Verizon: Get the Gray Out

Network operator learns the hard way that enterprise customers know what a real white box is and won't settle for less.

June 6, 2017

3 Min Read
Verizon: Get the Gray Out

DALLAS -- SD-WAN Strategies for Success -- Verizon expects its vendor partners to embrace a true white-box strategy, because that’s what its customers are demanding, Shawn Hakl, vice president of product and new business innovation, said here today.

Speaking bluntly about what has worked as Verizon rolled out SD-WAN services and what hasn't, Hakl admitted the early universal CPE solutions, rolled out in 2016, looked much more "gray box" than white box, and didn't meet customer expectations or needs. A real commercial off-the-shelf server is an easier commitment for enterprises to make because they know that gear can be more easily discarded or reused, he said.

"If you want customers to move faster and adopt quicker, take the risk out," Hakl noted. "My customers are willing to wait for a true white box." Asking them to commit to even a slightly telecom-specific box that is going to be outdated very quickly doesn't work.

Figure 1: Verizon's Shawn Hakl

The Verizon executive also encouraged vendors to come with a software-only strategy, and be prepared to deploy their own virtual network functions on existing white boxes. Insisting on tying software sales to hardware or trying to do it all is actually a riskier strategy since vendors are likely to find themselves completely shut out, Hakl said.

"If you are trying to build a use case without putting multiple functions per box -- you are not going to get there," he commented. Vendors must "make sure your stuff works across multiple VNFs." In fact, those that enable their VNFs to work on customers' existing boxes will make money faster.

"The faster we make that happen, the faster we all start making money -- and as much as we want to beat you [vendors] up on price, we view it as a positive when all of us start making money."

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For Verizon, SD-WAN "has already gone mainstream," Hakl noted. "I haven't seen many large transformation deals going forward moving forward with traditional solutions."

Enterprises transform for multiple reasons -- regular technology refreshes, prepping for the Internet of things and more -- he said, but what is uniform is that everyone is moving with SD-WAN or "waiting until they are ready to move forward with SD-WAN."

That doesn't mean MPLS is being displaced -- quite the contrary, Hakl says, in fact, MPLS sales are ticking up but that service is being used for the applications that need security and dedicated bandwidth. What Verizon enterprise customers seek from adding SD-WAN is the ability to "expand the range of options as they digitize their business."

SD-WAN is giving Verizon some extra tools to take more sophisticated services down market to small to mid-sized businesses, Hakl said. "The sophistication of services we can sell further down market has gone up dramatically because of this," he said. "We are able to deliver a more positive and easier experience for our customers."

Hakl also shared some of the tough lessons Verizon has learned about how to orchestrate across the network technology and service siloes and give customers the services that are tailored to their applications, while becoming more predictive in identifying network problems, and addressing them proactively. Light Reading will have more to share on those comments in coming days.

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

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