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Windstream: SD-WAN and UCaaS Are Like Chocolate and Peanut Butter

Windstream execs say the ultimate upsell might just be combining SD-WAN and UCaaS.

August 22, 2017

5 Min Read
Chocolate and Peanut Butter


Austin Herrington


Mike Frane

By Austin Herrington and Mike Frane of Windstream Business

Chocolate is pretty darn good all by itself. And sometimes nothing is more comforting than eating a spoonful of peanut butter right out of the jar, like you’re a kid again. But do you know what’s even better? Combining the two. There might not be a better thing in this big, blue world than the combination of chocolate and peanut butter — they become even greater than the sum of their parts when they join forces.

Chocolate and peanut butter aren’t the only examples where a combination is better than the sum of its parts. Lennon and McCartney come to mind. And guacamole and chips. And SD-WAN and unified communications, which we happen to think are the chocolate peanut butter cups of the networking/IT world. The alchemy is even more pronounced for the 200,000 midsize companies in the United States, many of which currently rely on outdated WAN technology and voice systems whose age can sometimes be counted in decades rather than just years.

Many of those companies are – or ought to be – customers of the partners (or trusted advisers) reading this, and they need this sweet treat badly, although they may not know it yet.

Separately, SD-WAN implementations and unified communications upgrades can have dramatic impacts on day-to-day operations for mid-market companies when they upgrade from their legacy WANs and older voice systems:

  • Unified communications (in the form of a UCaaS implementation) transform obsolete, costly-to-maintain, difficult-to-expand legacy voice and messaging systems that many midsize companies have dealt with for a decade or more, replacing them with an integrated combination of web-based voice/messaging/video tools that enhance everything from uptime to customer experience to productivity. No wonder the market for UCaaS will grow at a 27 percent CAGR in terms of user base and more than 22 percent CAGR in terms of revenue over the next five years, according to a study by Frost & Sullivan.

  • And an SD-WAN implementation optimizes network spend and reduces the complexity, anxiety and downtime that so many midmarket companies experience with their traditional WANs, which are often poorly suited to support the diverse set of cloud applications that most companies are running today. SD-WAN provides a dynamic, adaptable, intelligent foundation for managing all of that traffic in a way that gives each application what it needs to perform well while making cost-conscious decisions about how to utilize various grades of bandwidth. No surprise then that nearly 64 percent of U.S.-based companies report plans to migrate from a traditional network to SD-WAN in the next 18 months, according to Forrester.

Each of those technologies is great individually. SD-WAN is the peanut butter and UCaaS is the chocolate. When you combine them, though, look out, because something magical happens:

  • SD-WAN provides an “application-aware” network that can actively manage how bandwidth is sourced and utilized, routing traffic in order to optimize how every application operates.

  • And the SD-WAN’s dynamic management of bandwidth ensures that the UCaaS gets prioritized in a way that guarantees that call quality is excellent and issue-free, that video call quality is an asset to collaboration rather than a hindrance, and more.

  • UCaaS can therefore perform to the specs it is designed for, while also allowing the customer to manage broadband/network costs effectively by using higher-cost services only when needed to ensure application performance while utilizing lower-cost, commodity services whenever and wherever it can to save money.

Chocolate, meet peanut butter. Peanut butter, say hello to your true love, chocolate.

So why are we belaboring this analogy about peanut butter cups in a publication read by channel professionals? Because …

… most midsize companies desperately need both SD-WAN and UCaaS, but at best they think they need only one or the other. Customers may talk to you about implementing the peanut butter half of the recipe because the cloud applications they are trying to utilize as part of their day-to-day operations run terribly, and a member of their IT team has put the blame on the outdated WAN.

Or they may talk to you about the chocolate half of the recipe because the sales and customer-care teams are fed up with how upset customers are with the phone system when they need to reach someone. Typically, your customers will self-identify with only one problem or the other. What they don’t realize is how interconnected and interdependent the network and communications systems are, and how the best strategy is often to tackle both an SD-WAN implementation and a UCaaS rollout in conjunction with one another.

To get the most out of their UCaaS, most companies really do need a different network underneath. And the ROI for an SD-WAN implementation is much higher when it can support the better performance and broader feature set of a UCaaS solution. Customers may not understand the benefits of doing both, but that is where you come in. There is a tremendous opportunity for channel partners to be strategic guides for midsize customers who are beginning to recognize the need to upgrade to one of these technologies, steering them toward a more comprehensive solution that addresses both the underlying corporate network and the overlaid unified communications system in a coordinated way.

That is the recipe for customers to get the most business value out of their investments in SD-WAN and/or UCaaS, and it also happens to be a way for resellers to play a more strategic role with customers and drive additional revenue in the process.

So when your midmarket customers ask for chocolate or peanut butter, take a moment to encourage them to envision how an integrated combination of the two is what they actually need. They may not realize that a peanut-butter cup is exactly what they need, but they will thank you once they take that first bite.

Austin Herrington is vice president of product management at Windstream Business, which provides the full range of data, voice, network and cloud solutions to large enterprises and mid-sized businesses. In this role, Herrington manages Windstream Business’ CCaaS and UCaaS solutions. Mike Frane is vice president of product management at Windstream, with responsibility for the company’s SD-WAN strategy. They can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected].

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