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July 2018

Enterprise On-Demand SDNs: Consuming Networks as Easily as Swiping Right

Enterprise On-Demand SDNs: Consuming Networks as Easily as Swiping Right

Software-Defined Networks, or SDNs, have arrived, and they are beginning to shake up telecom business models and create new opportunities.  Here’s our quick assessment of the four major categories of SDN we see:

  • Large Incumbent SDN — This is the SDN model that’s been oversold in the past few years.  It’s the vision that integrators and network equipment providers would build orchestration engines to lord over the vast legacy and modern networks of large incumbents — and operate them profitably.  This particular SDN model is fast losing support because:

    1. Incumbents now realize legacy networks are far too complex and costly to orchestrate on a grand scale;
    2. Nobody wants to spend big money integrating on-net circuits when nimble MSPs make a nice profit on WANs built from bountiful wholesale assets; and,
    3. Constantly-refreshed network asset and competitive intelligence software is available for incumbents from firms like Connected2Fiber.  These tools enable incumbents to profitably plug-in wholesale assets into their WAN designs.
  • Nimble MSP SDN — The second category of SDN models is employed by MSP/hybrid providers like GTT and Masergy.  At these firms, automation and profitable control over networks is so integral to their businesses that they don’t even advertising them as “SDN.” And part of their success is the relative simplicity of their model: they couple: 1) wholesale relationships with hundreds of access partners and 2) 100% on-net backbones.
  • Wholesale Provider SDN — International provider Epsilon Telecommunications is the first carrier to create an international wholesale ecosystem that enables partners to operate their own white-labeled SDN portals to manage the sale/lease/provision of their own and partner network components.
  • Enterprise On-Demand SDN — This last category is growing fast and could move in many exciting directions.  Today, it includes cloud connect and data-center-to-data-center interconnect.

Here to shed great light on opportunities in this Enterprise On-Demand SDN category is Jezzibell Gilmore of PacketFabric:

First things first, Jezzibell.  Congratulations on the $25 million in venture funding PacketFabric was recently awarded.

Well, thank you, Dan.  It is definitely going to help us grow.  PacketFabric is no longer a proof of concept — we have a great design and architecture for the network.  We’ve proven we can deploy to all these locations, quickly scale our network, and then instantly provision networking services through our user interface and full-featured API.

So, now we want to expand, which means we have to invest in a sales team — a global sales team.  Our customers are saying, “It is great what you guys have done in the U.S., and we’d love to be able to use your technology elsewhere in the world, so when are you going to get there?”

It’s really remarkable how small companies such as yours are offering these SDN fabrics in a telecom market long dominated by huge incumbents.

We are an SDN company and a connectivity-as-a-service provider.  Everything we offer is based on software defined networking.  Our mission at PacketFabric is to make network services easy to consume, and that doesn’t just come from software and automation.

For instance, we redefined the network business offering with our pricing structure and the ability to source network services on a month-to-month term.  Most companies in legacy telecom force you to buy services on much longer terms — a one-year minimum.

And in that case, I see a strong parallel to the cloud market where companies like Salesforce and AWS made their service consumer-friendly so they could knock down the walls of IBM, Oracle, and others.  You’re doing the same thing in the telecom space.

Totally agree.  Take our PacketDirect service as an example.  Our customers love it because it allows them to easily provision a point-to-point circuit using hundreds of gigs of capacity in a matter of minutes.  The service is easy to understand and our price is super competitive.

And we’re not just going after the telcos, either.  For example, our PacketDirect service has been a huge hit in the enterprise market.

I imagine your capability to provision services very quickly makes PacketFabric an attractive choice for enterprises looking for on-demand network connectivity.

We have big visions, Dan.  We believe that everyone should be utilizing private networking and we see enormous interest from the enterprise market.  By contrast, the addressable market for carriers is rather small.

We believe the enterprise is an under-served market from a telecom perspective.  This is why we are very enterprise focused.

That’s interesting.  Can you tell me more about how enterprises expect to be served by telecoms these days?

The enterprises are becoming more sophisticated — they may not know what they’re looking for in telecom services, but they know what they want to achieve.

Above all, enterprises want to be consumers of networks.  They don’t want to build their own.  If they build something, they want to build the applications their companies need to support their business.

And they want to consume networking services right now and on-demand.  We live in an instant culture.  Smart phones, instant messaging — give it to me how I want it, and when I want it.  Enterprises need to have network services readily available.

It’s up to PacketFabric to deliver that to them.

As an example, imagine an enterprise IT manager who has a new project coming up.  They want to start the project in nine months, so they come to us.  They’re already expecting a long procurement cycle before they can begin consuming networking services, and people are simply amazed to learn they can turn up services on the spot with PacketFabric.

We hear stories from our customers about IT projects that got buried.  They say, “We were going to ditch this project because we couldn’t complete it on time.  But if we can have the network up right away, then we should put it back on our list.”

PacketFabric has the ability to meet the demand we’re seeing from the enterprise.

But we don’t want to leave anyone behind, and our carrier partners make up a lot of our business as well.  We have a carrier wholesale team, and we also work with international telecoms looking to establish a larger U.S. presence.

International telecoms who want to expand their footprint, reduce their costs and have added capacity are using PacketFabric’s network for their U.S. network extension.  Our platform makes it possible for other telecoms to expand their own networks, on-demand.

