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Today, many enterprises increasingly do business in more than one market across the globe, typically operating like ‘retail & distribution outlets’ in a multi-site, multi-geo model. According to data from market analyst house Gartner published by Viptela, 80% of employees and customers are served in branch offices (Gartner/Viptela – Cloud needs a new WAN, Dec. 2016). And following a survey done by market research firm Populus and ERP vendor Sage Group, even 41% of small and medium enterprises globally say they do business outside their own home markets (Sage Business Index, June 2014).
These sites are often not organized in silos but connected together, usually by traditional wide area carrier networks operating in a fixed, mobile or mixed network mode.
The business of these companies is often challenged to procure strategic WAN connectivity for its operational sites, and to scale and manage the required infrastructure at high Capex and Opex costs with business growth. In most cases, building up and provisioning connectivity at scale can take no less than a year. Sometimes even two or more years when considering today’s manual-intensive activities for network design and rollout across a global business footprint.
ngena – a next generation network for the digital age
Until now, the enterprise “legacy connectivity” has been painfully slow to rollout. But the good news is that new solutions are now available in the market to provide end-to-end (E2E) managed WAN-as-a-Service from the cloud to any global business on the planet at near zero integration cost.
One of these new cloud solutions is the Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) offering, ngena and its global alliance partners can provide to their enterprise customers. ngena is an acronym and stands for “Next Generation Enterprise Network Alliance”, an alliance of global telecommunications companies. Providing a central cloud platform, ngena merges the local networks of all alliance partners into a single global Software Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN). All ngena partners are leading telecom providers that have a unique positioning in its region and a vast experience with enterprise customers – thus can deliver performant IP-VPN services to their end customers on a global scale. With this, enterprise customers get a global network service which is secure, stable, scalable and easy to use; and they profit from the local access and local care of their regional telecommunication provider.
Taking a glance into the future of global networking
Broadly, enterprises looking to implement SD-WAN for the first time will frequently be faced with numerous challenges. A few of which are:
ngena is enabling its alliance partners from leading telco organizations across the globe to become a SD-WAN service provider. There are several top advantages the customers get from ngena’s Software-Defined Networking (SDN) solution and managed service which are briefly described here.
Importantly, the service providers need to possess certain delivery capabilities which customers are keen to see in their tick box and in who to engage for successful delivery of their SDN solution. Industry analyst Machina Research’s (Machina Research, Strategy Report 2015: Godfrey Chua, Matt Hatton, Andy Castonguay, M2M Communications Service Provider Benchmarking 2015) benchmarking of service providers broadly ranks the sought-after service provider capabilities by customers, that would typically watch out for; ngena takes care of all five key delivery capabilities:
The customers attach a premium value on the support and delivery of required business process changes that are needed in the supply of SD-WAN services by the principal value chain stakeholders; the service providers and partners. Customers are also keen on benefits and on what is in the value proposition for the parties that are engaged in providing SDN services. Top of the list are standard processes for end-to-end quality of service, troubleshooting, SLAs, process integration, capacity and performance management.
The business process change required to support SDN opportunity engagement would broadly be in three categories – the SELL, BUILD, RUN processes, which ngena has digitized:
The service providers require these standardized processes to manage complexity of an entire new SD-WAN customer solution, from quote to delivery and in-lifecycle management after go live, and thus freeing the service provider to focus on selling, not on technical heavy lifting.
Partners are particularly critical for the successful delivery of a global SD-WAN footprint. Once a customer starts to look beyond his immediate local market, it becomes necessary to partner with many other players in the value chain for a truly global solution that meets the requirements of a global business. This enhances the ability of the service provider to connect the customers wherever they choose to do business. To enable this, ngena has created a new alliance of global Telco partners from all the five continents of the world, who now share and pool their networks through ngena, into one global programmable SD-WAN for business at any desired customer location. The reason and driver for embarking on this change in approach and business model for Enterprise customer connectivity service providers, lay in rapid digitalization and globalization of business and markets. More than 20 alliance partners and increasing have joined ngena’s shared economy, and shared networks business model, among them are PCCW Global, Century Link, Neutrona, BT, Kpn, Telus, SKbroadband, Telstra, Expereo, MTN, Sunrise, etc. to mention a few. The alliance partners recognize that digitalization and globalization of business and markets requires service provider partners with a global reach to realize the full benefits for end customers.
The service provider’s experience and professional knowledge it offers in addressing the challenges of SD-WAN opportunity and market, is a different proposition to that of legacy WAN in the form of MPLS / IP VPN networks delivery and In-lifecycle management and support. Customers value help and support from an expert practitioner in their SDN adoption journey. Support has been offered to blue chip and multination corporations by ngena in proof of concept (POCs) engagements. These POC projects trial the new SDN proposition in meeting Enterprise customer business needs, mitigate risks, and there after rollout and delivery of entire customer connectivity solutions with hundreds and thousands of sites globally. Delivery by ngena includes managed SD-WAN services of entire business networks, with modern and market-disrupting next generation service fulfillment and service assurance capabilities. The expertise and delivery capabilities of ngena will take away the burden of heavy lifting by the customer and will free the customer to concentrate on their core business, with less worries about their networks in the care of very capable hands.
