Demand is strong in the network-as-a-service and SASE markets, but providers are looking for ways to stand out.

James Anderson, Senior News Editor

July 24, 2023

6 Min Read
Global SASE
Mongta Studio/Shutterstock

Chicago-based managed network services provider and carrier aggregator Nitel has added more than 30 regions to its secure access service edge (SASE) footprint. That puts the company in the category of a global SASE services provider.

Nitel deepened its partnership with VMware to leverage the SASE provider’s points-of-presence in 170 countries. In addition, Nitel has partnered with approximately 100 new carriers to fill in the network underlay for its services. Nitel executives say the expansion will give the provider a leg up with U.S. customers that are running operations outside the U.S. It comes at a time when more and more IT departments are making the decision to fully outsource network management to a third party.

Chief product officer Mike Frane said Nitel’s existing, U.S-based customer base has expressed demand for international support.

“They’re starting to expand their operations globally, and they wanted to maintain that single back-to-pat with Nitel as they’re doing that,” Frane told Channel Futures.

Nitel’s managed services center will function as the direct contact for global SASE customers.

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Nitel’s Mike Frane

“For those customers who do have our global managed SASE offering, they’ll have direct calls into tier three engineers, who will start working on their issue immediately, rather than going through a standard phone tree and standard escalation process,” Frane said. “We’re essentially taking the step where you have to confirm the blinky lights out of the equation.”

SASE expanded on the idea of software-defined wide area networking by adding advanced cybersecurity features like cloud gateway and next-gen firewall onto the same cloud-based platform, in addition to remote access. However, Frane said providing SASE internationally has proven challenging.

“Since the SASE concept was introduced four years ago, providers have struggled to assemble the technology, management and network capabilities to deliver a complete offering on a global scale,” Frane said. “Nitel’s offering follows the SASE framework by addressing the key elements needed for cloud-first businesses to manage and protect their IT environments. Marrying these capabilities with Nitel’s existing strengths in deploying custom enterprise managed networks and delivering them both domestically and internationally makes this offering truly unique and powerful.”

Nitel has forged agreements with access providers in multiple countries. In some cases, the provider is using agreements from a carrier aggregator in regions it does not expect to be dense with customer locations. But in other cases, Nitel has drilled down into partnerships within provinces and regions with incumbent providers.

Erin Dunne, director of research services for Vertical Systems Group, said the offering is a fit for U.S. businesses that want to operate in Europe or Asia Pacific but would rather not engage directly with incumbents.

“If you’re a customer that has global requirements and don’t want to do business with an Orange or a BT or a Verizon, then Nitel’s an option,” Dunne told Channel Futures.

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Vertical Systems Group’s Erin Dunne

Nitel has been managing SD-WAN for a number of years. It launched a managed SD-WAN partnership with Versa Networks in 2017. It has also been partnering with VMware, which purchased SD-WAN pure play VeloCloud Networks in 2017.

“In today’s distributed environment, the reach of VMware’s global SASE services and proximity to users, clouds, and SaaS offerings will enable Nitel to deliver optimal network performance regardless of location, while serving as the first line of defense in safeguarding their customers from destructive threats. We are excited to support Nitel in their international growth and in offering comprehensive SASE solutions to their partners and customers,” VMware SASE vice president and general manager Abe Ankumah said.

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VMware’s Abe Ankumah

Increased Demand for Global SASE, NaaS

Frane said Nitel sees an opportunity to engage with existing customers about their network overlay and security stack.

“If you look at the early adopters of SD-WAN and SASE, right now they’re coming into their first renewal window if they’ve had the service for three to five years,” Frane said. “And a lot of those that are [do it yourself] today are evaluating if running a network is the best use of their time and their expertise, given all the other demands that they have. And increasingly they’re finding that running the network is not the important part. The important part is what’s happening on the network — the applications that are delivered over the network.”

Dunne said SD-WAN and related technologies represent “a bright spot in the overall telecom universe.” In particular, network as a service (NaaS) is seeing strong demand from business customers.

“If you’re with the market, you’re moving,” she said.

But providers such as Nitel see the need to stand out among their peers. No shortage of vendors and aggregators have rolled out managed SD-WAN and SASE offerings, Dunne said. As a result, rolling out an international footprint helps Nitel make its case as a differentiated provider.

“There’s a lot of room in this market, because it’s very early on. But there are a lot of players in this market, all of which have different and interesting business plans in order to attract customers,” Dunne said. “So you have to have something interesting and unique, or you need to be doing something better or faster or cheaper or have an existing customer base that wants to keep doing business with you.”

Nitel, which is taking backing from London-based private equity firm Cinven, has been expanding in many ways since late 2021. The company acquired Hypercore Networks in 2022. It also hired a channel leader to give it an increased focus on partners.

And partners, particularly technology advisors (agents), are asking Nitel to help them with global SASE opportunities, Frane said.

“There are a few providers who can do that well today. So we’re leveraging that same philosophy that we had as we built out our capabilities in the United States, applied on a global scale,” he said.

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ARG’s Justin Praske

Those partners working with Nitel include Virginia-based ARG.

“We are thrilled to see continued growth in our partnership with Nitel and their expanded offering,” ARG chief solutions officer Justin Praske said. “Businesses with an international presence represent a large and growing segment of the market. Having a robust set of tools to help them is exciting.”

Nitel’s recent appointments include Frane, who left his 14-year tenure at Windstream to lead product strategy at Nitel.

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email James Anderson or connect with him on LinkedIn.

 

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James Anderson

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

James Anderson is a news editor for Channel Futures. He interned with Informa while working toward his degree in journalism from Arizona State University, then joined the company after graduating. He writes about SD-WAN, telecom and cablecos, technology services distributors and carriers. He has served as a moderator for multiple panels at Channel Partners events.

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