And all of this network on-demand feeds into cloud on-demand.

Right, what’s cloud without network?  If you can’t easily access compute and storage in the cloud, then you can’t take advantage of the cloud.

So, the enterprises not only use us for their private backbones, but also to reach cloud service providers.  To meet customer demand for scalable, secure connectivity to cloud providers, we’ve launched PacketCOR, our cloud on-ramp solution.

We have all the big players, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, IBM, and Google Cloud.  We’ve also added Salesforce to our roster of cloud service providers, and we’re currently working with Oracle to complete their Fast Connect program, too.

We also signed up some of the boutique cloud service providers, such as Packet and Webair.

I’ve heard it’s a bit of a hassle working with multiple cloud providers because they’re not eager to connect you to their rivals.

We make it easy to achieve a multi-cloud solution.  Many of our customers need to transfer their work processes between the cloud service providers.  PacketFabric can easily make that happen and even keep it all on the same port.

Customers are very much looking for hybrid cloud solutions.  They love working with the hyperscalers and having them available, but they also like boutique cloud players for their managed and professional services.  Managed service providers are useful because they allow customers to avoid staffing a super-specialized IT team, and they’re especially useful when you’re doing something hard like a data migration.

What the boutique cloud service providers often offer is a more customized solution.  They couple their own cloud environment with help on getting the most out of the hyperscale players.  They’re providing an incredible boost to cloud adoption.

In today’s market, cloud on-ramp is fast becoming table stakes.

I had a nice conversation with Megaport and they are building their company on cloud connect on-ramps.

Many of the new customers we’re gaining have used Megaport and really enjoy their service.  However, these customers are coming to us for additional capacity and redundancy.

PacketFabric is a highly scalable, private network, and private connectivity-as-a-service company: that is our core business and focus.  Cloud on-ramp gives our customers additional capabilities for using our network.  Is it something so innovative?  Not really, but it’s useful, and we launched our cloud connect product as a value-add to our customers.

Now much of this trend centers around how clouds and computer storage have grown.  It started when people said, “Oh, I need some extra compute cycles, but I don’t have the time to go do it myself, so let’s use AWS or IBM to get it done.”

Once people saw success with offloading minor computing tasks to the cloud, they thought, “Hmm, maybe I can use the cloud for my production network.”

But a production environment needs far more capacity.  And even though the cloud can support high compute and storage needs, most cloud on-ramp services don’t go beyond 10 Gig.  This is where PacketFabric can deliver much higher capacities on demand, even in cloud connectivity.

So companies are coming to us and saying, “We’ve had good experience with the likes of Megaport, and we are now coming to you for additional capacity.”

Let’s talk more about high capacity use cases.  What enterprise computing and networking trends do you feel are really driving the business?

It’s a fast-growing market.  The proliferation of cloud is one big driver, and another factor driving up capacity requirements is data is being delivered in higher resolution, and it’s often poorly written software that lacks compression algorithms.

To be honest, big companies doing lots of compute move slowly to the cloud.  What they typically do is keep their data center compute and a disaster recovery location where they store data.  Then, when they go to the cloud, they use different cloud service providers for compute processing that fits specific applications.

Cloud connectivity is a big driver, but it’s not the only factor the enterprise is considering.  Companies need to have a private network that connects to their primary data centers, their disaster recovery data centers, and a few of their cloud service providers.  So, from their perspective, they want to have one network that does this all.

Companies are saying, “I need a comprehensive and easy solution.”

And the comprehensive solution is about building a private network, accessing all the cloud providers, and being able to reach the internet exchanges to source IP transit services.  Customers are looking to be a consumer of multiple network services, and they want the process to be simple.

Another big driver for our customers’ need to reach cloud computing resources is the increased use of Big Data analytics.  Every piece of data ever collected is being centralized and analyzed by compute.  So that really bakes in an increased need for added transport for storage, distribution, s well as compute.

PacketFabric provides a comprehensive networking solution in the easiest and most convenient fashion through the portal.

I agree with you about analytics.  Every time you buy a book on Amazon they suggest 20 other relevant books you might want to buy.

Absolutely.  It’s adding psychology to compute.  A predictive algorithm looks at your shopping behavior and puts an offer in front of you.  Incredible concept.

And remember: analytics need to be accessed in real-time, requiring more network resources.  The same thing is happening in healthcare records.  Doctors need instant access to healthcare records, from notes the previous doctor wrote to download an X-ray or MRI scan.  The data is centrally-stored and doctors or physicians have to access them when they see you.  Now, think about it a bit, and you’ll see this real-time need for networking applies to almost every industry.

Jezzibell, thanks for this terrific update.  I learned a lot.  And great to hear that things are going swimmingly there at PacketFabric.

Dan, we’re hiring like crazy.  Last year, when you and I spoke, we had 20-odd employees, and we intend to get to 80-plus before the end of 2018, maybe even to 100 depending on how well we’re doing.  Offer letters are going out every week, and we are staffing up in every department: the company is growing.

Copyright 2018 Top Operator Journal


About the Experts

Jezzibell Gilmore

Jezzibell Gilmore

Jezzibell Gilmore is a co-founder and SVP Business Development at PacketFabric.  Jezzibell was an early stage employee of AboveNet Communications and Akamai Technologies, and previously served as VP of Operations at RoamData, as well as VP of Business Development for GTT.   Contact Jezzibell via

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