SD-WAN, the new MPLS.

Software-Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) is one of the most disruptive technologies to come to the fore and is impacting MPLS providers’ revenues. Many MPLS incumbents find themselves without an SD-WAN offering because they simply don’t have the ability to rapidly adopt new technologies and take them to market, and do not want to erode existing revenue streams.

Businesses should be cautious about signing new or extending their existing MPLS contracts. The cost, inflexibility and slow time to delivery is making MPLS an archaic technology and one which inhibits cloud migration and future growth.

Cloud migration has increased the urgency for transforming wide area networks. According to Gartner 30 – 50 percent of large enterprise traffic is shifting to the cloud, changing traffic flows and making traditional WAN suboptimal, meaning the cloud is becoming the network.

Here are five compelling reasons to make the switch to SD-WAN sooner rather than later.

1. Agility, flexibility and cost saving

Businesses currently rely on an MPLS provider that can take days (even weeks) to process requested changes. Enterprises turning to SD-WAN, however, stand to benefit greatly from being able to quickly change policies and provide new services without having to get a provider involved. The technology gives enterprises full control and flexibility.

In a retail environment, the rapid provisioning and closing of a site is paramount. With SD-WAN, IT departments can take available off-the-shelf bandwidth, whether it is fibre, ADSL, LTE or satellite and plug the connectivity into the SD-WAN device and the site is live within minutes, at a fraction of the cost.

With SD-WAN, a typical site can be between four and ten times more cost-effective with the same service level agreement (SLA) as MPLS, depending on the current MPLS service provider used.

2. Quicker provisioning of services

More enterprise applications are moving to the cloud. A fact confirmed by IDC, which states that 80 percent of new applications will be deployed in the cloud by 2030.

With SD-WAN, an IT department has the ability to insert a new service into its network in minutes instead of weeks. Thanks to a central orchestrator, configuring the rules – business logic rules as opposed to very technical rules, is simple. Once the rules are applied, the SD-WAN infrastructure will replicate them to the edge devices and sites.

However, when relying on MPLS, the IT department has to discuss the decision to use a new application or cloud service with its MPLS provider. There can be cost implications and it can take several months to ensure that the MPLS network can reliably carry the new service’s traffic across the network.

3. Insight into the network

IT departments and network administrators can have complete insight into their network. They no longer have to log tickets with their service provider to find out the status of a link or site, or make firewall changes. They can have complete visibility through the SD-WAN orchestrator of which sites are up, which ones are down and which ones are performing poorly and then take action to mitigate those issues.

4. Rising bandwidth requirements

According to the IDC, branches experience a 20 percent increase in enterprise WAN bandwidth per year with network traffic doubling every three years.

The immediate benefit of SD-WAN, bar the cost saving, is that an enterprise’s network will have more bandwidth available at a lower price. The result is that business can find ways to utilise that bandwidth to improve the experience of its customers and staff, and it can introduce new applications into its network.

Businesses want to offer their customers new services, including video and guest Wi-Fi. Higher bandwidth applications, such as High Definition video, will typically drain the MPLS network, but with SD-WAN, businesses offload that traffic onto cost-effective internet links.

5. Hybrid deployment

Enterprises currently locked into MPLS contracts can consider a hybrid deployment that combines MPLS with internet off-the-shelf links into the SD-WAN infrastructure.

The advantage of SD-WAN is its ability to leverage existing links and over time, as the ease and usability of the system becomes apparent, and as the SLA matches that of MPLS, the MPLS links can be phased out.

It is advisable to work with a managed service provider that has both MPLS and SD-WAN experience so that it can consult on a hybrid environment that meets the business’s SLA criteria.

IT departments have lost control of their corporate networks for far too long. The time is now for businesses to take control of their networks and gain scalability, insight, cost-saving, bandwidth and ultimately future growth.

Post written by Greg de Chasteauneuf
CTO
Saicom Voice Services (PTY) LTD

Flexibility, service excellence driving businesses to smaller service providers

Frustrated South African businesses are increasingly turning to smaller telecommunications service providers, drawn by their ability to innovate and craft bespoke solutions that are backed up by a higher quality of customer service.

