CMC Networks – One STEP at a Time

As Africa’s first AI-driven Telecom provider, CMC Networks is making waves across the industry.

We’ve looked at CMC Networks before. The global telecommunications carrier has a 30-year track record operating the largest pan-African network, serving 51 of the continent’s 54 countries while also extending its reach to the Middle East and Western Asia. The company’s C-RAN™ Rapid Adaptive Network has helped it to secure a unique position in the market. The key to C-RAN™, powered by Juniper 128 Technology, is that it not only automates and drives the company’s internal digital transformation but also creates a platform for customers to deploy and service chain their SDx capabilities across Africa and beyond.

When we last talked with CMC the company had a lot planned, including a brand-new feature further enhancing the CMC C-RAN™ solution – called STEP (Services and Topology Exchange Protocol). This game-changer, in its roll-out phase at the time, used artificial intelligence capabilities to learn network topology and the services attached to the network. STEP would then use this data to work out the optimal path for connecting users, departments or branches to those services.

Since our last interview, the world has seen eventful times, including the continuing global pandemic, but for CMC it has also been an exciting period, as CEO Marisa Trisolino explains when we speak to her.

“It has been a year packed with energy, ideas, momentum, and key milestones.  We weathered the global pandemic and despite facing this challenge and juggling the consequences of working remotely and virtually for close to two years, we as a company are more united and stronger than ever,” Trisolino tells us. “The pandemic made us re-adjust and prioritise and drive key deliverables, and at the same time playing a juggling act in ensuring our staff lead a balanced lifestyle – as challenging as it is today.”

A Sat-Nav for Data

Trisolino is justifiably proud of what CMC Networks has accomplished over the last year, with two key achievements standing out from the crowd. The first is that CMC has continued to drive innovation even further than before, working closely with Juniper 128T to position CMC Networks as the first AI-driven Telecom provider in Africa while building on its work with C-RAN and STEP.

“We have now taken it a ‘step’ further, in that we leveraged the intelligence of Juniper’s Session Smart™ Routers – this new feature further enhances the C-RAN solution – it ups our game in our service delivery world by standardising on Juniper Networks’ STEP across our footprint in Africa in The Middle East,” Trisolino explains. “To break it down in laymen’s terms – let me compare STEP to [Google’s satellite navigation software] Waze. It provides a similar function to Waze in the real-world traffic management use case. Just like Waze would have visibility and indicate the least congested routes when it comes to auto traffic, STEP can automatically select paths based on least congestion, shortest path, cost-effectiveness, and availability.”

This is a game-changer in the SDN (Software-Defined Networking world. It gives CMC’s customers the best SDWAN experience – high performing, and secure. Juniper has recently integrated their Session Smart Routers into their WAN assurance cloud platform called MIST. MIST offers powerful AI-driven capabilities such as service level expectations (SLEs), predictive and granular insights, baseline anomaly detection and troubleshooting automation. STEP and MIST work hand in hand to deliver the ultimate user experience and service assurance an SD-WAN can deliver.

“It’s pretty much second to none in Africa and the Middle East,” Trisolino tells us.

While CMC’s technical achievements are impressive, talking to Trisolino it is also clear how proud she is of CMC’s other biggest achievement of the last year – achieving Level 1 B-BBEE status for the second year in a row.

“This is ongoing commitment aligns our operational plans to our transformation objectives, plus this status offer tangible benefits to CMC’s Customers,” she tells us. “It is a clear demonstration of our ongoing commitment to a meaningful transformation in South Africa, the growth of the economy and playing our part in tackling youth unemployment and skills development to uplift local communities.”

The Heartbeat of a Company

These achievements have been realised while taking the company through the pandemic and ensuring it maintains a key focus on its customers. In difficult circumstances, CMC has been making sure its services are implemented flawlessly, with the highest security, and as little interruption as possible from the global supply chain shortages. What’s more, CMC has done this while ensuring the morale among its workforce stays high.

“At the end of the day, it’s the dedication and relentless drive from individuals at CMC Networks that are the heartbeat of the company,” Trisolino insists.

CMC has managed this by pressing for increased communication and flexibility among its staff. Communicating on focus areas, sharing numbers, bringing in teams to share their concerns, achievements, and personal goals helped everyone weigh up the day and understand that they are in these unprecedented times as a team.

“Importantly we ensured all our business units spread across the globe are technically well equipped, with easy access to all our systems,” Trisolino recounts. “Then as a team-building effort, back In April 2021 the company embarked on a 365-Day Virtual CMC Networks Africa Challenge, where we as a company aim to run, walk, cycle, and move our way across Africa and the Middle East from April 2021 to March 2022. This allows employees of all fitness levels to log their activity, be it navigating the rocky trails on their mountain bikes or enjoying a walk.”

When we speak to Trisolino, CMC Networks is 302 Days into its 365-Day Virtual CMC Networks Africa Challenge, which is 80% complete and still going strong.

“This initiative has certainly helped drive the team with a fun common purpose,” Trisolino points out.

It is a common purpose and drive that will see CMC build on what it has achieved already to reach new heights.

“We will continue to make significant investments in providing our customers with the most advanced networking platform on the African continent,” Trisolino tells us. “It is in our DNA to ensure we stay ahead of the curve. Our focus is currently on Security. This is the highest priority currently for our customers. We are ensuring we secure the Edge supported by policy-based software, and defined perimeter solutions. Our customers need to know their network is in the safest and most reliable hands – a CMC Network that spans across 51 countries in Africa and 12 countries in the Middle East.”

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