As part of its goal to consistently disrupt and innovate the telecommunications and data industry, Vox took the strategic decision to develop and roll out a Virtual Data Centre.
An environment from which it can assist clients to better roll out and scale into, the cloud. The service forms a quintessential component of the business’s customer-centric service offerings, enabling Vox to provide ﬂexible and innovative solutions that allow customers to use cloud services when they need them, and only be billed for what they use.
Vox is a leader in the South African telco space, an alternative and independent operator offering a wide range of voice, data and collaboration services to the South African market. Vox is not only disrupting the market – giving consumers more choice through digital innovation – but is also injecting much needed pricing and value competition into the industry, with a keen focus on customer service.
“When we approached this project, our business goal was to be able to offer virtual data centres to our resellers from which they can then easily build customised platforms for their end user customers, without having to start from scratch,” said Craig Freer, Executive Head: Cloud|MIT at Vox.
“Our desire was to ensure they could manage their environments by themselves and scale services up and down with one click.”
The environment needed to support integration between multiple on premise and cloud-based systems and environments, allow for in-system network and security provisioning, as well as have a self-service component from which the company’s clients can roll out or enable their own services. Unlike traditional service providers, Vox offers what it calls the full stack of communications, connectivity and cloud services.
From your Layer 1 connectivity right through to offering customers the full virtual infrastructure, voice and data solutions, last mile connectivity right through to the WAN – all on one bill, with one person to phone, one call centre and one account manager.
“We thought deployment was going to be a challenge but it really wasn’t,” added Freer.
“The fact that we have a stable VMware environment already in place, being able to migrate and create a new one helped a lot.”
As Vox is an existing enterprise customer of VMware, it says that, when identifying a solution to support the rapid roll out of its cloud and Virtual Data Centre, VMware NSX was a logical decision, as it is 100% supported by its existing VMware stack.
“We elected to upgrade existing components of our platform to the latest version of vCloud Director and then install VMware NSX in the new environment,” said Freer.
“This enabled us to deliver a truly seamless experience to our customers in the Virtual Data Centre, with automatic provisioning of IP addresses, and integrated ﬁrewall functionality.”
With VMware NSX, the team was able to move networking into the virtual environment. Giving complete control without being bogged down by red tape. Now when a customer is on-boarded they no longer have to go through networking to get ports allocated.
“We get a set of IPs from them (networking), allocate it in the virtual data centre and propagate it on the client’s behalf,” added Freer.
Vox has also made use of the VMware NSX self-service and self-help capabilities so a customer can manage their own environment. Once the client is given access to vCloud Director, they can spin up their own ﬁrewall and sub-net, saving on support costs. The client can then decide if they want to purchase complimentary managed services from Vox. VMware partner VMXperts assisted Vox as its technology partner, speciﬁcally helping them with the initial scope, technical and business advice.
Vox also beneﬁted from having the assistance from VMware’s Solution Architecture team within the Network and Security Business Unit to assist with the initial deployment of the solution.
“Prep work for the entire system took two weeks,” explained Freer.
“There was a list of requirements of what the base environment needed to look like, so when it came time to deploy NSX it was ready and integration was seamless. The whole roll out was done in just three days – because of the success of the prep work.”
Business Results and Beneﬁts
“VMware NSX solved a primary need for the business – to save time,” said Freer.
“The process of networking allocation was lengthy and cumbersome. Our perfect state was to offer the client access to services through an online web presence, they select what they want, click, and it’s done. The automation in VMware NSX gives you speed and consistency while at the same time cancelling out human error.”
Another key beneﬁt is the move from Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) APIs to Representational State Transfer (REST) APIs. Making it very easy to programmatically create API integration between systems and web services. Furthermore, Freer says the security, distributed ﬁrewalls and distributed switching is all in one place with VMware NSX and Vox is leveraging the microsegmentation component to create upsell opportunities.
Leveraging VMware NSX
“We can upsell IPsec tunnels to a client or they can host a disaster recovery (DR) environment in the cloud and attach it directly to their network,” said Freer.
“Other upsell opportunities we are leveraging include packaging VPNs, ﬁrewalls and even load balancers as a product and clients only pay for what they use.
“We have made consuming our cloud services as easy as a few clicks with minimal effort and lightning speed turnaround times. Billing is per hour which gives customers who want to use the platform for dev work much more appealing and aff ordable. This also creates a pathway to integration and orchestration of other public cloud services for our customers down the line”
Delivery is all on demand; Vox no longer needs to order equipment and wait for it to arrive, it is inherent in the system and they can provision and scale it out needed which also leads to signiﬁcant, long-term, infrastructure cost savings. With the system being 100% software-deﬁned it is able to be signiﬁcantly more agile in the delivery of its services.
“Our experience with VMware NSX has been amazing,” added Freer.
“It is more intuitive than we were expecting and there are a lot of administration, management, APIs and CLI options available. It was the quickest and easiest deployment we have ever done. From a back-end point of view, its simplicity makes our lives so much easier. It really was not as scary to deploy as we initially thought. I have tried to roll out VX LANs in the past and it was impossible, the key thing with VMware NSX us that it just works.”
The Vox technical teams are currently in the throes of creating myriad scenarios as to how they can build out products and solutions, beyond just real estate in a virtual data centre. They are looking at different packages for reseller customers, end users, those wanting access to the data centre model and those who need access to its full digital service offering.
“As we progress, unearth how everything works together and understand the products better, we are hoping to unlock serious innovation in the business, including integration with other parts of the business and technology suites,” said Freer.