Andy Gottlieb
Andy Gottlieb, co-founder of Talari Networks, was passionate about software-defined WANs, or SD-WANs, even before the term was conceived. Andy...
Read Full Bio >>

Andy Gottlieb | April 21, 2016 |


SD-WAN in the Contact Center: A Mission-Critical Application

SD-WAN in the Contact Center: A Mission-Critical Application With an SD-WAN solution focused on providing reliability, contact center operators benefit from higher quality calls and reduced spend.

With an SD-WAN solution focused on providing reliability, contact center operators benefit from higher quality calls and reduced spend.

Perhaps the hottest topic in networking these days is Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN), which is most often discussed in terms of connecting enterprise branch offices to headquarters, data centers, and perhaps cloud locations. The capabilities of some SD-WAN solutions to provide added network reliability and non-stop, continuous application uptime even in the face of network problems, however, make them ideally suited for one of the most mission-critical WAN applications: the contact center.

While a single location contact center has no need for SD-WAN technology, most contact centers today are multi-location, and often global, to provide cost efficiency, effectiveness, and 24/7 support capabilities. And even as some larger corporations continue to operate their own individual contact centers, the global contact center industry -- whose raison d'etre is providing high quality, cost effective services to other enterprises -- simply must provide service continuity to remain in business.

In fact, most contact center operators also want the ability to deliver tiered service to different customers, based on the unique needs of their industry and end customers. Whether for customer service, technical support, outgoing call banks, or other uses, the right SD-WAN solution offers contact center operators improved reliability and customer experience while also lowering costs, even as the applications used by call center agents become more centralized and more data intensive.

Contact centers were among the first users of voice over IP (VoIP), and as such have always required at least "four nines" (99.99%) network reliability. This has meant the use of MPLS for their internal private WAN, very often with dual MPLS networks. While expensive, such solutions have been necessary to maintain reliability and call quality.

Contact centers are seeing ever greater data demands on the internal network above and beyond the primary use in supporting high quality voice calls. Whether using private clouds, hybrid clouds, public clouds, or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), more and more of the applications used by contact center agents are being centralized, rather than distributed to each individual contact center location. Meanwhile, support for things like social media and video chat put further strain on network capabilities and WAN bandwidth.

Telephony Automated Call Distributors (ACDs) distribute calls among agents based on human availability, system capacity, agent skill sets, etc., but they don't take into account how the underlying WAN is performing. A properly designed SD-WAN solution can simultaneously deliver better customer experience, greater reliability, and the ability to offer different service levels, all while reducing network costs.


For such mission-critical use, what's required is an SD-WAN solution that delivers automatic, continuously improved reliability and application performance predictability across a WAN fabric comprising multiple connections at each location, some of which will be private connections like MPLS, while others may be Internet links. The key SD-WAN reliability technology here offers continuous unidirectional monitoring of network conditions across all WAN connections. Note that for VoIP, the typical round-trip measurements of network latency and loss that many SD-WAN solutions use are insufficient to make appropriate forwarding decisions; more than for other applications, one-way measurement of network performance is essential here.

With such precise unidirectional measurement, for real-time applications like VoIP and video conferencing an SD-WAN solution focused on reliability can provide literally sub-second response to network issues, without breaking existing application flows, so VoIP calls are maintained even in the face of link failure or bursts of high loss or jitter. Existing dual-MPLS solutions lacking such technology will almost certainly face dropped calls when a primary MPLS connection goes down.

Where sufficient bandwidth is available, it is even possible to provide still greater voice/video reliability by replicating real-time traffic flows along a second path (while suppressing duplicates at the receiving end). This delivers "perfect" sound and voice quality even given high congestion or outright failure on one of the WAN connections. Some SD-WAN solutions can even be configured to do such flow replication only when sufficient WAN bandwidth is available.

SD-WAN technology designed for mission-critical use can also enable more efficient use of existing WAN links. Given that almost all contact center WANs have a mixture of voice and other real-time traffic, together with interactive and more bulk traffic, the ability to use all WAN links at all times, in addition to the ability to safely use each link at higher sustained network utilization, can result in substantial Opex savings by postponing indefinitely the need to buy expensive bandwidth upgrades.

An SD-WAN offers other Opex savings to the contact center operator as well. The self-correcting nature of a smart SD-WAN solution lowers Opex costs and increases reliability still further, fixing network problems as they occur rather than simply reporting them, allowing WAN managers to spend less time on reactive troubleshooting, and more time on proactive efforts. And configuring an SD-WAN solution via centralized management is much simpler than endlessly fiddling with router settings, or depending on each individual MPLS provider.

Because of the large volume of calls contact centers must support, operators need to ensure that they look for an SD-WAN solution that scales to the number of locations and simultaneous calls they need to support. Some SD-WAN solutions scale well in terms of number of locations, without actually doing much to offer added reliability to real-time traffic like VoIP. Others might have such reliability technology, but not have a proven ability to scale in terms of numbers of locations, multiple links, simultaneous calls (application flows), and mixing and matching MPLS and Internet links. The ability to provide reliability and application predictability typically requires per-packet forwarding decisions as well as the ability to support thousands of flows and several links per location. So it is critical to find an SD-WAN vendor that can handle the load while providing this added level of reliability -- preferably one with multiple customer references to which it can point.

With an SD-WAN solution focused on providing reliability, contact center operators get a number of benefits: They get greater network reliability and uninterrupted, higher quality calls even in the face of circuit failure or degradation due to bursts of network congestion. They can safely sustain higher link utilization from each network connection. They can replace one of multiple MPLS connections with an Internet-based link without compromising on quality -- in fact, providing higher reliability and fewer dropped calls than existing approaches.

And while few contact centers are likely to forgo a private WAN alternative entirely, with the right SD-WAN solution some remote outposts, where MPLS might not be available at all or only at prohibitive cost, can safely use only multiple Internet connections. In any case, the SD-WAN solution can allow the contact center operator to cap their spending on those expensive MPLS connections while augmenting them with lower cost, high bandwidth Internet circuits. Given that the cost per bit of MPLS bandwidth can now be anywhere from eight to over 150 times higher than the cost of Internet bandwidth, the ability to have even part of a global contact center operation's WAN needs met with Internet connectivity can result in significant cost savings.

So while branch offices may get all the attention when it comes to SD-WANs, many contact center operators, for whom continuous uptime, consistent performance and high voice quality are paramount, are the ones already seeing the benefits from SD-WAN technology.


October 24, 2018

With disparate workplaces and ever-expanding volumes of information to manage, the challenges for collaborating effectively are only intensifying. Many critical applications are not integrated, and

October 10, 2018

Businesses are growing across international borders quicker than ever, but scaling operations to follow suit can be a harder, longer process.

This webinar focuses on scaling your next-generat

September 26, 2018

Join Kevin Kieller, Microsoft UC&C expert, along with Ribbon Communications and Polycom, for an update on Microsoft Ignite, and a focus on critical things you need to know about your voice deployme

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.