20 Aug

Harnessing the power of a 'perfect storm'

There’s been a lot of discussion around SD-WAN technology since it emerged on the scene, and of course no end to debate around Australia’s national broadband network, the NBN – but while each of these offer a host of benefits in their own right, it’s when the two are combined that we’re told a true ‘sweet spot’ of opportunity is presented for businesses.

Can an SD-WAN/NBN combination really deliver the impacts to network resilience, performance and cost that it promises – or is this just sales hyperbole?  To better understand this relationship and the opportunities it presents, we spoke with our own Comscentre Executive Director, Cameron Quilty, and Commercial Head, Matt Veitch.

Veitch explained that to fully appreciate the power of the SD-WAN/NBN combination, it’s necessary to first understand that a fundamental benefit of SD-WAN technology is transport independence.  He explained that in order then to unlock the full potential and true value of SD-WAN, it’s necessary to break away from the traditional ‘carrier-led’ model.  “NBN does this by enabling businesses to be truly carrier agnostic.  It becomes this great equaliser, placing the power back into the hands of the business.”

It becomes this great equaliser, placing the power back into the hands of the business.

Quilty is quick to interject here, assuring us that this is by no means a mere throw-away line.  He explained that in the traditional carrier relationship paradigm, the carrier will look to roll out the SD-WAN solution on their own network.  The problem here of course, is that this completely negates the afore mentioned fundamental benefit of SD-WAN – its transport independence.  “It essentially relinquishes power back to the carrier, leaving the business beholden to a single supplier across its entire network,” he added.

Clarifying on what appeared to be an emerging theme, Veitch explained that this notion of ‘power’ was less about leverage, and more about control.  “With transport independence, the business has the ability to utilise different carriers across different regions, different sites, or even to manage multiple carriers across a single site – they can essentially pick and choose the best carrier, or carriers, for each scenario,” he said.

Veitch points out that there is no ‘one’ solution as it’s always going to come down to whatever is best for each specific business, across every one of their network end-points.  He goes on to explain that ultimately, the result for the business is increased network performance, resilience and uptime, as well as some significant reductions in operating costs.

...ultimately, the result for the business is increased network performance, resilience and uptime, as well as some significant reductions in operating costs.

It’s Managed Service Providers (MSPs), such as Comscentre, that facilitate this independence for their customers, managing multiple carrier relationships and not preferencing any one network over another.  NBN plays a big role here of course, and Veitch admits that NBN in many cases becomes the primary network transport.  Though he’s quick to assure us that Comscentre do not discount the other carriers and their respective network infrastructures in sourcing the best customer outcome.  “Each of the big carriers may have some role to play,” he adds.

Quilty points to Australia Post as a perfect example of this.  He tells us that Comscentre are currently managing four separate carriers within the Australia Post ecosystem via their enterprise network management platform, One Touch Control.  Though according to him, this could still yet grow to be more.

Quilty explains that Comscentre hold the carriers to account on behalf of the customer, and that the number of carriers managed on any network is a factor of both the specifics of the customer’s requirements, and the performance of the carries themselves.  “We’re managing these carriers based on SLAs and performance, so there will be times when we have to swap out underperforming carriers or services for others.  It puts us squarely on the side of the customer, ensuring their best interests are served across every aspect of their network environment.”

It puts us squarely on the side of the customer, ensuring their best interests are served across every aspect fo their network environment.

This approach gives Comscentre and their customers an ability to optimise the entire network at a micro level, ensuring the best possible outcome for the customer.  The proof is in the pudding however, and Quilty is quick to point out that Australia Post are already yielding some incredible results from their Comscentre led, SD-WAN/NBN network transformation.  “We’re delivering a far more resilient network for Australia Post,” he says, “with significant reductions in outages and network-wide uptime now well above 99.5%.”

While neither Quilty nor Veitch would speak to the specifics of operational cost reductions seen by Australia Post, they felt it suffice to say that the savings realised so far have been simply “quite astounding”.

“That’s money that can go back into Australia Post’s continual improvement of services to rural and remote Australian communities,” said Quilty.  “Frankly, I can’t think of a better outcome than that, particularly in times such as these when we’re all feeling more isolated than ever.”

With a national network of some 4,000 retail, corporate and parcel sorting facilities, Veitch admits that Australia Post is certainly at the ‘larger’ end of the scale.  He’s quick to point out though, that he believes it still makes for a great reference case for any business wanting to understand the many benefits presented by an SD-WAN and NBN network combination.

“The same benefits and rewards being reaped by the likes of Australia Post and Flight Centre are equally available to businesses of any scale, in fact, I’d argue even more so,” says Veitch.  “At the end of the day, this network solution is giving businesses visibility and control across their entire network, ensuring its optimum performance,” he adds.

...this is giving businesses visibility and control across their entire network, ensuring its optimum performance.

While this all sounds well and good, for most businesses, the thought of managing multiple carriers across a network, regardless of its size, is a daunting one.  However, Veitch is quick to remind us that this is precisely where the MSP comes into play.  More specifically, he tells us that this is where Comscentre’s One Touch Control platform comes into play.

Veitch says the One Touch Control platform brings the carriage and technology aspects together into an all-of-network, single pane of glass view.  “OTC gives the customer complete visibility and control over their entire network environment,” he says.  “It provides a full line of sight across the entire network and technology stack, but even more importantly” he explains, “it removes the complexity from managing a multi-carrier environment.”

“This is a really important point for us,” adds Quilty.  “Our purpose as a business is to bring simplicity to our customers, through innovation.  OTC does this.  It facilitates our purpose and is the beating heart of our organisation.”

Quilty adds that Comscentre’s value proposition in the Australian market is crystal clear – “we represent a safe and secure option for organisations embarking on large-scale, complex multi-carrier network transformations.”

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