Two factors are driving this accelerated pace of change:

  • As apps move at pace to the cloud, the need for a better pipe with more rigorous SLAs has become paramount.
  • Supporting this move, fibre pricing has plummeted, making Ethernet Everywhere an affordable solution, giving both superior bandwidth and superior reliability.

The results of bold deployments can be nothing short of spectacular.

One Gamma customer with 130 sites moved from copper EFM backed up with legacy DSL to full fibre. Providing a 10 X increase in bandwidth, Gamma’s dual Ethernet solution has slashed communications costs by 20%; in round numbers saving £40k a month and £480k a year.

The conclusion to be drawn from this example is inescapable: a lot of enterprises with legacy WANs are now paying a lot of money for a distinctly inferior service.

It’s official: Copper’s days as the go-to medium for carrying data over the final mile are numbered. Analysts have been predicting it for some time, and now reality is rapidly catching up. As evidence: Every significant WAN contract won by Gamma in the last 12 months involves enterprises cutting loose from metal and moving to glass. In unified communications, fibre is the new black.

But what about SD-WAN?

Gamma’s Director of Network Solutions Alex Ayers has some valuable advice for IT and ICT managers asking this question. His first suggestion is that people should not get too carried away. “It’s not the only issue when looking at your future WAN.

At Gamma we have a technically strong and very competitive SD-WAN solution, but we still caution that SDWAN is not a universal silver bullet. It is use-case driven and we’ve found UK-centric organisations get much more value from high performance, low latency connections with higher, more robust SLAs.

The advent of affordable Ethernet Everywhere has changed the question in this context. Ultimately, all networks are moving to a software-based model, and SD-WAN is one key part of the overall value we can deliver in this area.”

Gamma is in a unique position of strength, able to deliver Ethernet Everywhere at a scale, speed and cost that satisfies enterprises’ operational and commercial needs. Partly this is a result of Gamma’s existing working relationships with the UK’s carriers – it spends over £90m a year with one data partner alone. But buying power only goes so far. It has to be matched by a world-class project managed delivery ability, and that’s where Gamma also excels, with people and proven processes unmatched by any other provider.

Observes Ayers: “Moving to high capacity wide area networking is out with the old and in with the new, but it is hardly ever as simple as that. In most organisations it’s a case of dealing with ragged-end contracts on legacy infrastructure, devising and executing a plan to implement interim services, managing wayleaves and landlords, and delivering the end goal on budget and on time. You’ve got to have scale, and be experts at managing this level of complexity. It’s not a game for the small player.”

Providing a 10 X increase in bandwidth, Gamma’s dual Ethernet solution has slashed communications costs by 20%; in round numbers saving £40k a month and £480k a year.

Ayers’ advice is to start planning as early as possible, a year or more before. Managing ragged ends is easier if short-term commitments are agreed with providers in advance. The benefits will far outweigh the cost, as will the deployment of temporary services that enable a faster exit from an existing network in many cases. In the medium to longer run they will actually save money.

So how do IT and ICT managers go about achieving such profound change?

Managers should demand commercial and technical flexibility from suppliers. And with the cost of the technology falling all the time, buying for term could turn out to be a costly mistake. Getting the SLAs right is crucial. Fibre Ethernet Everywhere changes things profoundly. No longer is bandwidth the issue – it is quality of service and delivery that will largely differentiate contending offers.

When it comes to choosing a partner to help with the delivery of Ethernet Everywhere, Ayers is passionate about due diligence with capital Ds. “Be aware that most telcos are not necessarily good at managing other telcos and smaller doesn’t always mean better either. Challenge absolutely everything you are told.

Sit down with the person that delivers the Ethernet, go to their network operations centre and talk to the people who respond to tickets, go and see the people that do the billing; meet, don’t just talk to the references and, finally, meet their CEO. What we are talking about here is culture as well as the ability and agility to execute. Make sure that these are people you feel comfortable with.” Ayers says that IT and ICT managers must make a team member responsible for pulling together and managing the ‘where and how’ data.

“One of the biggest challenges we encounter is when customers don’t have a total view of their operations and the key undepinning data – where services are located, how they are configured and how they need to be delivered. It is quite common, particularly so in organisations that are growing fast through acquisition or where reliance on incumbent data that’s incomplete or inaccurate.”

And his closing advice? “Insist that your supplier has a Plan B for when the gotchas happen. That way you can get the migration done tidily and at pace.”