Lumen Technologies targets applications, SASE and network security

On our Zoom call, I can just make out the “Talent Winner” draped behind Chris Smith, VP of Product Management Platform Applications at Lumen Technologies, then spot a stack of exhibit cords hanging on the wall. of the office – two small but tangible symbols of its industry stature and customer contact profile.

For the next hour, we explore other virtual avenues. In one of the most telling comments, Smith explains how Lumen is transitioning from an asset provider to a “tech experience” company; certainly, the wide variety of products and solutions in its portfolio testifies to its current production and future vision.

“Every company we sell to becomes a technology company – and our job is to support that,” Smith says, summarizing the global challenges and opportunities. “Our business is about app experiences for our customers.”

A primary focus is Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), an emerging cybersecurity concept first conceived by Gartner three years ago.

Essentially, the idea of ​​SASE is to offer secure network services anywhere a user can connect from, and this converged solution should ideally both optimize and extend the performance of applications distributed across individual users, premises, edge and public/private cloud environments. .

Not only does SASE simplify the operating environment for applications, it minimizes the enterprise IT monitoring and management required.

Lumen believes its platform is among the fastest and most secure for next-generation applications and data, providing a solid foundation to support a full portfolio of SASE solutions.

The SASE framework represents the convergence of several established technologies that aim to merge comprehensive SD-WAN capabilities and network security functions into a unified approach – an approach that will ultimately be better suited, in the 4IR era, to meet the needs of enterprise data workloads and applications.

“We’ve also created optional packages, such as a SASE Consulting Service, where we can review your environment for three months and create a roadmap from a consulting perspective,” Smith says.

Cloud Convenience and Edge Distribution Benefits

Its 450,000 miles of fiber optics deliver less than 5mL latency to 98% of Lumen’s US customers, as well as those in EMEA, APAC, and Latin America, spanning over 60 countries .

It used to be that companies hosted their applications in their building, but nobody does that anymore because the cloud is more convenient, offers more scale, and is significantly more cost effective.

“We created Cloud Edge for two reasons: for customer applications and to build products,” says Smith.

“We’ve turned buildings into mini data centers, and that’s the basis of the Cloud Edge, which is now paying dividends.

“Some app experiences don’t work in the public cloud – so we made a big investment in Lumen Cloud Edge because it’s more widely distributed.”

Rapid changes mean the days of dispatching drivers in a van are a thing of the past.

“As we build the platform, we can extend the software – it will be more like a smartphone upgrade – and the cool thing is that it future-proofs our customers’ technology position” , adds Smith.

“The reality is that we are no longer looking to deliver a host of services through network boxes, but instead bring the platform to your location, giving you the ability to consume at the initial level and add features – when and how customers want to do it.”

Lumen recently announced that it is providing enterprise-grade servers at the network edge, enabling the Flux blockchain ecosystem to launch new staking nodes and accelerate the building of Web 3.0 – a decentralized new generation of Internet based on blockchain.

Also on the call is Shawn Draper, vice president of enterprise platform engineering. Lumen is the merger of dozens of acquisitions over the years and Draper worked at CenturyLink for over 11 years (see executive profile).

Lumen’s ability to be able to deliver platform capabilities over its high-speed, highly secure network enables it to enable customers and business units to build unprecedented levels of capability, says Draper.

“Never before in the history of network engineering have customers had the level of flexibility about where they wanted to place their compute and how they wanted to use the network,” he says.

“They have the ability to consume, compute data and network where the customer actually exists and that’s the premise behind Edge – the ability to operate closest to where capacity is consumed or data are created.”

Customers not only have access to Lumen’s fiber optic network, whether through public or private networks, but can also overlay 2/3 of the Cloud Connect service.

“The worlds of hardware, software and networks are coming together, but the reality is that they are already there. So we are reinventing the way we provide network, security, compute and application integration and support, on top of that, as a platform,” he says. .

“We provide the ability to consume SD-Wan across a variety of vendors, and this year plan to deliver our SD-WAN services ‘on top’ – as an edge gateway or software capability and full digital experience. It’s not just installation, but also activation and management, coupled with firewall capabilities. »

Smith describes the current emphasis on experience as “the wrapper.” “We’ve worked hard to simplify our offerings and provide an Amazon-like experience,” he says. “We are reinventing ourselves.”

Kevin M. Risinger