited to generic, cookie-cutter solutions.

A recent white paper by Frost & Sullivan concludes that this landscape is changing.

In response to market demand and increased competition, providers are bringing a wide range of robust solutions to market, giving mid-sized enterprises unprecedented options. According to the Frost & Sullivan report, emerging capabilities include:

  • Advanced collaboration functionality that includes multimedia conferencing, content sharing, instant messaging and presence and mobility
  • Integrated UCaaS and contact center as a service (CCaaS)
  • Greater service reliability and stronger SLAs
  • Improved security posture and compliance to regulatory requirements
  • Enhanced service provider implementation and support, specifically in the areas of assessment, professional and managed services
  • Flexible APIs and greater third-party software interoperability, enabling true customization and tighter multi-vendor integration
  • Broader selection of communications endpoints, including desktop and DECT phones, conferencing devices, headsets, PC and mobile soft clients

So the good news is that mid-market enterprises now have more choices than ever when it comes to UCaaS functionality. The challenge now, of course, becomes making the right choice.

One potential pitfall is to select an overly complex solution that requires extensive internal resources to manage. Focusing solely on price, meanwhile, can have the same result, since bare-bones functionality typically requires greater oversight. These poor choices, meanwhile, can result from a lack of understanding of available options, or of the potential of available functionality.

In other words, customers often don’t know what they don’t know about UCaaS

Mid-sized businesses that have tested the waters of UCaaS can be particularly susceptible to this trap. Buyers whose experience has been limited to sub-optimal technology are likely to have a low bar of expectations. If the tools work at a basic level, the thinking goes, that’s about all you can hope for. The idea that the tools might work much, much better doesn’t seem realistic.

In today’s environment of rapid technology innovation, that mindset can result in significant missed opportunities to leverage UCaaS to reduce costs, streamline operations and enhance collaboration across the enterprise. To avoid the trap, businesses exploring UCaaS options should take a rigorous due diligence approach with potential providers. Specifically, they should demand that technology partners invest the time and resources to assess and truly understand business issues and priorities.

Based on that understanding, providers can better explain – and customers can better understand – the art of the possible with today’s UCaaS solutions.

 

Posted on: July 24, 2019 By: Carolyn Kuczynski

Written by John Dickson

Yes! It’s a Match Made in Heaven!

SD-WAN has been a trending topic in the technology world for quite a while now, and long enough that it’s beginning to become commonplace in network discussions and more routine when it comes deployments.

Today, most SD-WAN deployments are managed by companies that exclusively handle  SD-WAN. So any voice provider that planned to sell SD-WAN as a part of their solution to a customer would essentially be relying on these third-parties or outsourcing to manage the SD-WAN service.

That’s why Momentum recently made headlines when they added SD-WAN to the company’s solution portfolio.

Although unique, a voice and communications provider offering a managed SD-WAN solution brings a number of advantages to every deployment. Here  are a few:

1) The Benefit of the UCaaS Experience

VoIP and unified communications are a few of the primary applications that use an SD-WAN connection. So while traditional SD-WAN providers may be concerned with general deployment, connection speeds, etc., voice and communications providers are able to approach SD-WAN configurations and designs with a firmer understanding of the application requirements and end goal.

This allows voice providers to optimize and layout an SD-WAN blueprint and delivery plan for customers that ensures each and every deployment gets maximum results for their voice, UCaaS and all other applications.

2) Access to More Advanced Technology and Integrations

Because SD-WAN providers deal exclusively with that technology, they don’t always have the access or the capability of integrating into all the latest pieces of technology. This especially happens at the individual application level where you’ll see handshake deals or head nod agreements on how particular services and applications will perform on the connection.

Voice and communication providers have the experience, understanding, and partnerships to combine cutting-edge branches of technology to deliver the absolute best delivery to work with applications

For instance, Momentum has designed a way to deploy SD-WAN in a way that builds on the technology’s enhanced availability, visibility, and control without having to sacrifice security and reliability. One way this is accomplished is through the option of placing a virtual session border controller in Momentum’s data centers to ensure peak performance and quality.

Additionally, Momentum’s SD-WAN deployments can leverage both wired and wireless bandwidth. This is a game-changer because the expansion of available connection options allows for deployments to truly find and use the best available bandwidth. It also means the solution isn’t limited to locations with wired connections so it can be used almost anywhere.

3) Streamlined Experience

At the end of the day, one of the biggest benefits of having managed SD-WAN from a voice provider is the customer experience. You can see this in getting a single bill for multiple services, receiving access to savings through using multiple services and having a main single point of contact for questions and troubleshooting. Also, a voice and communication provider delivering SD-WAN can actually also provide even tighter protective security because all transmissions and signals remain in a single network.

