Join Experience, a startup carrier out of Luxembourg, is looking to become what it calls the first European service provider built from the beginning to combine telco and IT in a single offering. Network virtualization is fundamental to that strategy.
Join's plan is to build an overlay network on all the European operator networks. It launched initially in Luxembourg in February, with 50% ownership by the Luxembourg government. It expanded to Belgium this week and plans to spread to France and Germany next year.
Join serves three markets: For consumers, it provides mobile, prepaid service, broadband and TV. In the SMB market, it combines telco and cloud products. And in the enterprise, Join provides mobile device management and machine-to-machine connectivity, as well as brokering for commodity services such as virtual desktops and mail.
The startup has more than 200 employees and was built in partnership with Chinese network equipment provider ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763), which also owns a stake in the company. Join has two data centers in Luxembourg built with ZTE.
Key to Join's success is the integration of its customer information repository and service portfolio information using ZTE's ZSmart OSS/BSS software, which is integrated with Parallels Inc. Automation for provisioning external cloud services, such as Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) Office 365, says JOIN CIO Michael Mossal. ZSmart gives Join's customers the ability to track their own billing and usage in real time and not have to wait for monthly bills. ZSmart automatically offers upsell opportunities to the customer on additional products if he or she hits a certain threshold.
Join can also create packages of individual services. For example, a business customer who uses Office 365 can use that service throughout Europe without facing additional charges they'd pay using other Internet services. The same is true for other cloud services, as well as Skype and WhatsApp.
And SMBs can package Office 365 or another hosted Exchange services, backup, web hosting, design, email marketing and phone, all in a single bundle, which appeals to small businesses looking for simplicity, Mossal says.
Small businesses are no longer "reluctant to go to the cloud," Mossal says, adding, "the problem is they don't know how to do it, and they don't want to deal with 15 different companies. We offer a single sign-on and a portal where they can manage the services." Likewise, Join signs contracts with third-party service providers, and then presents a single contract to its customer.
Join can provide that level of flexibility because it has virtualized its network, using VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW) NSX, Mossal says.
"We have a chance to do it right because we didn't start with any legacy," Mossal says. Where non-virtualized networks require days to spin up new services for a new customer, Join can do it in less than an hour using network virtualization, the CEO adds.
JOIN considered alternatives before choosing NSX, including Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), OpenFlow and OpenDaylight . But NSX was more mature last year when Join was making its decisions, Mossal says.
The company developed a layer model for its infrastructure, with standard interfaces between data center, server, storage, hypervisor and application layers, using building blocks for components. "If you want to extend capacity and performance, you just bring in new building blocks -- that's the storage part, the compute part or whatever," Mossal says. If switches crash, they're easily swapped out for new hardware without interrupting service.
Like Join, London-based carrier Colt Technology Services Group Ltd looks to NSX from VMware to provide network virtualization and flexibility. We wrote about Colt in August: Colt Pulls the Trigger on Data Center Virtualization.