This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter’s approach.
The single location contact/call center of years past would have had little need for Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN) technology. But today’s call/contact centers for customer service, technical support, outgoing call banks and other use cases are almost always multi-location and usually global, and the right SD-WAN solution can improve reliability and the customer experience while lowering costs.
Call centers were among the first adopters of VoIP, at least within the call center network, and they have historically used MPLS in the WAN, very often dual MPLS networks. While the latter is expensive, the approach has been needed to maintain reliability and call quality.
High quality and cost effective services is also critical to organizations that offer contact center services to enterprises. In fact, most contact center operators also want the ability to deliver tiered service (platinum, gold, silver) to different customers, based on the unique customer satisfaction needs of their customer’s industry and end customers.
In both cases – enterprises that host the services themselves and providers that offer contact center services – there is increasing 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. And social media and in some cases video chat support are putting further strain on network capabilities and WAN bandwidth.
Meanwhile, the automated call distributors (ACDs) of telephony systems distribute calls among agents based on system capacity, human availability, agent skill sets, etc., but not on how the underlying wide area network is performing.
This confluence of needs is straining the WAN, but the right SD-WAN solution can simultaneously deliver better customer experience, greater reliability, and the ability to offer different service levels, all while reducing network costs. The fact that multi-location contact center operators already have multiple WAN links at each location make them particularly fertile ground for SD-WAN deployments.
The key is to look for SD-WAN solutions that deliver improved reliability and application performance predictability across a multi-connection WAN fabric. The critical SD-WAN reliability technology here offers continuous unidirectional monitoring of what’s going on across all WAN connections, and sub-second response to network issues, without breaking existing application flows, so calls are maintained even in the face of link failure. Existing dual-MPLS solutions alone will almost certainly face dropped calls when a primary MPLS connection goes down.
For real-time applications like VoIP and videoconferencing, such SD-WAN technology delivers this reliability and predictability by choosing network paths with the least packet loss and lowest jitter, and switching sub-second to a better path in the face of high loss or jitter. Note that for VoIP, typical round-trip measurements of network latency and loss are insufficient to make appropriate forwarding decisions; more than for other applications, one-way measurement of network performance is essential here.
Where sufficient bandwidth is available, some SD-WAN implementations can provide still greater application reliability by replicating real-time traffic flows along a second path, suppressing duplicates at the receiving end, and so delivering essentially "perfect" sound and voice quality even in the face of failures or congestion on one of the WAN connections. Some SD-WAN solutions are even intelligent enough that they can be set to do such flow replication only when sufficient WAN bandwidth is available.
Further, the right SD-WAN technology for contact centers can allow more efficient use of existing WAN links. This is important given the reality 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 a call/contact center, in addition to the ability to safely use each link at higher sustained network utilization, can postpone indefinitely the need to buy expensive bandwidth upgrades.
Centralized management makes configuring an SD-WAN solution much simpler than constantly fiddling with router settings, or being at the mercy of separate MPLS providers. And the self-correcting nature of such smart SD-WAN solutions lowers OpEx costs and increases reliability still further, fixing network problems as they occur rather than simply reporting them.
Finally, contact center operators in particular need to ensure that they look for an SD-WAN solution that scales to the number of locations, and the thousands of simultaneous calls, they need to support. The ability to provide reliability and application predictability typically requires per-packet forwarding decisions together with the ability to support thousands of flows, and several links per location, and so it is critical to find an SD-WAN vendor that can handle the load while providing this added level of reliability.
With an SD-WAN solution, contact center operators can get higher reliability and greater WAN utilization from existing MPLS links. They can replace one of the MPLS connections with an Internet-based link without compromising on quality - indeed, providing higher reliability than existing approaches. And while few call/contact centers are likely to forgo a private WAN alternative entirely, the right SD-WAN solution can allow setting up some remote outposts, where MPLS might not be available at all, or only at prohibitive cost, using only multiple Internet connections. And in all cases, such an 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 is anywhere from 10x to 100x the cost of Internet bandwidth, the ability to have even a portion of a global contact center operation’s WAN needs handled with Internet connections rather than MPLS can result in substantial savings.
The overall benefits of an SD-WAN solution for contact center operators can be substantial: uninterrupted, high quality calls, even in the face of circuit failure or degradation due to bursts of network congestion, flexibility to support additional applications and demands on the network, along with lower WAN costs and improved manageability.
Talari, the leading provider of Software Defined WAN (SD-WAN) solutions, is changing the way companies think about, create and manage their WAN by giving the network brainwidth. Only Talari’s Thinking WAN proactively manages capacity, reliability and performance, packet by packet—to keep critical applications running, reduce costs, and liberate IT to innovate new ways for the company to be brilliant. To learn more about Talari, visit www.talari.com
This story, "How contact centers can benefit from SD-WANs" was originally published by Network World.