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Verizon kicks off managed SD-WLAN service with Mist

Verizon is using technology from Mist to anchor a managed SD-WLAN service in an effort to extend its service footprint to customers' WLANs.

Verizon has added wireless LAN, or WLAN, to its package of virtual network services. The carrier is using technology from Mist Systems to anchor the SD-WLAN service, which joins its other virtual network functions that include WAN optimization, SD-WAN and firewalls Verizon now markets under its managed services umbrella.

The SD-WLAN offering marks the carrier's first effort to extend its services throughout a customer's network, said Viraj Parekh, Verizon's managing director of product innovation and new business.

"We had been focused on the customer edge and outward, but we realized we needed to go deeper into our customers' environments, and into the LAN segment as well," he said.

Mist uses cloud-based machine learning and artificial intelligence to monitor WLAN performance. Every packet generated by a wireless user is analyzed, and if a problem is detected, the software readjusts access points (AP) as needed and notifies administrators of root-cause information.

Using Mist's technology will let Verizon become "more proactive in how we manage the Wi-Fi experience for our customers," Parekh said.

SD-WLAN service offers location technologies

Verizon also plans to highlight Mist's location-based features, fueled by virtual Bluetooth Low Energy beacons embedded in each Mist AP. The beacons eliminate the need for separate devices and let customers deploy wayfinding and other associated services more rapidly.

Customers will access the managed SD-WLAN service through Verizon's universal customer premises equipment, a single appliance capable of delivering multiple virtual services.

Nobody wants just to be a big dumb pipe.
Craig Mathiasanalyst, Farpoint Group

Carriers are looking into beefing up their offerings to further enhance their value, said Craig Mathias, an analyst at Farpoint Group in Ashland, Mass. "My position for some time is that carriers have played too small of a role in the evolution of IT into network as a service and other services and they are now realizing this. Nobody wants just to be a big dumb pipe."

Spending for IT services is projected to reach $980 billion in 2018, according to research from Gartner, up 5% from 2017.

Verizon already offers a managed WLAN service, using technology and APs from Cisco and Aruba. But the Mist-based SD-WLAN service, and its machine learning and built-in beacon technologies, will allow Verizon to attract a broader mix of customers, including those in hospitality, retail and healthcare, where wayfinding and location services are seen as essential. "We see a very broad-based use case [for wayfinding]," Parekh said.

Mist, which launched its cloud-based Wi-Fi service in 2016, now has more than 200 customers. It most recently beefed up its service by releasing a virtual network assistant that lets IT staffers use plain English, instead of coding, to determine network problems.

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