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Africa Outlook

CMC Networks
Africa technology
cloud services
SD-WAN
SDN network
open source network
network infrastructure
advanced technology

CMC NETWORKS

The Customer is King

CMC Networks’ customer-centric approach and global reach is set to strengthen its position at the forefront of technology deployments in Africa for many years to come

Writer: Matthew Staff

Project Manager: Kane Weller

For almost 30 years, global telecommunications carrier, CMC Networks has put the customer first, and as such has compiled one of the most globally advanced – yet locally considered – offerings in the market.

Incepted in 1989 by Grant Walker, its evolution over the years has been vast and ever-adherent to fluctuating expectations, but last year ushered in one of the Company’s most important milestones to date.

“Nasdaq-listed, The Carlyle Group acquired a majority shareholding  in February of 2017,” shares CEO, Maria Trisolino. 

This latest investment compounded what was already the most extensive and largest managed pan-African network in operation today; CMC proudly boasting 78 points of presence across 50 countries. It is a committed enabler for the global wholesale carrier scene on the continent and overall representing a total of 104 points of presence around the world, incorporating the USA, Europe, UAE, India, Asia and Australia. 

“In addition, CMC has an extensive Middle Eastern (MENET) and Western Asia (ASNET) network, which is extended via its wholesale partner programme,” Trisolino adds. “CMC delivers and manages a vast number of connections for our wholesale customers and is a carrier-neutral vendor, not participating in the enterprise space. This is a key and significant USP and as a result we service end-clients indirectly across every vertical and industry.”

Ultimately, CMC’s differentiator derives from putting the customer first across each applicable realm. Listening to every requirement and formulating a bespoke solution accordingly has resulted in a host of longstanding relationships with in-country providers. This in turn aids final delivery according to what each customer needs, irrespective of the geography, political situation or any other external complexity that threatens the situation. 

“The customer is King,” Trisolino affirms. “We cannot repeat this enough. We go the extra mile to deliver both simple and complex solutions. CMC is very agile from a process and delivery perspective meeting our customer requirements from design, to pricing, and final delivery. 

“While our competition presents a challenge by engaging with in-country providers, we have already built a price book which most customers have at hand. Ultimately, we remove the complexities of conducting business in a very complex region, so that our customers can focus on their expertise.”

Future ready

CMC’s second core differentiator in Africa appears in its sheer scale and scope. Nobody in the market can promote the same extensive footprint as CMC and as a result, the Company becomes more of a local entity to prospective customers. 

Improved cycle times, reduced risks and more turnkey operations are further benefits that come from being so vastly spread, and it then comes as no surprise that the business sits at the top of business partners’ and potential clients’ wish lists.

“CMC works with many of the world’s largest telecommunications companies who serve customers from every vertical, predominantly across Africa and the Middle East,” Trisolino says. “CMC’s standing in the market is based on our ability and agility to deliver from a single circuit in a mature market, to a highly complex solution across several hard to reach geographies.”

In recent years CMC has strived for further diversification by pivoting from being an African provider to a global provider by establishing points of presence in Europe, the Americas and Middle East with operational and technical staff on hand to support similarly multinational customers across different time zones. 

Trisolino continues: “Simultaneously, we have procured capacity across multiple undersea cables to improve our SLAs to support the needs of our wholesale customers. We have anticipated the shift from MPLS and Layer 2 services to internet services and as a result we have placed a significant focus on internet products and solutions to meet a growing customer demand. 

“The move to SDN is yet another key focus for CMC, ensuring all our wholesale customers and their end-customers are and will be future ready.”

Ongoing capital expenditures are a familiar and potent occurrence at CMC, primarily based around technological advancements. The adoption of an SD-WAN (software define wide area network) strategy has recently been complemented by an SD-WAN/NFV access strategy, while a partnership with Kontron has facilitated the provision of an Open Source hardware platform which will be the basis of executing this implementation. 

“CMC has partnered with 128 Technologies to enable our next generation, session aware vector based routing platform to provide our SD-WAN offering. the 128T platform provides lower bandwidth overhead, zero trust security and dynamic real-time traffic management for its Core and Access SD-WAN implementations,” says Geoff Dornan, CTO for CMC Networks. “This is a first for Africa and will be a game-changer for both CMC and our customers alike.”

