This Industry Viewpoint was contributed by David W. Wang
When I came up with the term “Software Defined Digital Platform” (SD-DP) last December in a blog post, back then it was mostly a leading thought and concept, trying to capture some industry trends shaping the next-gen IT/Networking solution and service paradigm.
In reality however, due to key factors like leadership’s vision and mindset, ratio of legacy vs. next-gen infrastructure assets, direction of funding and investment, speed of new technology adoption and solution launch, organization’s learning and ramping up capabilities, and so on, different players in the marketplace, in this race of becoming an SD-DP service provider, may find themselves leading the trends, or just keeping up with the flow, or unfortunately lagging behind.
Fundamentally, there are three key qualifiers for becoming an SD-DP service provider: first is about the setup, launch and management of a comprehensive digital solution platform powered by SDN/NFV, cloud computing, native and advanced security, AI and machine learning. For today’s enterprise IT/Networking needs, the time of stand-alone point solutions is mostly over, and Digital Transformation (DX) is calling for and boosting programmable, integrated, and end-to-end platform-based solutions.
The second qualifier is about converted product portfolio, heterogeneous system interoperability, niche value positioning (e. g. as a managed service provider) and target marketing, and an easy-to-follow solution roadmap addressing the customer needs in clear and milestone steps. This highlights the importance, on top of the innovative technologies put into place, for the service providers to also know how to optimize, position. and run SD-DP effectively in serving the market and clients.
Third, a real SD-DP service provider must be the DX enabler for enterprise clients, i.e. being able to transform, serve and support major DX functions for an enterprise from end users or devices, cloud migration, access, backup and storage, dynamic and application policy-based WAN connectivity, to a holistic security posture. In other words, the SD-DP fabric must cover and enable those pivotal DX architectures and elements in the enterprise’s business ecosystem now and ongoing basis.
Recently I went for an on-site visit and case study of Exponential-e Ltd, a London UK HQed cloud, network, and unified communications provider and SD-DP service front runner in the industry and market, and believe some of their SD-DP best practices and successes are worth being discussed and shared in this post.
Strategically, I find the firm’s executive team have a good and clear understanding of the enterprise value chain in the DX era: move the workload to and operate from the cloud, and in order to ensure robust, agile, consistent and secure cloud performance, SD-WAN and end-to-end security are imperative in the service bundle. Since 2013, the firm has geared towards making such unified and bundled digital solutions possible. With the firm’s recent announcement of its SD-DP launch into service, the leadership’s right vision and mindset is moving the business to the next level.
In reference to the first key qualifier for a SD-DP service provider mentioned above, Exponential-e in recent years has done due diligence to put their SD-WAN (powered by Nuage Networks – Nokia’s SDN Division) service in place. The firm’s SD-WAN offering can operate over a hybrid underlay of self-owned VPLS national network and public Internet, and soon directly over wireless LTE or 5G as well.
Nuage’s SD-WAN, similar to Cisco’s Viptela, is designed and developed as a carrier grade solution for the enterprise market. This makes Exponential-e’s offering a Managed SD-WAN Service (vs. DIY types of vendors and offerings in the market), which is professionally managed, multi tenancy capable, SLA backed, and delivered over an SDN service open architecture.
Based on recent industry surveys, more and more enterprises are choosing managed IT/Networking service which enable them to focus more on achieving their own business intent and goals via reliable, agile and secure applications, while leaving the heavy lifting of digital infrastructure operation and management behind the scene or “under the hood” to the service provider. That’s the core value that a managed SD-DP solution or service can bring aboard.
It’s also interesting to point out that in comparison with layer-3 MPLS or also called private IP solutions, the VPLS network that Exponential-e owns is a layer-2 Ethernet solution which is less costly for the clients to sign on with more operation control and flexibilities. This also makes the firm’s networking transition to SD-WAN easier and smoother, i.e. fitting nicely to a managed hybrid SD-WAN offering which is an appealing start point of next-gen networking transition for most enterprises nowadays.
Most important of all, in last quarter of 2018, Nuage announced its "SD-WAN 2.0" strategy focusing on end-to-end uniformity -- the edge, private data center and public clouds all use the same networking technology and management interface or the so called "single pane of glass". This also reinforced Exponential-e’s intent to streamline key service elements over a central and unified platform– namely SD-DP and its implementation from a service provider’s perspective facing the enterprise market.
(To be continued in Part II, tomorrow)
David W Wang is a Telecom/IT business development & solution enablement principal and senior consultant with ITCom Global, LLC, with current focus on next-gen networking solutions, e.g. SD-WAN Go to Market, adoption and deployment models. Mr. Wang is also the author of the brand new book “Software Defined-WAN for the Digital Age” (published in November 2018) , and the 2015 publishing “Cash In On Cloud Computing”. He is based in Washington DC metro and can be contacted at ITComG18@gmail.com