More than just a good sale or good installation experience, it’s the after sales service that helps smaller telecoms service providers differentiate themselves. Businesses are tired of having to make endless support calls, as well as the seeming lack of urgency with which their problems are addressed. They want to be more than just another number to their service provider.

Accountability, flexibility

Businesses are also looking for a single point of accountability, and smaller providers are able to offer just that, by ensuring that as far as possible, all services are provided in-house. Too much outsourcing, or selling too many services often causes confusion for the customer who can never be sure who to contact in the event of a problem.

Larger providers not only lack agility when it comes to customer service, but can also be inflexible in their product offering and pricing. Their smaller counterparts, however, do not encounter the same struggles, and have also been far quicker to automate many processes and systems, meaning they are able to speed up the decision-making process and provide innovative solutions to their customers.

While smaller service providers like us might have defined products and pricing structures, we are far more willing to engage with clients who want something different, and to tailor a solution to meet the requirements. This includes being able to customise the services included and the contract duration.

Providing a more personalised level of service also allows for a deeper understanding of the customer. In turn, this enables the service provider to upsell products that can help the customer further enhance their business, over and above the benefits resulting from use of the base product sold.

Service is key

Working with a smaller service provider offers businesses this level of service: unlike with large-scale providers where customers don’t have access to senior company executives, key decision makers at smaller service providers are often just a phone call away.

Our management team for example participates in WhatsApp groups with our customers, allowing these key team members to be kept abreast of problems affecting customers, and to directly intervene should the need arise.

Having this clear escalation path means issues that are difficult to resolve through the customer support centre are brought to the attention of senior staff timeously. Even in situations where an issue cannot be resolved immediately, it’s about ensuring that the customer knows the problem is being attended to, and then managing expectations.

It is vital that smaller service providers master this: companies are looking for customer references when it comes to choosing a telecoms service provider, and quality after sales service provided to a key client can lead to positive referrals, and potentially new business going forward.

 

Post written by Kyle Woolf
CEO
Saicom Voice Services (PTY) LTD

SD-WAN to simplify business IT, unlock new opportunities

With much being done in 2016 to raise awareness and demystify Software-Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN), larger enterprises in South Africa are starting to come to grips with the full range of benefits, and new business opportunities that are opening up by turning to this relatively new technology.

The IDC estimates that worldwide SD-WAN revenues will exceed $6-billion in 2020 with a compound annual growth rate of more than 90% between 2015 and 2020.

Locally, the technology is gaining traction particularly in the retail sector. Despite several challenges, including companies being locked into long-term MPLS contracts, few understand that the benefits extend beyond a cost conversation, and many confuse the solution with Software-Defined Networking (SDN).

Early adopters are seeing value, with SD-WAN providing increased bandwidth at a lower cost, while also enabling them to reduce overall operational expenditure.

In retail, this increased bandwidth availability enables new business strategies, including the delivery of High Definition video and rich multimedia to stores, and provision of guest Wi-Fi for customers, while at the same time allowing for transactional data to traverse over a PCI 3.0 compliant network.

In a digital era, businesses need to ask themselves whether MPLS is helping or hindering their future growth. Companies that continue to resist change may not only end up spending more than necessary on legacy networks, but also face being leapfrogged by competitors using SD-WAN to enable new digital strategies and provide better customer experiences.

Simplifying business ICT

According to the IDC, benefits of SD-WAN include cost-effective delivery of business applications, meeting the evolving operational requirements of modern branch sites, optimising software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud-based services such as UC&C, and improving branch-IT efficiency through automation.

As the technology matures, it is starting to compete with more of the ICT stack in businesses. Vendors now integrate advanced software-based protection against cyber threats, bringing them into competition with next-generation firewall providers – and this is only the beginning.

There is a big shift toward simplifying enterprise networks by doing away with the multitude of devices currently needed at a branch level, such as routers and firewalls. The goal is to have a centralised orchestration panel that provides complete control, and a simple device on the edge – SD-WAN brings us a step closer to achieving that.

