Q&A: GTT CMO Nomellini discusses Interoute deal, SD-WAN and automation

In this Q&A, GTT Chief Marketing Officer Gina Nomellini provides some insight on her company's $2.3 billion acquisition of Interoute Communications.

 Gina Nomellini
Gina Nomellini (GTT)

GTT announced its intention to buy Interoute in February and then closed the deal on Thursday. Now, GTT can put its full weight behind integrating the two companies' cultures and technology platforms. While GTT is an old hand at integrating companies that it has purchased—it has bought more than 30 over the past 10 years—the acquisition of European network operator Interoute is its largest to date.

Among other line items in the deal, GTT added a 72,000-km fiber network in Europe to its Tier 1 global IP network, over 400 points of presence across 24 metropolitan areas and the interconnection of 126 cities across 29 countries. The acquisition also added a large base of multinational clients and enhanced GTT’s SD-WAN portfolio.

While GTT expects to have the integration of Interoute completed over the next three to four quarters, merging the two companies' cultures will be a tall task even for a company with GTT's experience.

RELATED: GTT acquires Interoute for $2.3B, deepens European fiber, cloud platform reach

Nomellini discussed integration, SD-WAN and automation in an email to FierceTelecom. Her responses to the questions were lightly edited.

FierceTelecom: How are the integration efforts going with Interoute?

Gina Nomellini: We were excited to close the transaction on May 31. While we were able to lay some of the groundwork pre-close, we are now in a position to accelerate our integration initiatives across organization, systems and network. We expect to complete the integration in three to four quarters.

FierceTelecom: From an engineering standpoint, what has been the most challenging task of that integration?

Nomellini: It is too early to comment on the most challenging engineering task given we are in the initial stages of integration, but we see significant alignment between our respective network assets and product capabilities.

FierceTelecom: What about cultural differences? How do you merge two separate company cultures into one?

Nomellini: Actually, as market disruptors and growth-oriented companies, there are many more similarities between our cultures than differences. Both GTT and Interoute are driven by serving clients with innovative and flexible cloud networking services, possessing the agility and responsiveness that are not typically found in the larger incumbent operators … The desire to win in the marketplace is the ultimate force that will drive the seamless integration of our cultures.

FierceTelecom: What are GTT's thoughts about the Metro Ethernet Forum's recent SD-WAN announcements?

Nomellini: We are fully supportive of an open standards approach. An array of vendor solutions with different proprietary standards is not efficient. It exposes service providers to the vagaries of vendors being acquired or disappearing due to lack of funding. Common standards are where the market needs to go to for the next scale of growth, enabling SD-WAN adoption with greater ease and efficiency.

FierceTelecom: How is SD-WAN evolving in regards to what enterprises want? 

Nomellini: SD-WAN’s cost savings proposition has been the initial driver of enterprise adoption. But as enterprises gain experience with SD-WAN’s robust functionality, feature capabilities such as enhanced visibility and the ability to control applications are becoming the more valued advantages. Legacy WANs are not optimally architected for distributed cloud connectivity and the management of cloud traffic performance. SD-WAN is ideally suited to facilitate the migration to cloud-based applications, especially for branch networking requirements.

FierceTelecom: Do you have some examples of unexpected use cases for SD-WAN by enterprise customers?

Nomellini: We are finding that most client use cases are quite consistent in terms of SD-WAN adoption. Most prefer to trial rather than adopt comprehensively. It will require more time before clients build the confidence to implement SD-WAN for mission critical applications. We are anticipating a progressive approach to SD-WAN adoption despite its capabilities and the strong interest we are seeing in the market.

FierceTelecom: With so many partners, how does GTT solve interoperability issues? 

Nomellini: The plethora of vendor proprietary standards can be problematic. We view the open standards approach as the solution. The MEF will play a vital role driving this approach. 

FierceTelecom: How is GTT using automation now in its networks and services, and how will it evolve?

Nomellini: We have been pursuing an approach to automation that enhances the speed and efficiency of the service experience, complementing the unique commercial flexibility, which GTT offers clients that enables more efficient bandwidth utilization. Our automated security policy and provisioning capability is an example of the type of automation we are innovating to improve the client experience. We are also continuously adding functionality to our EtherVision self-serve portal for automated ordering, ticketing and service management. Interoute’s automated capabilities, especially in the realm of virtualization, is an opportunity to further advance the automation supporting our cloud networking services.