Then, the Company also strives to upgrade and improve its core facilities on a regular basis.

Trisolino notes: “We built a new Network Operations Centre five years ago and now have all the Tiers in one location, ranging from Tier 1 basic support and call logging, to Tier 5 OPS engineering, fixing and resolving the issue. This also included Projects Assurance in the same space, ensuring better visibility on the network and allowing issues to be resolved faster, leading to increased productivity. 

“CMC has also built a new location to allow for the growth of our hosting facility and to accommodate our new satellite hub that was installed at our network premises. Meanwhile, internal office upgrades were done allowing the Sales and SCM teams to be in the same area. The ultimate goal is to have our teams integrated and accessible, so our clients’ requests and needs can be attended to in real time and efficiently.” 

Best in class

Not only does enhanced streamlining aid internal processes, but it also helps the business to remain more attentive and vigilant to changing industry trends.

Trisolino has noticed three major industry shifts, in particular moving from secure, predictable Layer 2 and MPLS services to a variation of internet solutions; the usage of SDN to manage the flow of traffic to the data centre or head office to drive out costs and improve efficiency; and the use of cloud services.

“To address the former, we have created a larger internet product offering providing the customer a choice from a contended unmanaged to uncontended managed service, where CMC can deliver the service in-country or internationally depending on the customer’s requirements,” Trisolino details. “CMC’s Supply Chain has a strong focus on obtaining and managing the best in class ISPs in the countries we operate. 

“For the second trend, a number of our customers have adopted an SD-WAN strategy. With CMC’s broad basket of internet, MPLS and Layer 2 products, we are able to provide the customer a shopping list to choose from in order to build their SD-WAN service. We also engage with multiple in-country providers to ensure there is no single point of failure.”

Addressing the final – cloud-based – trend, CMC has positioned itself through its SDN/SD-WAN strategy to provide hosting facilities for software developers and/or customers, to create their own private cloud services in order to service their customers in that respective country or region. 

By keeping ahead of the overall industry curve, CMC has affirmed its position as an entirely trusted provider and advisor, who can apply its “African expertise” to help walk its customers through upcoming regional or sector challenges. 

Trisolino surmises: “Our commercial propositions factor in all these complexities, keeping the costs minimal and easy to track. CMC continues to develop and invest in an innovative product portfolio and we are currently executing our SDN rollout which will allow a variation of product offerings and improved SLAs.”

Connecting the unconnected 

Inevitably, it isn’t just potential customers and business partners who are attracted to CMC’s approach either. Moreover, the business has cemented its position as an employer of choice too – a responsibility which is taken very seriously and rewarded via a host of training, development and local initiatives.

“CMC Networks has a rigorous approach to attracting, developing and retaining talented people with the right skills and competencies to contribute to the attainment of our business strategies,” the CEO confirms. “We have energetic, customer-centric individuals who are motivated by operating in a culture which encourages high performance, personal career growth and team collaboration across multiple geographies.”

Enveloping notions of CSR within its HR strategy, CMC goes on to ingratiate itself in each local region by offering work experience to interns and NQF-aligned learnerships in the disciplines of supply chain, project management, IT systems support and business administration for unemployed youths. Bursaries are also on offer to tertiary institutions for the Company’s employees.

And by ensuring the sustainability of its own talent pool and ongoing skill-sets, the business looks to hold onto its number one position in Africa.

“We continue to introduce industry firsts including the deployment of a fully Open Source SDN network,” Trisolino concludes. “We can also provide end-to-end SD-WAN services with our agreements with multiple in-country service providers. With our SD-WAN services, we can provide various virtualised security, routing and Wan Optimisation Network Functions depending on customer needs and policies.

“We have also assisted private cloud developers and local ISPs to deploy cloud services in the countries they operate in, resulting in uplifting economies and connecting the unconnected. 

“Through strategies such as these, CMC will continue to be at the forefront of the latest technology deployments across Africa in the years to come.”