Businesses currently rely on an incumbent MPLS provider who can take days (even weeks) to process requested changes. Enterprises turning to SD-WAN, however, stand to benefit greatly from being able to quickly change policies and provide new services without having to get a provider involved. The technology gives enterprises full control, flexibility, and insight into their network.

SD-WAN in Africa and beyond

We’re starting to see a growing interest in SD-WAN from companies operating across Africa, where several large incumbents have monopolised the telecoms space, and have kept the per-megabit price of MPLS services extremely high in their respective markets.

By switching to SD-WAN, businesses can plug into any connectivity available – fibre, ADSL, LTE or satellite – and have an MPLS replacement at a fraction of the cost.

Further abroad, large carriers are actively exploring how they can use SD-WAN to complement existing MPLS strategies and provide customers with a complete networking offering. For example, in the US, Sprint and AT&T have partnered with VeloCloud, while globally, Tata Communications has turned to Versa for SD-WAN provision, giving the technology added credibility.

The technology is proving itself locally and internationally, and as long-term MPLS contracts come to an end, SD-WAN becomes a reality for more businesses. It is here to stay, and is becoming a major disruptor to MPLS VPNs.

Post written by Greg de Chasteauneuf
Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Saicom Voice Services

A mindset change required to mitigate cyber attacks

Network security is a global risk and enterprises are spending millions on securing their corporate networks, yet they are still being attacked. Greg de Chasteauneuf, chief technology officer at Saicom Voice Services takes a look at why there needs to be a mindset change.

“The cybersecurity industry as a whole needs to ask itself what the most significant development over the past twenty years has been, because the reality is that companies are being compromised and held to ransom more frequently,” says de Chasteauneuf.

The current mindset is very much that of perimeter security – a firewall boarding the trusted and untrusted networks. Most companies believe this is enough, the reality is that it is not. Today’s threats come from everywhere, not just the untrusted networks, and many of these attacks render the traditional perimeter firewall useless.

Haroon Meer of Thinkst Applied Research agrees. “Firewalls have had a good run but they offer very little to protect companies against phishing or application layer attacks. For most of the more common attacks seen today, firewalls are no roadblock, in fact they barely count as a speed bump.”

Human beings are often the weakest link and it is a company’s own employees who can punch holes in its network. It can be unsuspecting employees opening emails that have been socially engineered to fit their lifestyle profiles or a disgruntled staff member with an axe to grind who shares confidential information. Anyone can buy an inexpensive cellular modem device and plug it onto a network, and this causes a big vulnerability.

The point is, if someone is snooping on a company’s network, it needs to know about it. “This is where deception technology steps in. The industry will see an important move back to host security and honeypots to detect and mitigate lateral movement within the trusted local-area network (LAN)” says de Chasteauneuf.

Gartner identified deception technology as one of its top ten technologies for information and security in 2016. Deception technologies create fake assets, for example a password file, a customer list or a payroll document and if an attacker tries to attack these files, it is a strong indicator that an attack is in progress.

Deception technologies exist for network, application, endpoint and data with the optimal systems combining multiple techniques.

Next generation tools like Thinkst Canary reliably set off an alarm when an active attack is discovered. They are simple, effective and alert a company when it needs it most.

“Companies have spent millions of rands on security tools that have achieved almost nothing, except for giving them a false sense of security. A quick look at recent headlines shows that those companies are now paying the price for it. Thinkst Canary forces attackers to reveal themselves, allowing companies to quickly discover an attack when their other security controls have failed,” says Meer.

Enterprises should look at deception technology tools that are simple and quick to deploy, require no firewall or infrastructure changes, are scalable and have zero administrative overheads.

Companies expect that hugely complex solutions are needed because of the enormity of the problem, but sometimes it is the simplest of solutions that are the most valuable.

“Canary works like an alarm system that can be setup in minutes and offers companies peace of mind. This allows them to remain focused on their core business,” adds Meer.

Once an active attack is discovered it then leads to the next phase – managing and responding to the attack.

