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How contact centers can benefit from SD-WANs

Andy Gottlieb, co-founder, Talari Networks | April 25, 2016
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.

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Executive Networks Media 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.

 

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