4. Platforms & Tools
SDN represents a significant disruptive shift for integrated IT and Network services, because of convergence for the first time in virtualization of network functions and services together with compute in the cloud model. The manual deployment of network hardware functions, installation and configuration of them individually is often labor intensive, error prone and costly to periodically maintain and upgrade. SDN is now disrupting all this legacy network architecture to bring it into digitalization in the modern cloud computing architecture of WAN-as-a-Service. And this requires a new breed of service platforms, which a service provider must have for enabling SDN business process change. It follows that the choice of SD-WAN platform has a significant impact for the viability and efficiency with which service providers can be able to provision SD-WAN services at speed, at scale, as well as provide In-Lifecycle support on a global scale. In this regard, ngena already provides all these capabilities today in its cloud enabled SDN global service platform, which ngena developed in partnership with world leading IT and Network technology partners, such as Comarch, Cisco, and Equinix to bridge the existing gap in the market.
5. Global Coverage
The service provider offering is as good as the geographical footprint in which its product portfolio is available: Businesses which operate in multi-country, multi-sites look for both scale and footprint. The way in which ngena goes to market to realize global coverage lay in its unique country-driven and location-based products and service catalogue, leveraging wholesale sourcing of connectivity products from ngena’s alliance partners as one single shared network. Alliance Partners are trained in using SD-WAN global service platform and are then onboarded to sell ngena products and services in countries of their coverage. To date, we have extended coverage to over 20 countries and growing world-wide. As businesses will become increasingly global, and competing in a global market, digitalization also becomes a distinctive competitive edge to do business, and ngena with global coverage is a key digital business enabler in this digital transformation on a global scale.
A new approach to SD-WAN
ngena’s solution is one of a kind in the industry, built on SDN technology innovation and supports SDN business process change to eliminate the need for technical heavy lifting by the customer and process integration of the customer’s managed E2E business connectivity. This ensures that the customer focuses only on business and operational readiness, and less on quality of service or its assurance under tight SLAs. Typically, the customer needs to only rely on seamless, standard out of the cloud service provisioning capabilities, billing and reporting on KPIs of the daily and ongoing service operations.
Whatever the business requirements might be – business network or machine-to-machine (M2M)/Internet of Things (IoT) fixed connectivity at scale – ngena is disrupting not only the process by which the connectivity service is provisioned, but also the way in which the service lifecycle after go-live is assured to provide zero downtime of integrated IT and Network services. The customers are most likely interested in scalability and high availability of their business network. This capability would be possible in ngena’s offering by creating multiple and redundant virtual functions that are then chained together to provide different and highly available services with zero-downtime, which are monitored for performance degradation or faults in real-time through analytics.
The value of real-time monitoring and analytics
The enterprise that has business operations for example in ten countries across two or three continents, would realize readily scalable benefits of SDN when the underlying services of VNFs instances are globally and regionally chained like ngena has done. This then also allows for real-time discovery, monitoring, correlation, visualization and resolution of incidents and faults at every level of the customer’s network service chain.
In SDN topology, a service path typically includes physical devices (e.g. routers), and virtual appliances. The role that analytics play would be to predict failures and provide just in time actionable information to service assurance as well as real-time updates to interfacing systems which determine the appropriate course of action for either human or automated intervention to resolve incidents in the customer’s network.
In this new SDN/NFV-driven architecture, ngena’s service platform enables and supports dynamic changing service models. Instances of enterprise value added services such as firewall, WAN optimization, application performance monitoring, IP routing, would run on multiple shared virtual appliances, some of which services may be available on demand.
This means that the customer’s network which broadly consists of physical and virtual nodes can be programmed to change behavior based on decisions informed by analytics of what is going on in the network itself at that time. For example, a virtual or physical node such as virtual Firewall (vFirewall), or the virtual Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (vDHCP) or virtual Deep Packet Inspection (vDPI) in a customer’s service chain might fail. If this happens then traffic needs to be redirected away from it to another route and node. At the same time, action is automatically taken without human intervention to repair and restore the failed node in the service chain. This keeps disruption to customer’s services at bay, with zero downtime.
Further, the automation of network tasks in this way eliminates error prone manual interventions to maintain high availability of the end-to-end service. It becomes possible to measure and report the SLA of each service in real time through analytics and extend this across globally or regionally distributed service chains of a customer’s global network services. The best path and routing of certain network traffic can also be calculated for specific traffic to meet specified SLAs, for example, Class of Service (CoS) and Quality of Service (QoS) for certain application traffic of high priority. for certain application traffic of high priority.
Get rid of manual processes through the power of SDN
Automation brings with it assurance capabilities which enabled ngena service management to move away from manual ticketing to automated trouble shooting and resolution of customer’s network incidents. The problem might be the loss of bandwidth or breaches of packet loss threshold. Or a hard disk failure impacting VNFs, which would proactively trigger alarms or create an incident ticket and notifications towards Network Performance Management. In turn, automation kicks in with a decision for example to dynamically provision a new VNF instance, such as a virtual router in the path of certain enterprise application traffic with a high CoS/QoS prioritization and ensuring that SLAs are met with minimum loss or disruption to service uptime.
This is all real and happening now on ngena service platform, not fiction anymore as ngena’s SDN makes entry in today’s market place.