Robert Horner, Sr. Director, Global Alliances, Juniper Networks

Introducing Segment Routing to Affordably Connect South African Homes & Businesses | Juniper Summit

Global Summit 2021 Operations
Robert Horner Headshot
Split-screen from video of James Devine, National Head Core & Transmission, Herotel (left) Robert Horner, Sr. Director, Global Alliances, Juniper Networks (middle) and Eldred Ekermans, CTO, Herotel (right) discussing the internet provider's expansion in South Africa.

Herotel keeps South Africa connected with segment routing.

Connecting 170,000 homes and business endpoints to the internet and plans to expand further, Herotel won’t stop building until everyone in South Africa is connected. Find out how Juniper, NEC XON, and Herotel have partnered together to provide affordable connectivity across South Africa.

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You’ll learn

  • How Herotel reimagined its network to deliver on its vision of quality services and experience

  • Why Herotel chose segment routing over traditional deployments

  • Three strategic anchors Herotel leaders use for making business and technical decisions

Who is this for?

Security Professionals Network Professionals


Robert Horner Headshot
Robert Horner
Sr. Director, Global Alliances, Juniper Networks

Guest speakers

James Devine Headshot
James Devine
National Head Core & Transmission, Herotel
Eldred Ekermans Headshot
Eldred Ekermans
CTO, Herotel


0:00 [intro music]

0:07 -Hello, everyone.

0:08 I'm Robert Horner.

0:09 I'm responsible for Juniper's largest global alliance,

0:14 which is with NEC corporation at of Tokyo.

0:18 I will be having a discussion with a joint Juniper NEC customer

0:23 at of South Africa,

0:25 and that is Herotel.

0:27 Here with me today is Herotel,

0:30 CTO Eldred Ekermans

0:33 and Herotel, National Head of Core and Transmission

0:38 James Devine.

0:40 I wanted to have a discussion about your recent deployment

0:46 and also your mission.

0:49 Juniper and NEC XON and Herotel have partnered together

0:56 to provide greater connectivity across South Africa.

1:00 Eldred, can you tell us what Herotel's mission is

1:04 and your strategy that you're taking to achieve your goals?

1:09 -Thank you, Robert. Thanks for the opportunity.

1:12 Herotel's vision is everyone connected.

1:16 We feel that we'll keep on building fixed telecoms networks until

1:19 all the people in South Africa that needs to be connected are connected.

1:23 We believe in taking a differentiated approach,

1:26 so we don't use one specific technology.

1:28 We look at the situation of the customer,

1:31 the environment that they are in,

1:33 and we use the appropriate technology for them.

1:35 In high dense areas, we will do FTTH

1:38 and in lower dense areas, we'll do fixed wireless.

1:41 We are currently expanding our presence across

1:44 most of the towns in South Africa.

1:46 Every time that it's not serviced by a proper broadband,

1:49 reliable internet, we will be able to deploy

1:52 our networks there.

1:54 Obviously, depending on the town itself,

1:57 it depends on the technology that we'll use.

1:59 We currently connect 170,000 homes and businesses endpoints to the internet.

2:04 We are planning to add another 60,000 to that in the 2021.

2:11 -Great.

2:13 How did you come to choose NEC XON and Juniper specifically as your partners?

2:21 -At the end of 2018, we realized that we have to go through

2:25 a massive network upgrade, and we started dreaming

2:28 at what we think our next generation network

2:30 should look like.

2:33 Any big decision like that,

2:36 we always turn to our three strategic business anchors,

2:40 and we try and find the best balance between those anchors.

2:42 The first of those is excellent customer experience

2:45 and from a networking perspective,

2:47 to give the customer the best experience you can.

2:50 The only way to do that is to try and bring the latency down.

2:53 Try and bring the content as close as possible to the customer.

2:56 Our second strategic anchor is low cost deployments.

3:00 We have to be very creative in how we deploy our networks,

3:02 especially in Africa.