SD-WAN from voice and communication providers delivers expertise,  enhanced technology, a better experience, and move financial value to customers. And if the provider is like Momentum and provides a white-glove experience, having a single provider for voice, SD-WAN and even possibly other network services can deliver additional meaningful value that simply can’t be ignored.

Posted on: By: Carolyn Kuczynski

Today’s customers are eager for solutions. Business-owning customers want to spend their time running their business and not on solving complicated IT problems; they WANT to pay you to make IT easier.

That all sounds great, but again — how do you secure those clients?

Iteration. MCSPs must constantly communicate with their clients in a more personal way. Dashboards, reports, email blasts, automated tickets, and generic vCIO content is great. However, it is not enough to create a tailored solution with the complexity required at this point. Clients need a plan; they need to be able to absorb this massive transition slowly. You must create a progressive technology plan that takes them from where they are to where they need to be, leading to higher acceptance and better retention.

Start with your knowledge of their business. If you don’t have this knowledge, get it. Based on their vertical, their maturity and their concerns, start with what matters most. Compliance? Data Security? DR? Mobility? Scalability? Pick something to be the hub of your plan; something that justifies all the change and the necessary action for the client, or also justifies the early steps that don’t seem like they are immediately solving a problem. It won’t be the same for all clients. It needs to manage their concerns and reduce anxiety around the coming changes. In other words: solve a problem. Give them a plan that makes their business more efficient, not just cloudification. Once you have this, communicate, communicate, communicate — not just QBRs or automated communications. Sell the plan, get their buy-in and share what’s next and why it’s important. Remind them why this is happening every step of the way.

The critical steps will be the following, regardless of your justification:

Identity management. You are going to be distributing their services to the best place for the job, but this can’t add 20 different logins to their daily life. As you roll out the rest of the plan, start with single sign-on and access control from the beginning. As a bonus, select a provider that adds SaaS utilization management so that you can be efficient with the clients’ spend on SaaS — Okta and MetaSaaS, for instance.

Accelerate. Implement SD-WAN for reliable and responsive connectivity to the cloud – VMware’s Velocloud for instance. This will reduce the time that you spend managing the network connections that are critical to the solution, and it will keep the experience solid as they rely more heavily on the cloud via their WAN.

Secure. Secure the solution with a managed NGFW and SOC solution. Protect the endpoints — don’t just trust a firewall, no matter how next-generation it may be. Belts and suspenders. You want to start out secure, not by bolting it on after a breach or compromise. This is the first step that will feel like they are making progress. If this isn’t done right early, it will lead to similar failures as discussed above with the WAN. Cloud is inherently secure to end-users. You don’t want to misstep and have them question the solution mid-way.

SaaS offload. Find the needs best served by SaaS. No need to migrate a legacy app that is in need of a refresh and unable to realize the promise of the cloud due to its shortcomings from age. Don’t force it. Ask yourself, “Does the SaaS alternative really solve their problem?”

Migrate. Migrate their legacy apps to IaaS. Migrate their desktops to DaaS or a workspace solution. You won’t be able to replace everything with SaaS. It’s not the best solution for every workload and forcing it will just decrease the clients’ efficiency and happiness with the solution. DaaS and IaaS will give their legacy applications the SaaS-like feel of mobility and accessibility. One more note: Don’t force DaaS until everything else is in order. It’s another place you can undo a lot of trust if the predecessor tasks are not solid and complete.

Protect. Don’t forget a DR and backup strategy. That’s another place that clients think is magic in the cloud. Backup SaaS data, replicate IaaS data to multiple regions. Have a DR strategy for remote working. Don’t undersell the value of having a DR plan for not only major natural disasters but things like holidays, inclement weather, moving offices or growing quickly.

Measure and improve. The cloud offers an endless stream of information about your clients’ workloads. Use this technology to continually improve through discussions of changes to their business, growth of resources continued migrations to SaaS, auditing, etc.

Above are some tools to help with the planning of such a strategy and communicating the value. It’s time to evolve. It’s time to change the game again. You will differentiate yourself and secure long-term clients.

Posted on: July 18, 2019 By: Carolyn Kuczynski

In a crowded and sometimes confusing SD-WAN market, it’s easy for partners and end-users to get lost in the mix. Every SD-WAN vendor has its strengths and unique value. But all the hyperbole and marketing terminology makes it hard to choose the right SD-WAN for your needs.

