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Charter Taps SD-WAN to Boost Off-Net Reach

Carol Wilson

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Spectrum Business, the enterprise arm of Charter Communications, is jumping into the SD-WAN market, but doing so in a way that is distinctively different from its telco competitors. Spectrum is leveraging its existing Ethernet footprint -- it is the fourth largest US Ethernet provider -- and a new customer portal to create an SD-WAN overlay using Nuage Networks' software.

The cloud-based offering, which Spectrum calls Hybrid Software-Defined Wide Area Network, doesn't require premises-based SD-WAN gear. It still gives enterprise customers the ability to manage their Ethernet services and a less expensive broadband connection (or other circuit) jointly through the portal, using policies the customer sets to route traffic based on application type or other factors, says John Dickinson, vice president of advanced commercial engineering for Charter.

He sees the SD-WAN service as a foundational way for Spectrum to increase its appeal to businesses that operate both inside and outside its regional footprint, giving the cable operator an attractive way to offer off-net connections.

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"We have a lot of Ethernet customers, and what we allow them to do is leverage that high-performance Ethernet circuit, along with SD-WAN for ubiquitous coverage," Dickinson comments in an interview here at MEF 17. The expectation is that customers will use SD-WAN over Internet access links to tie in remote sites that are off-net for Spectrum Business.

"The connections will be using their transport of choice - they can use broadband or a Type 2 circuit from us or another provider," Dickinson said.

The connection choices can be per-site, letting the customer build the network they choose. Spectrum is also offering cloud-based security, including virtual firewalls and intrusion detection/prevention, as part of the service. In addition, it's offering its Cloud Connect product, which provides secure automated connections to commonly used clouds such as AWS, Google and Microsoft Azure.

Spectrum does offer off-net links today, but they are primarily done using Type 2 circuits, ordered from other operators, that can take a long time to turn up. The expectation is that using SD-WAN on a broadband connection will be much faster and that delivering the visibility and control over the entire end-to-end service via the Spectrum portal will put customers more in control.

Spectrum has a customer portal already but this newly developed Hybrid SD-WAN portal enables more features, including application-level use of business policies for traffic routing and content filtering as well.

Dickinson didn't want to project service growth. But, based on Spectrum's field trial, he sees a lot of customer excitement around the SD-WAN offering.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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