Q&A with Charles Ferland, VP of business development, Nuage Networks

17 October 2017 | James Pearce


We spoke to Nuage Networks VP of business development Charles Ferland on the Nokia subsidiary’s recent momentum, SD-WAN and future plans

Nokia charles Ferland

We spoke to Nuage Networks VP of business development Charles Ferland on the Nokia subsidiary’s recent momentum, SD-WAN and future plans

Do you see growth in the SD-WAN market and what does that look like?

We are seeing a lot of growth in the market but what is interesting is there are different approaches – some double digit growth. What is interesting is that customers are taking back control of visibility on their VPNs. They like the fact that there is an option for a managed service, but they don’t like the fact that there is a black box with no control in older systems. If there is a security breach, they need to contact their service providers and that can take time to sort out, which isn’t good enough for large enterprises.

With these products, yes, customers can have a managed service, however they also have the capability to log in on the platform and take some control themselves. That’s what is really driving the movement in SD-WAN – the visibility and ability to have control over the VPN.

What are the opportunities around SD-WAN for enterprises, service providers, and you as the vendor?

For enterprises, there are a few options. Some are going down the route of doing it themselves, buying directly from a vendor like Nuage, and deploying it and managing the service themselves. A number of enterprises have gone down that route and we support them.

Many are going down the managed services route, where the likes of BT offer a managed service platform, and in that space we are the engine. We are the component in the background, and for the enterprise, it is really the interaction with the front-end that is important. The service providers find other ways to differentiate themselves but we drive the technology behind it.

What are the biggest challenges around SD-WAN?

If I’m selling to a service provider I need to provide the nitty gritty details about how the product works. But if I’m talking to customers, it is actually a lot easier. Compared to IP MPLS, it is a very complicated technology and customers don’t want to hear about it. With SD-WAN we’ve achieved a very high level of explanation where we can direct specific traffic over an internet link, and other traffic across a private link. So they can have the choice about what applications are using say their IP MPLS and what traffic is using the internet.

It’s a lot more intricate but it can be a lot easier to explain. For the service provider, we need to go into a lot more detail.

What products do most customers start with?

It is a journey. I haven’t seen a customer yet who wants to tackle all these aspects. Some customers start in the SD-WAN side because they are revamping their WAN, but then after overhauling their network, they deploy in the data centre months later. And some start in the data centre but then want to integrate into their branches so they deploy an SD-WAN solution.

Tell me about Nuage Networks’ portfolio – what are its strengths?

If companies are using multiple orchestration tools then you want a solution that can plug into most type of orchestration options. You don’t need to have the entire VMware or Cisco stack to use our tool. That’s one aspect.

We also offer strong security. We create a very small surface for a potential attack, so if one application is attacked by a hacker, they can’t have access to everything else in a data centre. 

BT recently launched an SD-WAN product based on Nuage’s technology – what can you tell us about that?

We started a year ago with BT but the product has just been launched for general availability. It is very interesting and very rewarding because we were already working with BT, but now we’re bringing SD-WAN, a new type of connectivity, with them. That shows that Nokia is still very relevant to BT in developing next generation services. What we are developing is the ability to mix and match the legacy environment with new types of technology – over-the-top SD-WAN, a hybrid solution. It is drawing the interest of a lot of customers so far.

Can you tell me about any recent successes Nuage Networks has experienced?

We’ve been focussing on service providers and large enterprises, but in China, we’ve seen a lot of success with the service providers – especially in cloud – and that kept our resources quite busy. China Pacific Insurance Company (CPIC) is really our first large win in China on the enterprise side.

It’s an insurance company in China and it shows in China – like everywhere else – we have a value proposition available for large enterprise. CPIC, for example, is building its own private cloud. It’s building an on-premise cloud platform and they asked us to work with them to deploy a network virtualisation layer so they can make network deployment a lot faster, improve security between applications, and do this more efficiently regardless of the cloud system they are using – it brings flexibility.

They are building on-premise but on the same platform, policy engine, and controller is also the same one used to program branch connectivity for VPN – SD-WAN. It’s not just an SD-WAN or data centre product, it’s all one platform. For CPIC, they are deploying in the data centre, but down the road, they have 87 branches that need to be connected and that is another reason that appealed to them. Eventually they can employ an SD-WAN solution without having to go through a complicated deployment.