We want to try something different…

That’s why we partnered with WatchGuard for a 60-minute webinar titled SD-WAN: One Size Doesn’t Fit All. In this presentation Bigleaf’s Co-founder, Jeff Burchett, and WatchGuard VP of Product Management, Brendan Patterson, walked through the most common use cases for SD-WAN and how to choose the right solution for each of them. They covered:

  • What SD-WAN technology is and why it matters
  • How SD-WAN is used in example use cases
  • Which SD-WAN scenarios you need to consider before deploying
  • How to make SD-WAN work for your business needs

As an industry-leading security vendor, Bigleaf has partnered with WatchGuard as part of its WatchGuardONE program. But, WatchGuard also offers its own SD-WAN functionality. That dynamic of coopetition presented a unique opportunity to drop the hype and simply present you with two completely different approaches to SD-WAN—each with its own use cases and benefits.

You can watch the full recording at any time. If you have any questions, or if you’d like to learn more about Bigleaf and/or WatchGuard’s approach to SD-WAN, contact us today.

Posted on: July 17, 2019 By: Carolyn Kuczynski

by JP González

Cloud-based and mobile apps put traditional networks to the test by making last-mile connectivity a mission-critical component. And, with 83% of enterprise workloads expected to run in the cloud by next year1, the need for a network that can properly support a fluctuating mix of bandwidth-intensive applications all but guarantees SD‑WAN is here to stay.

Much has been said about the complexity sometimes associated with a successful SD‑WAN deployment. However, we hear less talk about another critical factor in maintaining a successfully deployed solution—namely, visibility.

Unlike their traditional counterparts, modern networks are not intended to be static. The days of “set it and forget it” are fast becoming a distant memory. The mission‑critical modern network calls for real-time network path conditioning and continuous policy evaluation to ensure an optimal application experience. Network and application performance can vary depending on the number of applications running, sites connected, service providers in place and individual user behaviors. Visibility can help monitor link reliability, application performance and user demands for the aggregate business or in varying granularity levels—crucial to understanding the operational impact of the SD-WAN.

The digital experience of SD-WAN

This is where the SD-WAN digital experience comes into play. When working with service providers, there is a patchwork of available tools and interfaces for monitoring, configuration, and analytics. Monitoring and configuration control are essential to the long-term success of the SD-WAN. Therefore, it’s important to consider whether the SD-WAN you deploy gives your IT department the tools it needs to effectively manage the network or whether it becomes an administrative burden with negative implications on your IT workload, security, end-user, and customer experience.

When considering an SD-WAN solution Windstream Enterprise recommends you ask some key questions about the digital management and analytics capabilities available.

Monitoring visibility

  • Can you create a customized dashboard to view what’s important to you?
  • Does it show how much bandwidth your apps consume by location and device?
  • Can you monitor the performance of every access connection?
  • Can you create customized reports to view the history of bandwidth usage for troubleshooting and upgrade planning?
  • Do you have visibility from your mobile devices?

Configuration control

  • Is it secured by multi-factor authentication?
  • Do you have admin rights to make modifications to your settings on your own via any desktop or mobile device?
  • Can you rate limit or block unauthorized apps?
  • Can you modify business rules to prioritize apps?
  • Can you modify security policies by location, group or end-user?
  • Can you quickly implement configuration changes to all locations?

Posted on: June 26, 2019 By: Carolyn Kuczynski

 

By: Jorge Rodriguez

 

Telecom carriers traditionally delivered the basic functionality of communication and connectivity – voice, data and network capacity. The telco of old deployed teams of technicians to manage a physical infrastructure of cables, boxes and switches. Service provisioning and maintenance were labor-intensive and time-consuming. Service options were one-size-fits-all.

Today, the rapid growth of intelligent devices, data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) is redefining the marketplace. More specifically, Software-Defined Networking (SDN) creates an opportunity for the “digital telco” to assume a strategic role as a provider of solutions to critical business issues.

With SDN-enabled configurability, static telecom infrastructure evolves into a flexible platform of easy access, seamless connectivity and autonomic management. Service provisioning is becoming on-demand and real-time. Automated monitoring and processing are driving predictive modeling and proactive maintenance. These trends are taking operational performance to new levels of efficiency and quality.

Equally important, SDN gives telcos clear visibility into the data flowing through the communications ecosystem – at the architecture, warehouse and packet levels. This visibility in turn creates an opportunity to gain critical insight into customers. Using that insight, telcos can deliver highly personalized services segmented by geography, industry and demographic. Moreover, they can anticipate and deliver services before a customer requests them.