This is where managed security services like Saicom Voice Services will play a role. PwC’s Global State of Information Security Survey 2017 found that 62% of survey respondents use managed security services for cybersecurity.

The reality is that very few organisations will have the commercial means to deploy and maintain a cybersecurity task team, as such, outsourcing of this function will be the norm.

“Security will continue to be high on the CIO’s agenda in 2017 and in time will become the most important requirement when making any IT decision in the future. Forward-thinking organisations will start to deploy deception technologies and adopt managed security services to monitor and mitigate risks,” concludes de Chasteauneuf.

 

Post written by Greg de Chasteauneuf
Chief Technology Officer (CTO) – Saicom Voice Services

SD-WAN enables and optimises cloud migration

As enterprises move their applications into the cloud and enable their mobile workforce to consume cloud applications, they need a network that is responsive to this migration. Greg de Chasteauneuf, chief technology officer at Saicom Voice Services takes a look at software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) and the risks businesses face from not making a timeous switch.

The benefits of SD-WAN are convincing. It allows organisations to regain control of their wide area network and internet connectivity; deploy and configure or re-deploy a site within minutes and obtain insight into the network as to which users and applications are consuming resources and to prioritise, block or throttle traffic.

In fact, Gartner believes that by the end of 2019, 30% of enterprises will use SD-WAN products in all their branches, up from less than 1% today.

According to de Chasteauneuf, businesses risk missing out on the opportunity to capitalise on cheaper bandwidth and to future proof their networks if they don’t make the switch to SD-WAN.

“The risk to businesses is that they won’t be able to take advantage and quickly adopt the downward trend of low-priced internet connections,” he says.

From a legislative perspective, there is a compliance risk around the Financial Intelligence Centre Act (FICA) and the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI) if data encryption is not Payment Card Industry 3 (PCI) compliant.

SD-WAN offers instant value to an IT administrator, whereas the chief financial officer is looking for an immediate saving. An initial capital and operational expenditure is required on a network.

“SD-WAN doesn’t offer a substantial saving upfront, but it does allow a business to grow into additional available bandwidth and flexibility on its network over time and it will see a return on its investment within a three year period,” he adds.

The local norm in terms of wide area networking is MPLS WAN with a number of firewall vendors in the mix, but they are application not connectivity aware, which means they’re unable to change their policies dynamically as the network conditions change, on a minute-by-minute and hour-by-hour basis.

SD-WAN requires an investment, but the reality is that enterprises are moving their workflow, accounting, sales and human resources applications into the cloud and these tools are less centralised. The ability to provide business priority on the application links in the MPLS network becomes impossible, because MPLS by its very nature is very static.

“SD-WAN empowers IT administrators to prioritise these applications very quickly and on the fly, and as network conditions change, so too will the policies. This is certainly not the case with MPLS, which over time will no longer be able to facilitate cloud migration,” de Chasteauneuf says.

SD-WAN is well suited to a multi-branch environment and especially the retail space, where stores are often quick to open, close and relocate. “A simple Edge device with everything in one box will have a site rapidly up and running and completely compliant, and when it is time to move, the box can simply be picked up and plugged into one or many broadband links,” he adds.

Companies are looking at three to five years to completely exit an MPLS network contract, so a hybrid model of MPLS and SD-WAN is advisable. “Such a model offloads traffic onto the SD-WAN network and over time lets the MPLS network fizzle out as contracts expire,” he says. The deployment to SD-WAN with a greenfield network that doesn’t have an MPLS network is less costly and provides an immediate return on its investment.

Access to reliable high capacity internet is a key enabler for business and SD-WAN allows organisations to not only prioritise traffic, but also does so by utilising cheaper broadband internet links.

SD-WAN aids optimised performance to cloud and centralised enterprise services. “Making the switch to SD-WAN is about future-proofing a business’s network to ready it for when inexpensive off-the-shelf bandwidth becomes available and to start using it within a few weeks instead of months,” he concludes.

Post written by Greg de Chasteauneuf
Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Saicom Voice Services

No more sleepless nights over legacy technology

Business decision makers usually have sleepless nights about aspects of their business they
can’t control, but making the move from legacy to current technology should never be one of
them. In fact, it should be an easy decision, a no brainer if you will.

