In the US we tend to think of the big homegrown providers first when it comes to international telecom and internet infrastructure. But the reach of Orange and its multinational, enterprise-focused Orange Business Services division can match or beat anyone. In fact, they quietly do quite a bit of business here as well. With us today to talk about Orange Business Services and what it is up to in the Western Hemisphere is Rob Willcock, President of the Americas. Rob is responsible for the Orange Business Services’ presence from Canada to Argentina.
TR: What makes up Orange Business Services’ presence in the Americas?
RW: We have about 650 people here in North America, and a total of about 1,500 people when including Latin America. In terms of assets in the US, we have two data centers: in Atlanta and in Washington, DC. We also launched a security operations center (SOC) in Atlanta last May,one of our 10 SOCs around the world. Over on the West Coast we have Orange Silicon Valley, or OSV, one of our 15 innovation labs to explore new technologies and co-innovate with our customers. This particular lab focuses on incubation and looks into artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies. We also have an IS (Integration Services) Center of Excellence in Clearwater, Florida that focuses on the managed services we provide to our customers, including maintenance and software. In the software-defined (SD) world, companies are moving away from multiple boxes to one box with multiple software elements attached to it, which is something we're heavily investing in this year. We also have a test lab here in North America where our customers can come and play with SD networks and applications. They can put their own environment in our lab and see how it works, rather than setting up their own proof of concept.
TR: What kind of customers do you target?
RW: We serve multinational enterprises. Orange Business Services is a global organization with operations in more than 160 countries and territories and capabilities in 220. For us here in the Americas, our sweet spot is with large enterprise customers headquartered here, but with business activities and locations around the world. Many are financial companies or in the oil and gas industry. They turn to Orange Business Services when they require global reach with a local touch, i.e. people on the ground who are familiar with the ins and outs of any region and provide the local support that they need. But our key focus is not just talking about networks and how we can connect Building A in San Francisco to Building B in Singapore. It's really about what can we do as an organization to support our customers’ digital transformation. That’s clearly what we are helping our customers address – how can they as a business be where they want be in two to three years and how can technology get them there.
TR: What are multinational customers asking for in today’s market?
RW: They want to understand what they can do with software-defined networks and related technologies. They are also trying to understand multi-sourcing and how to manage multiple incumbent vendors at the same time. This is an area where Orange Business Services excels. We can be that single touchpoint across providers for simplified management. From my experience, the enterprise software-defined world is a lot more complex when you're rolling out a software-defined network for a multinational company across 30, 50, or even 70 countries. At Orange Business Services we understand both the traditional network and the software-defined network, and how we can make it work for customers spread across the world. Also wrapped into that are constant conversations about security. With the massive push toward the cloud, it is absolutely essential that enterprises make sure that everything is secure, and we have that expertise too with our Orange Cyberdefense arm.
TR: What is it about such broad deployments of SDN technologies that complicates things?
RW: When rolling out an SD-WAN globally, customers will encounter a number of challenges they never planned for, such as regulation, compliance, importing, exporting, unstable geopolitical climates, etc. Having a partner like Orange Business Services with a strong presence in all regions of the world helps to deal with all these issues to ensure the project goes off without a hitch. I have seen cases in the past where some companies have chosen a specific type of technology based on functionality and price and then literally just after they move forward with the project they find it won't work in a certain part of the world. Or the pricing has gone up because of the tax implications from the different treaties that are in play. That’s where Orange Business Services can come in with a good local partner ecosystem to either solve the problem or avoid it in the first place.
TR: Does the current generation of SDN technologies match up to their needs, or is there work to be done on that front?
RW: In the enterprise world, it's far more complex. What enterprises are asking of the technology is far, far beyond how you would roll out a consumer product. Those programs are fairly straightforward with little differentiation in the mix. When it comes to global enterprise infrastructure, you have multitenancy factors and numerous virtual network functions that need to be orchestrated. This still gives basic SDN providers a headache. From an outside point of view they have progressed well over the last two years. But I still think not all of them are quite 100 percent there to satisfy all of the needs that big enterprise customers have.
TR: On what fronts have you been expanding the business?
RW: Orange Business Services has been investing quite a lot of money with acquisitions over the last 24 months. There have been three main acquisitions driven out of Europe. We bought a company called Business & Decision, an organization that focuses on data analysis and the value of business outcomes. A major talking point with our customers is helping them on their ‘data journey’ where they can turn their collected data into insights to inform and power their business. We already had some great capabilities in-house when it comes to data collection. We currently manage 17 million internet-connected devices and oversee the transport, security and storage of the data from those devices via our cloud services. What Business & Decision brings to the table is advanced data analysis – turning the data into usable insight. Talk to any enterprise today, and they’ll say, "I've got all this data. Everybody tells me I should get some value out of it. I need to analyze it." Business & Decision bolsters our capability to do just that. More recently we enhanced our cloud capabilities acquiring BaseFarm, a recognized name in parts of Europe. And we purchased a UK company in the last two months called SecureData, the largest independent cybersecurity service provider in the UK. With analytics, cloud and security enhanced in our portfolio, Orange Business Services can confidently guide enterprises through any stage of the data journey.
TR: What geographies within the Americas are you seeing the most opportunities today?
RW: Texas is one. We have always had a presence there, but oil and gas is coming back in a big way from where it was, so we are making sure we have the right people and support on that side of the business. On the West Coast we have always had a strong team there as Silicon Valley is a big hub for technological developments, and we’ve had some big customer wins of late We are also finding Latin America is quite strong at the moment. The countries where we have most activities are Chile, Brazil, and Argentina. We have a Major Support Center (MSC) just north of Rio, with more than 300 people. It's been growing for the last 10 years, supporting customers in the region and around the world in Portuguese and Spanish.
TR: What technologies still on the horizon today do you think have the most potential to shake up the infrastructure world?
RW: The two main technologies our customers are talking about lately are 5G and AI. 5G is clearly coming very quickly into the market in the next 12 months. A lot of our customers are asking about the B2B possibilities for 5G. Orange recently announced several joint innovation projects with companies in the manufacturing, energy and transportation industries to test and develop 5G uses. The full potential of 5G will really bloom in the next 2-3 years, with the potential to change how we live, shop, connect and do business. At Orange we view 5G and AI as opportunities to show our customers what these technologies can do for them to create new use cases and business models. That’s why our innovation centers are so important. We can outline how they can integrate new technologies into their business.
TR: What do you see as the biggest challenges ahead for Orange Business in the Americas? What keeps you up at night?
RW: We’ve been in North America for 70 years, but that doesn't necessarily mean that we're on the tip of every customer's tongue. They will automatically think of the big North American providers and assume they are the go-to telecom providers for the rest of the world. So the biggest thing for us is to get our name out there, demonstrating we have all these strong capabilities – globally – that many of the other big providers can’t match. We're more than just a telecom player. We have the technology, scale, expertise, feet on the ground and of course the global solutions to improve every facet of a customer’s business. Once customers are aware of our capabilities and that we understand their business, we like to think we can win them over.
TR: Thank you for talking with Telecom Ramblings!
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