Example: Let’s say that a telco positions a beacon on a utility pole in a block in Greenwich Village. The beacon continually collects data on foot traffic on the block in general, as well as traffic in and out of different retail establishments at different times of day and days of the week. Analyzing that data can give the telco powerful insight into how to help different businesses. At a basic level, it enables appropriately targeted offers of Wi-Fi, Point of Sale (POS) and security services. At a more hyper-personalized level, it can mean offering digital signage to help a global fashion retailer promote a spring fashion line (focusing on items likely to appeal to the particular consumer of the area). Or, sending targeted text alerts on behalf of a gastro-pub to regular customers promoting happy hour specials during off-peak hours.

Another characteristic of the digital telco is the ability to blur physical boundaries and extend the communications and analytics infrastructure. Smart sensors at the edge of business activity are the “tip of the spear” of the Internet of Things (IoT). These intelligent devices can integrate with machine learning-enabled data analytics and real-time communications to drive transformation. Top-of-mind examples include self-driving cars and self-repairing jet engines. But equally impactful possibilities involve more mundane applications. For example, how transportation companies monitor their vehicles, how farmers manage livestock and how restaurants ensure the reliability of their freezers and refrigerators.

The potential competitive advantage of the digital telco lies in its connectivity expertise. Telcos are ideally positioned to manage the connection between the data-collecting devices at the edge of business activity to the analytical platforms within the back office. By overseeing that conduit, the digital telco can evolve from commodity provider to strategic partner.

Seizing the opportunity requires applying the latest edge and analytical innovations, while fully leveraging existing transport and switching technology. At the same time, we need to develop the business models that unleash the ability of SDN to drive predictive, real-time and insight-based actions. By leveraging our technology and business legacy, we can assume a leadership role in driving truly connected digital enablement.

Posted on: June 19, 2019 By: Carolyn Kuczynski

by 

Matrix Networks got its start in 1984 supporting and installing PBX phone systems. Over the years, the company’s embrace of Internet technologies and cloud computing solutions has helped its customers navigate a constantly evolving network landscape.

Matrix Networks’ success is the result of having a principled approach to the cloud-ready network solutions it offers to customers. It’s a proven formula developed over three decades of experience. Matrix Networks has seen a lot of success as a Bigleaf Networks partner and remains one of the top partners in the Pacific Northwest.

We sat down with Matrix Networks president, Kyle Holmes, to learn more about the company’s formula for success when moving their customers to the cloud.

As companies shift their businesses to the cloud, what are some of the things you’re seeing?

A lot of people don’t realize they are already in the cloud. In fact, many of them are farther along on their cloud journeys than they think they are. That’s because every business application is moving to the cloud. Every application on a desktop has a web version today. That has resulted in an increase in IT sprawl, as the cloud makes it easy for individual departments to make their own buying decisions.

Is there a secret formula you’ve found for building a cloud-ready network?

There’s a right way to build a cloud-ready network. We call it Matrix Connectivity as a Service (MCaaS). Through a combination of purposeful network design, disparate circuit sourcing, and SD-WAN optimization we’re able to intelligently manage a customer’s Internet bandwidth. From carrier agnostic circuit sourcing to built-in company-wide redundancy, 24/7 support and monitoring, and consolidated billing, MCaaS has simplified the way our clients experience connectivity, allowing them to focus on what matters: their business.

We’ve had a lot of success because we’re principled about our approach to what it takes to build a cloud-ready network. Customers want something easy that just works and they want one partner for their connectivity strategy. It’s why our MCaaS is so popular. It’s what our customers want because it’s everything they need in one package with one bill.

What role does SD-WAN play in the solutions you deliver to clients?

In many client engagements, we’re seeing SD-WAN displace existing MPLS networks because SD-WAN delivers better reliability, more speed and cloud access. And beyond the technical benefits, SD-WAN makes it easy for company IT managers to migrate their applications on private networks to the cloud, giving their own customers — the users — better speed, reliability and access flexibility. It’s always good to remember there’s usually a human at the other end of your solution and anything you can do to make their life easier is a good thing.

Are companies you work with aware of SD-WAN or is this something you introduce to them?

A couple of years ago, if you mentioned SD-WAN to someone it would be the first time they had ever heard of it. Today, everyone’s heard of it, but nobody understands it. That’s largely due to the fact that there’s a lot of market confusion around the term where people think they’ve got what they need and they really don’t.

SD-WAN is a broad term that means different things to different people. In our case, customers don’t come looking for SD-WAN, but we’re able to show them why they need it.

Your approach to SD-WAN is different than a lot of companies in the market.