No need to change if it works

The reality is that several businesses are not ready to make the move to current technology.
Many decision makers use the saying ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, whereas others get
nervous when confronted by the unknown.

When technology isn’t working, the switch to another or newer version is easy, but when a
solution is working, there is no reason to move, unless the new technology offers substantial
value.

For vendors, it becomes a value and cost saving discussion, which in itself gives IT decision
makers even more sleepless nights as they don’t want to be the ones agreeing to an
implementation that promises more, but in the end delivers less.

That said, the driving forces to switch to a new solution are often different for the business
owner, IT professional and financial officer. Yet, businesses shouldn’t underestimate the
pressure coming from their own staff.

Pressure from unexpected sources

The person who is experiencing pressure from staff is the IT professional as the company’s
workforce is using applications that are not within his / her control. For CFOs, it is about cost
cutting and if they do decide to spend more, they’ll need buy-in from the organisation to
enjoy the full value of the application. For example, if a unified communications (UC) solution
is implemented, but it doesn’t have buy-in from users, it becomes a plain telephone. Buy-in
is critical to ensure that a new implementation is successful.

However, the most practical approach is for staff to drive the move. When a young workforce
uses applications in their personal lives, such as instant messaging, and have the desire to
make use of them in an organisational context, their urgent requirements will push the
company to adopt new solutions much quicker.

The drop in bandwidth prices and the fact that so many business applications are moving to
the cloud are two additional driving forces that make the switch to current technology that
much more attractive for companies.

Stay relevant and ahead of the competition

Currently, we’re seeing mobility as the big driver for making the switch to cloud telephony,
but there is no doubt that UC will see a massive uptake locally. Businesses in developed
countries without UC are often considered irrelevant by their customers.
Companies need to take their networks and communication solutions from the 1990s to
2016. They have to be current with their technology or else risk losing customers because of
a poor communication experience.

In the short term, new solutions may cost business decision makers a fraction more, but they
can be certain that they’re at the cutting edge, giving them access to new found value in their
IT systems. New solutions, such as mobility, create efficiency from day one as well as a
competitive advantage. Ultimately, decision makers who future proof their businesses will be
better off than their competitors who turn a blind eye and choose to stick to legacy
technology.

Post written by Kyle Woolf
CEO
Saicom Voice Services (PTY) LTD

Unified communications’ productivity promise to SMEs

Unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) promise mobility, productivity and scalability, but why should business owners and IT managers of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) care and what are the real business benefits to them right now?

One of the biggest efficiency challenges faced by businesses today is scattered communications. Ineffective meetings and fragmented workflows are causing productivity to drop as staff switch between multiple applications, tasks and devices.

This is where Unified Communications (UC) steps in. The term describes the integration of real-time enterprise communication services such as Instant Messaging (IM), presence, voice, video and data sharing with non-real-time communication services such as e-mail.

Communication is rapidly moving from a fixed line infrastructure to the mobile handset through UC, aiming to make the workforce as mobile as possible.

The fact that employees want their cellphones to be the centre of their world means that tools and applications, both from a personal and professional perspective, need to sit on a central device. If they don’t, employees will figure out a way around a company’s systems to meet their communication and productivity needs.

Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends Report for South Africa 2016 found that executives see the redesign of organisations as a critical priority. The report states that companies are moving their structures from traditional, functional models toward interconnected, flexible networks of teams to become more agile and customer-focused.

This trend is fuelled by the need to adapt and innovate to stay closer to customers in the face of digital disruption, by changing talent demographics, including the influx of Millennials in the workforce, and the growing number of contract and part-time workers.

The need to communicate is always there and companies now do this through UC. However, the way we communicate is changing. With UC, presence status enables staff to know exactly what someone’s current online status is. Having IM means staff don’t have to escalate to a voice call as quickly as they would have in the past.

