Orange Business shifts towards digital, aims to transform SD-WAN with VMware

Business services division of leading connectivity provider unveils strategy to offer end-to-end stack of digital solutions through B2B portfolio and strikes partnership with cloud computing company for software-defined wide-area network offer

Orange Business has announced plans to transform from a business-to-business technology player to a network and digital integrator as it aims to “shift the dial” on digital for businesses.

The company said it was reacting to five major industry trends and would execute on four strategic priorities to achieve its ambitions. Orange Business also announced that it was teaming with VMware to deliver flexible software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) as the first fully embedded SD-WAN offering in Evolution Platform.

Recently installed Orange Business CEO Aliette Mousnier-Lompre noted that technology innovation was accelerating in its market, with cloud and generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) creating new opportunities for customers, which came with a commensurate rise and change in expectations. Expanding on this, she said Orange Business customers now expect to turn services on and off at will and make changes on-demand across all their network services. They also expect close to automated remediation powered by AI in commercial models and to use network services on a pay-as-you-use basis with cloud-like models.

Mousnier-Lompre said the company saw five key trends affecting the new world of work, namely perma-disruption, new digital and AI, cloudification and virtualisation, trust and green initiatives. She added that the result was that Orange Business customers needed an integrator to manage complexity and disruptions while they manage their own digital transformations.

Orange Business’s ambition is to be Europe’s leading network and digital integrator, making digital transformation efficient and sustainable. To achieve this, Mousnier-Lompre said the company had four strategic priorities: focus on its portfolio; transform and leverage its core business; accelerate digital services; and simplify its operating model and save costs.

Yet this journey would have its challenges, according to Orange Business chief products and marketing officer Usman Javaid, who said the company recognised that its IT infrastructure had been built over many years of managing and deploying fixed network assets that were less dynamic than software-defined services.

This will mean building a brand new tech stack from the ground up, said Javaid. “This requires a significant and radical change across our entire IT ecosystem. We’ve structured our entire digital transformation programme across six strategic imperatives, and the first is being digital-first,” he said.

“What this means, fundamentally, is taking our entire business online. We’re a B2B [business-to-business] network, a telco with complex services business. As an industry, it’s something we’ve not really shifted the dial on. The telco industry [has done this] to the consumer side, but less so on the B2B side. This entire mission is about going digital-first across all of our B2B services. And for that, we will be building four new assets.”

Orange Business will begin by building a redesigned website that will enable customers to browse services and generate leads, with an e-shop that will house most of its products. Orange Business will also build an e-care service management capability to allow customers to make changes on-demand, raise incidents and tickets, and view their service status. Finally, Orange Business will create a developer portal that can be accessed by customers and partners with access to software development kits and application programming interfaces.

Javaid emphasised that Orange Business would not be merely migrating legacy products onto a new IP stack – it was a business migration. “We will start to launch our next-generation digital-native products on the stack,” he noted. “We will continue to maintain and manage our existing products and our legacy business on our existing IT, and over time customers will churn off of old products and churn into the new world. That’s when customers will start to migrate. [We don’t want to migrate] old IT to new IT and then just suck up the complexity of the old world into the new world.”

Addressing issues with the credentials of the company to make such a huge undertaking, Mousnier-Lompre said Orange Business was going through the same challenges as its customers.

“Most of the solutions we are selling to our customers, we use in-house for ourselves, or more broadly for the Orange Group. The big advantage we have is that we are not a cloud-native, digital-native company ... we are going through exactly the same challenges as all our customers are facing,” she remarked.

“The vast majority of our customers are huge, established multinationals or mid-market customers that need to find what their IT [needs are] and make this transformation journey. Our starting point as a telco company was IT was not cloud-native and we have these huge IT legacy systems that we need to deal with. Our world is hybrid; our world is complex. You have a very limited number of companies today that are 100% on public cloud, 100% leveraging AI data and 100% on digital platforms. I think this enables us to have a day-to-day dialogue with our customers and understand each other very well.”

The launch of the Flexible SD-WAN with VMware platform is designed to simplify customer experience with digitisation and automation. The platform is said to be the first fully embedded SD-WAN offering in the Orange Business Evolution Platform, combining a secured digital infrastructure with an agile, cloud approach to order and manage services.

Orange Business said it was transforming the way it provides the latest services from its ecosystem of partners, natively and digitally via the Evolution Platform. The service platform is designed to enable enterprise customers to compose their own mix of services to meet their evolving business requirements, while benefiting from the performance of the Orange world-class infrastructure and global expertise.

“In today’s digital-first business environment, the demand for a resilient, adaptable and secured network infrastructure has never been more critical. We welcome VMware on board Evolution Platform. Its SD-WAN offering will provide our customers with choice and interoperability, enabling them to build the ideal network for their business,” said Jean-Noël Michel, vice-president of communication services at Orange Business.

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