For us, SD-WAN takes on two plays: One, we took a hard stand to require SD-WAN in every UCaaS solution we sell. That’s non-negotiable for us. Because deploying UCaaS without SD-WAN is like driving a car without a seatbelt.

The other is as an MPLS displacement where companies are migrating applications to the cloud from a private network and realize they suddenly have different security and reliability requirements.

What makes Bigleaf different?

There are three network connectivity types: site to site, cloud-based and hybrid SD-WAN. Companies can live off a single dumb pipe and hope nothing goes wrong. But we all know that networks inevitably go down. Or they can create a better experience using SD-WAN.

Bigleaf falls right in that cloud SD-WAN sweet spot. There aren’t many that do, fewer that do it well and none that were built specifically for the cloud like Bigleaf.

To put it bluntly, Bigleaf is an upgrade to the Internet. Bigleaf allows companies to migrate to the cloud with minimal changes to their network or existing firewall infrastructure. It’s simple and it works. And that’s why we’ve made it a mandatory part of our offering and also why it sells so well.

What advice would you give to others?

It’s easy to fall prey to the marketing around the cloud and SD-WAN. You need to find a partner who has sifted through the sand for you. When you find that partner, pay attention to the dashboard experience they offer. Visibility is important.

And remember, carrier networks go down. Don’t be dependent on just one. When Centurylink went down last year, 80 percent of our clients were on their network. None of them called us. And a big reason they didn’t was because they had Bigleaf as part of the solution we built for them.

Posted on: By: Carolyn Kuczynski

Contributed By: Jody Hagemann – Senior Director, SD-WAN Product Management at Comcast Business

With so many SD-WAN products and vendors in the market, misinformation is rampant. Getting to the facts will help your software-defined journey succeed.

If you’re an IT leader considering software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN), you may have a great opportunity this year to hear directly from some of your peers who’ve recently adopted it. Several of these IT managers are generously sharing their experiences, lessons learned and helpful advice by speaking at various conferences around the U.S.

These sessions are valuable opportunities to hear some of the pros and cons of different products and vendors, suggestions on making your transition smooth and all-too-common pitfalls to avoid. With some 60 competing SD-WAN vendors and products, the market is crowded, with a wide range of players, from pure over-the-top providers to major carriers. Hearing directly from another corporate IT manager who’s been through the evaluation, selection and installation process within the past year or two is a tremendous benefit.

As an SD-WAN product manager, it has been more than enlightening sitting in on these sessions and interacting with the presenters. Recently, a speaker made the provocative statement that “carriers really aren’t experts on SD-WAN.”

With more than 20 years of experience in the telecom industry, specifically in the VPN space and a lot of experience in new product and feature launches, I have a very different perspective. The lifeblood of a carrier is the network, and no customer network can succeed without vast software and engineering expertise to back it. As product managers at network carriers, we are viewed as the conductors of a finely tuned orchestra. That orchestra must include expertise in software-defined networking (SDN) as well as carrier infrastructure so the music (aka customer network) is harmonized perfectly.

While I can’t speak for all carriers, I can definitively point to Comcast’s in-depth expertise in the SDN space. Chances are you’re familiar with our Xfinity X1 service that provides entertainment, internet, voice, apps and more to many thousands of residential and business customers in the U.S. X1 is a virtualized platform that has been developed in Comcast Labs, the technology and innovation arm of the company, over many years.

We applied the same lessons learned in developing the X1 platform to building our Comcast Business ActiveCoreSM SDN platform that powers our SD-WAN and other products to come. It’s built to support other virtualized services, such as routing and firewalls, over the top of Comcast‘s or any other US providers’ network. ActiveCore is built to scale just like Xfinity X1 to support thousands of customers. We could not be in a better position to be a long-term networking partner that builds business solutions for customers.

I encourage anyone – wherever you are on your SD-WAN journey – to keep an open mind and ask the tough questions that will lead to an understanding that helps you make the right decision for your software-defined future.

  • Ask the carrier for details on their SDN/SD-WAN experience; how they developed or acquired their service; what resources they have to support it
  • Ask about any OTT provider’s network underlay and how they manage and support it
  • Ask whether the service you’re considering meets highly available criteria, including multiple underlying connections from different carriers
  • Understand how expedient your potential vendor’s replacement is for equipment failures
  • And be sure to know the last-mile connection, because your new WAN can be only as good as the last mile that connects it to your users

These are exciting times for all of us in the networking world. The opportunities that SD-WAN offers to exponentially increase your bandwidth, speed innovation and time to market activities is powerful. Simultaneously being able to hold down the total cost of ownership lets you drive your network, not the other way around. Don’t let the misleading myths out there steer you in the wrong direction.

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