The 2016 edition of Deloitte’s predictions for the Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) sectors states that while there is a decline in the proportion of people making voice calls on smartphones, IM has seen the most rapid uptake among consumers since 2012. The proportion of adults using IM has more than doubled from 27 percent in 2012 to 59 percent in 2015 and volume has increased from 7 trillion in 2012 to 43 trillion in 2015.

But what is the real impact of UC&C to SMEs with 50 to a 100 users?

UC&C enables mobility and efficiency, as staff are not required to come back to an office environment to be productive. They can function as long as they have internet connectivity.

As businesses expand into other regions and markets, a mobile workforce allows a business to have a very soft landing in a new territory, and there is no longer a requirement to acquire an office or hosting space for a new division that doesn’t have a track record yet. A business can employ one or two people that work from home, allowing it to gauge the market and consider what can and can’t be done.

Twenty-first century SMEs are required to have bold appetites for change. They need to say goodbye to legacy systems and embrace new technologies and processes that will enable them to improve their interactions with their customers.

UC’s next step is to integrate enterprise messaging, cloud applications, contextual intelligence and other real-time communication and collaboration services, to empower teams to reach new levels of productivity from any network, device, and place.

Business owners and IT managers with the flexibility to adopt new technology now, will future-proof their companies for the next bout of change.

Post written by Kyle Woolf
CEO
Saicom Voice Services (PTY) LTD

Push to make 0800 numbers truly toll-free might backfire

While a new government regulation looks to make 0800 numbers free of cost for the caller, regardless of the network they use, high interconnect rates being proposed by some networks might actually push businesses away from toll-free numbers, and put the end user at a disadvantage.

Even though telephone numbers starting with 0800 are known as ‘toll-free’ in South Africa, they are not truly free of cost for the caller. It only applies when both the caller and person or company being called are on the same network, and in the local context that means the caller having to use a Telkom landline. Greg de Chasteauneuf, chief technology officer at Saicom Voice Services takes a look at the impact new regulations will have on businesses’ use of 0800 numbers.

The South African government through the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) is looking to make 0800 numbers truly toll-free, under new regulations put forward in the Government Gazette on 24 March 2016 (No. 39861), with ICASA amending the Numbering Plan Regulations, in terms of Section 68 of the Electronic Communications Act 205 (Act 36 of 2005).

Under this new regulation, toll-free numbers must be such that no charge is incurred by the caller, regardless of the electronic communication service used in originating the communication. The regulation further stipulates that this new toll-free framework needs to be implemented within a period not exceeding six months from the date of the regulations coming into force – in this case, effective 24 September 2016.

“There are a few pertinent questions that this new regulation brings up,” says de Chasteauneuf.

“When a call to an 0800 number is made from another network, an interconnect rate is applied. But if the originating licensee (the network used by the caller) can no longer charge their customer (the caller), how do they get compensated for the cost incurred to route the call over their network?”

The regulations allow for the receiver of toll-free communications (eg. a business) to have a commercial and technical relationship with a terminating licensee of their choice, with whom they can establish an agreed rate-per-minute for the calls which it receives. The terminating licensee will then pay the originating licensee an agreed rate for originating the call.

“This is where concerns arise, with two of the major mobile networks setting the interconnect rate for 0800 numbers at an over 400% premium when compared to the interconnect rate for ‘normal’ phone calls, and we fail to see how this is justified,” he says.

While the new regulations were undoubtedly promulgated in an effort to make things easier for the man on the street, Saicom Voice Services believes it was not fully thought out, and attempts by some networks to profit from this through implementing high interconnect rates might end up causing more harm than good to the end user.

“Such a huge increase in cost cannot be absorbed by terminating licensees, and will have to be passed onto their customers (the businesses wanting to make use of 0800 numbers). In the end, this will most likely result in companies with tighter budgets moving away from toll-free numbers toward other options, including Share Call or omni-channel communications,” says de Chasteauneuf.