3:06 We don't want to spend a dollar today that we're going to have to re-spend

3:11 in two or three years.

3:12 Because we were short-sighted, but what we also don't want

3:15 to do this overengineer our networks

3:17 and spend a lot of money and never actually use those assets.

3:19 We believe in spending a lot of time in

3:22 thinking and planning on our networks.

3:23 Then the last strategic anchor is service availability.

3:26 Our network simply always has to be up.

3:28 We can't afford our networks to be down.

3:31 The result of that kind of thinking brought us to a network design

3:36 that brings CDN or content distribution networks,

3:42 closer to the customer as we distribute those throughout Africa.

3:45 Then we repair as much as we can nationally.

3:47 Then for any international content,

3:49 we find an international provider to do that.

3:52 When we went to market, we had a bunch of suppliers

3:56 and vendors that we spoke to,

3:58 but the NEC XON just basically understood our vision.

4:03 They really snapped very quickly what we wanted to achieve.

4:06 Most of the other vendors came with multiple technologies

4:09 that they were mixing, whereas NEC XON provided us

4:16 with Juniper for our routing and switching gear.

4:18 That basically just clinched the deal for us.

4:23 -Great.

4:26 Over the last year, the world has changed

4:29 from physical to virtual,

4:32 and this has put a great deal of responsibility on service providers.

4:36 What kind of changes have you seen in your environment,

4:42 like shifting traffic patterns, those kinds of things,

4:45 due to the movement to virtual?

4:52 -When we went into lockdown as a country,

4:54 pretty much a day to day, a year ago,

4:58 we immediately saw a 30% jump in traffic on our networks.

5:02 Fortunately, our transmission and call networks handle

5:05 that traffic pretty easily.

5:07 We didn't have any issues there.

5:08 Some of our access networks needed

5:11 a bit of tweaking and a bit of upgrading,

5:13 but we could attend to that pretty quickly.

5:15 What we saw is that a lot of people started working from home,

5:20 but specifically video content really made the leap in traffic.

5:25 The fact that we've got content distribution nodes

5:28 throughout the country,

5:29 that also made it much easier for us to handle the traffic.

5:35 You don't have to pause the traffic of long-distance links.

5:38 We serve that locally.

5:39 I think our network design kind of proved itself very quickly

5:44 when the pandemic hit us.

5:46 The other interesting thing that we've seen is that people

5:51 initially it was like they all craved going online.

5:56 There was a real spike, but it's kind of stabilized.

5:59 We see that actually quite often, the moment we rolled out

6:02 a proper broadband network in an area, it's like they can't get enough of it.

6:07 Then after six months to a year, it stabilizes,

6:10 and people's usage patterns kind of gets balanced.

6:13 That massive increase, we haven't really seen that carry on.

6:17 We've seen a real stabilization in terms of what people use.

6:22 We're very grateful that we deployed our Juniper network,

6:27 when we did, and we could accommodate the big traffic in lockdown.

6:32 -Excellent. Great to hear, Eldred.

6:34 Thanks so much.

6:35 James, a couple of questions for you.

6:39 Herotel has the first commercial segment routing deployment

6:45 across South Africa.

6:48 How did you choose segment routing over traditional MPLS?

6:53 -That's a great question, Robert.

6:55 Segment routing addresses several of the shortfalls

6:59 of the traditional MPLS deployments that we've seen over the years.

7:04 One of the big ones is that they like to centralize

7:07 in one or two locations.

7:09 That just didn't sit well with the African environment

7:14 and the African layout.

7:17 To overcome the shortfalls of the traditional MPLS

7:20 and allow us to use our network bandwidth more efficiently,

7:23 there was only one thing to turn towards, and that was segment routing.

7:28 It doesn't limit us to a single topology design

7:31 as traditional MPLS does.

7:32 It supports both meshed and ringed topologies,

7:35 and most importantly, it scales well.

7:37 We've seen tremendous growth in the last nine months on the network.

