CenturyLink pivots Ethernet investments toward SDN-based E-LAN, cloud-enabled services

CenturyLink recently surpassed AT&T as the largest domestic U.S. Ethernet carrier, and the service provider plans to advance its status further by using its SDN-based architecture to fuel a new set of services and cloud options for business customers.

Building upon its existing Ethernet portfolio, CenturyLink plans to release a new E-LAN service later this year. This new service will be supported by new 100G links on its backbone.

Chris McReynolds, VP of core network services for CenturyLink, told FierceTelecom that this new product set will complement its E-Line and E-Access services that have a well-established customer base.

RELATED: CenturyLink steals AT&T’s Ethernet crown following Level 3 acquisition

Chris McReynolds

“We’re upgrading our backbone in a bunch of key U.S. markets to 100G in 2018,” McReynolds said. “We’re taking products like our E-Access and E-Line and completed that Ethernet portfolio by investing in a new E-LAN capability that will be more SDN powered.”

McReynolds added that “we do have an E-LAN offer today, but now we’re making it part of a next-gen portfolio so to speak.”

Advancing global Ethernet status

By acquiring Level 3, CenturyLink beat out AT&T’s nearly 13-year reign as the top domestic Ethernet provider in the United States, following the completion its acquisition of Level 3 Communications and a function of continued growth in Ethernet ports for both companies.

A big element of that advancement is a larger domestic and global network that enables CenturyLink to serve a range of customers spanning from small to medium business customers and global multinational companies (MNCs) that span multiple countries. Level 3 brought a broader range of global service areas in Europe and Latin America.

When CenturyLink debuts its E-LAN product in the second half of this year, the plan is to offer on a global basis.

“The E-LAN product will serve a couple different use cases,” McReynolds said. “It’s going to be global in nature, which is why all the Ethernet investments we made in Europe, Asia-Pacific and hopefully next year in Latin America are so important.”

Since most of CenturyLink’s customers are metro in nature, the E-LAN service will be a good fit for small and medium-based enterprise customers like hospitals and others that operate in multiple markets.

“A lot of customers that purchase E-LAN are also metro centric,” McReynolds said. “Think of a health care services company with 6-7 sites within a metro market that capability combined with the footprint of the new CenturyLink with 100,000 on-net fiber fed buildings will be powerful in the small to medium enterprise market.”

McReynolds said that the expansion the former Level 3 Communications made into EMEA and Latin America “serves the multi-national customers, which is a different market segment.”

At the same time, CenturyLink will continue to drive its Ethernet network to allow its customers to more effectively connect to the cloud provider of their choice.

Having already established relationships with key cloud providers like Oracle and Microsoft Azure, such a capability is not a hard stretch for CenturyLink. To satisfy its enterprise customers’ growing cloud service desires, CenturyLink will leverage its growing 100G metro backbone capabilities.

“We’ve continue to add cloud partners over the years such as Azure, Oracle and AWS,” McReynolds said. “We do some connections to those cloud providers dynamically, but we’re going to double down on that investment so we can enable customers’ digital transformation as they move from their legacy data centers and move workloads into the cloud in a real-time fashion.”

Fiber remains key

A key element of CenturyLink’s advancement on the domestic U.S. and international Ethernet stage is a broader on-net fiber footprint.

By acquiring Level 3, CenturyLink gained an additional 200,000 route miles of fiber, including 64,000 route miles in 350 metropolitan areas and 33,000 subsea route miles connecting multiple continents.

Having this greater on-net footprint will allow the new CenturyLink to better control how it delivers a better experience for any sized customer since the traffic will be traveling on more of its own network.

“A larger on-net fiber footprint is absolutely critical in serving the needs of our customers,” McReynolds said. “If you have built fiber to those locations, you control the end-to-end experience so we’ll continue to invest heavily in adding new locations to the network.”