By not regulating the cost of 0800 numbers, government is making them unattractive and effectively pushing businesses away from using toll-free numbers. “What started off as an effort to make toll-free truly toll free might backfire on government, and result in fewer toll-free numbers being used by businesses,” concludes de Chasteauneuf.

saicom-blog-image
Graphic source: Government Gazette, 24 March 2016 (No. 39861)

Post written by Greg de Chasteauneuf
Director / CTO
Saicom Voice Services (PTY) LTD

The benefits of using Software-Defined WAN for Unified Communications

Many organisations are starting to realise the benefits of Unified Communications (UC) as an essential tool that allows knowledge workers to collaborate using voice, video, desktop sharing, instant messaging and presence.

However, as these organisations begin to recognise the operational efficiencies these tools bring to their business and plan to implement it, their IT departments are left in the shadows to support, standardise and secure these deployments.

Today’s workers demand UC solutions and will find ways of achieving UC, even if they have to do so unofficially. This has resulted in a “shadow IT” concept whereby workers use services without explicit organisational approval or process which has left IT departments in a position where control and security are compromised.

One of the most beneficial features of using Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN) in your workplace is that it allows organisations to regain control of their IT activity while still allowing workers to maximise their user experience when using UC and other cloud based services.

How does SD-WAN achieve this?

It optimises, yet simplifies, the use of multiple public and private links 


With the promise of UC comes the burden on IT departments to provide high capacity branch links to support high definition video, voice and desktop sharing. Routing this traffic over traditional MPLS WAN’s constrains the organisation both commercially (high OPEX costs associated with MPLS links) and operationally (long deployment times for links and even link upgrades) leaving the knowledge workers unable to adopt UC tools to increase operational efficiencies.

SD-WAN allows organisations to unlock the power of UC by making use of multiple public and private links. With technologies like per-packet loadsharing, forward error correction (FEC) and jitter buffers, using “off the shelf” Internet Broadband links to provide a high quality of experience for UC has finally become a reality.

Separates data, control and orchestration plane and delivers network-wide policy and security

Managing the Quality of Experience (QoE) for UC (and other cloud applications) throughout various sites whilst making use of high-speed broadband links becomes an almost impossible task without a centralised orchestration plane.

SD-WAN allows the control and data plane to operate separately allowing the network administrator to centralise policy control for security and ensure QoE for real-time applications such as UC.

By separating the data and control plane, SD-WAN allows for central control of network-wide policy and security. From a central point, traffic can easily be blocked or demoted via a cloud-based orchestrator. Gone are the days of having to spend hours or even days building QoS polices to match traffic based on ports and IP’s.

With SD-WAN the policies are modified based on predefined polices (e.g. YouTube HD, Facebook Video) and deployed to all edge devices that subscribe to these policies.

Reduces recurring and capex costs of wide area networking 


Access to reliable high capacity Internet becomes a key enabler to your UC adoption. However, the cost of backhauling this over your MPLS WAN becomes somewhat commercially prohibitive, as you will inevitably need to increase the size of your site access links to accommodate for this traffic, especially in order to enable video conferencing in your UC app.

The other thing to consider is that you will be paying an increased OPEX cost for video, which is not utilised 24×7. SD-WAN allows you to not only prioritise UC traffic over other less important traffic, but also does so by utilising cheaper broadband Internet links. Offloading this traffic off your private MPLS network starts to make commercial and technical sense. This is a key contributor as to why Gartner believes that “By the end of 2019, 30% of enterprises will use SD-WAN products in all their branches, up from less than 1% today.”

Simplifies wide area networks with zero-touch deployment 


Deploying new sites, either over MPLS WAN or Internet, can become technically complicated and costly. Most deployments require complicated static configurations which require engineering resources to not only deploy but also maintain and make changes when inserting new services.

With SD-WAN, this is as simple as shipping a factory default device to site and enabling the site by one click provisioning. The onsite device will register with the orchestrator, download and activate its configuration based on centralised security and business priority policies, with SD-WAN your site is up and running in minutes not days.

Simplifies Insertion of services

Network service insertion in a MPLS WAN or Internet can be a very tedious and even expensive task. Adding say Salesforce.com or Broadsofts UC-One as a business priority application on your network usually means consulting with your ISP to make these changes across your entire network. Not only does this take time, but some providers charge for these QoS changes, and in my experience rarely get it right the first time.