7:42 This also allowed us to build a solid foundation for automation goals.

7:45 All of these three aspects support our three strategic anchors

7:49 that we use when making any of our business

7:52 or even technical decisions.

7:54 That is low cost but not cheap, quality customer experience,

7:59 and availability, which quite (unclear).

8:00 We're always up.

8:02 -Why did you choose Juniper for segment routing?

8:05 -We compared several vendor platforms while we were looking

8:08 at our SR deployment.

8:10 It basically came down to the three simple facts.

8:15 With the Juniper's NEC XON solution, we had a single vendor,

8:19 with end-to-end, including all of our routine switch infrastructure

8:22 and eliminated all of the cost of inter-vendor operability problems

8:28 and finger-pointing.

8:30 The second one was at the MX platform is simply a rock star.

8:33 It's unparalleled at what you can do with this.

8:36 The track record that we've had with it, that it's had in the industry,

8:40 the bang for the buck that you get,

8:41 and with the simple addition of the license,

8:43 any of the MX2 deployed through our network

8:46 can instantly become another decentralized BNG.

8:50 With each BNG,

8:52 we have decentralized content delivery nodes, caches.

8:57 The third and probably one of the most important one is that,

9:01 as you saw, it's so new to the continent,

9:04 and especially to South Africa.

9:06 We saw a few production networks in the world.

9:09 It was imperative that we had an incredibly strong partner

9:12 with the required skills that could assist us with qualified stuff.

9:18 Most importantly, that they had to be based

9:20 and in the ground, on the ground in South Africa.

9:24 Because this is a pretty groundbreaking deployment for us,

9:30 and we wanted a partner and not a consultant.

9:34 There was only one real choice, and everything filter.

9:38 -Great to hear.

9:41 James, now that you have

9:42 the first South African commercial segment routing deployment in operation,

9:49 what impact have you seen on your network?

9:54 -We've seen a drop in latency and increase in throughput.

9:58 First off, we cannot compare custom silicon

10:02 to software-based routing platform.

10:05 The increase in performance has been phenomenal and groundbreaking.

10:09 Signal routing also allows us to play a key role in avoiding

10:13 the complexity of interconnecting existing city networks

10:16 while allowing for the flexibility and the deployment of decentralized BNGs

10:20 and CDN nodes inside of our network.

10:23 This centralized, this SR network that we deployed has allowed us

10:28 to amalgamate 19 separate operational entities

10:31 and networks in South Africa,

10:33 into a national SR network in this year.

10:36 All of this relates back to the most important metric

10:39 on our network, and that is the

10:41 improvement in customer experience.

10:46 -Great to hear.

10:47 What's next for Herotel?

10:51 -That's a big question.

10:54 As our SR rings are being completed and they're being rolled out,

10:57 the additional rings are being rolled out.

11:00 We've just begun with migrating our customers to our distributed BNG

11:03 and CDN nodes around the country, already seen incredible performance,

11:07 increased by not having to take the traffic all the way

11:10 around the country and back again to our users.

11:13 We plan to have all of our fiber, FDH and FTTP customers

11:18 on our on-net networks (unclear) to the BNGs this year.

11:23 We have 10 of them set right around the country,

11:26 and our wireless networks to be followed shortly thereafter,

11:29 early next year.

11:31 We have a strong push for visibility and management into the network this year,

11:34 with the goal of automating by service provisioning,

11:37 and intelligent metric-based network routing.

11:41 SR again has made this simple for us, and we're incredibly strong foundation

11:46 for automation making the development of tools simpler.

11:50 We're also working with NEC XON and Juniper with the beginning trials

11:55 of the Juniper network automation system paradigm.

11:58 -That's quite a list of next steps for you.

12:02 Gentlemen, it's been a pleasure having a discussion with you.

12:08 I look forward to a long and very productive partnership

12:11 going forward.

12:12 Thanks so much for joining us today.

12:15 -Thanks so much.

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