SD-WAN not only allows for one-click service insertion and prioritisation but also allows optimised performance to cloud and centralised enterprise services and quick integration into cloud security services such as ZScaler and Websense.

Post written by Greg de Chasteauneuf
Director / CTO
Saicom Voice Services (PTY) LTD

You’re moving everything else into the cloud, why not your telephony?

So you have your company’s email, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system and firewall in the cloud already? In which case, is it so hard to believe that you can take your telephony system (also known as a Private Automatic Branch Exchange or PABX for short) to the cloud as well?

For many years, IT as a Service (ITaaS) has enabled enterprises of all sizes to leverage off of the specialist skills, software and equipment of service providers with Voice being the prominent exception.

Recently IT decision makers have been under increasing pressure to justify the monumental spend on telephony every couple of years when everything else is available, at arm’s length, as a service, month-to-month. The traditional arguments of onsite reliability and buying an asset that can be sweat for years no longer hold water.

So what is the new school of thought?

Why are organisations taking their telephony in the Cloud as a Service so seriously?

Well, there are a number of unbeatable benefits:

It’s about the money.
Whether you’re a small business required to commit thousands or a large enterprise looking to commit millions of Rands to an onsite telephony system, you’re tying up cash that could be put to better use.
Due to the fast pace of technology, your onsite PABX will need to be maintained and upgraded every 6-12 months by staff and all the integration done on installation will need to be updated and maintained. All of this adds a significant operating cost to the initial once off capital expense. Tin no longer has any value other than its weight as recyclable material.

The promise of cloud is zero capital expense with a fully inclusive and predicable operational expense.

It’s about the flexibility.
Does your telephony system need more functionality? In this instance, you can pay for more functionality. And, if you don’t need all the bells and whistles as you thought you did, it’s not a problem as you can downgrade easily and pay less.

Or perhaps you’d like to try out a new reporting feature, without taking formal ownership? Then you have the flexibility to have it deployed in the cloud FOR FREE for a trial period.

It’s about the scalability.
Cloud serves and provides a huge benefit to the small business by providing enterprise grade telephony features to the two or three extension business. At the same time, cloud serves the large corporate too by seamlessly scaling from one branch to many.

Queue your calls in the cloud and deliver them anywhere where you have spare capacity. You can also spin up a new branch or business in days or close down or consolidate a non-performing business unit without worrying what you are going to do with the infrastructure spend onsite.

It’s about reliability.
Your service provider has a vested interest to ensure that their platform is robust and reliable, more so than you’ll find you have on your existing telephony system. An outage on a hosted platform affects all clients, not just a single site so your provider will ensure they watch it like a hawk! Providers hosting in reliable data hosting facilities (such as Teraco in South Africa) will guarantee power, security and ensure high capacity Internet access via peering facilities such as NAP Africa.

The current Fibre land grab in the South African telecommunications market has driven the price of fibre connectivity lower than ever before making carrier grade IP connectivity a reality for many organisations in all segments. Furthermore, with the uptake of Software Defined Networking (SDN) and more specifically VeloCloud delivered Software Defined-WAN (SD-WAN) the ability to implement service provider independent connectivity, load balancing, and link redundancy has put the power in the enterprises hands.

It’s about the commitment.
Or lack thereof. An on-premise telephony solution is sticky. Moving to cloud gives you the freedom to walk away from a bad service provider and switch to something better. The ball is in the providers court to provide a rock solid service, if they drop it, they lose you; it’s that simple.

It’s about leverage.
Moving to the cloud allows you to leverage off of the best hardware, software and people in the industry. It allows you to choose and ally yourself with the service provider that best matches your business’s technological needs.

It’s no longer a question of whether you should move your telephony to the cloud, but a question of how and when. Today there are more Cloud telephony options for organisations to choose from than ever before. The market is on fire! The secret to successfully migrate your telephony to the Cloud is by pairing your company with the service provider that has the goldilocks mix of leading edge technology, industry expertise and rock solid support that you require.

Post written by Greg de Chasteauneuf
Chief Technology Officer (CTO) – Saicom Voice Services