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In November 2020, over £40 million was committed to transforming the UK’s rail networks. In May 2021, The Great British Railways: The Williams-Schapps Plan for Rail was presented to Parliament, outlining a thirty-year plan for improving the quality of transport across the country. Digital technology has become increasingly important in the rail industry, from high-speed internet access and mobile entertainment to mobile bookings and live train updates. Passengers want a comfortable and easy experience that improves their travel quality. With thousands of passengers using trains daily, secure and high-performance connectivity is crucial to deliver services, cope with traffic peaks, and connect remote stations.

As the Williams-Schapps Plan is rolled out, many rail providers have discovered that their legacy networks do not deliver the scalability, security, and compliance needed to ensure reliable performance across widely dispersed locations. One rail franchise operator is addressing these challenges by implementing a secure Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) to connect its stations, depots, rail operations center, and data centers.

Driving operational excellence with SD-WAN

SD-WAN provides dynamic control of every aspect of a network by decoupling the infrastructure from the service through software definition and network function virtualization. When successfully implemented, SD-WAN allows administrators to integrate multiple access technologies and manage them through a single Graphical User Interface (GUI), providing agility, resilience, and cost control. Daily operations can also benefit from SD-WAN’s capabilities, such as local internet breakout at each site and configuring suitable SLAs to voice and video traffic, improving the user experience when utilizing Microsoft 365 for collaboration.

Implementing SD-WAN can also help with mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures by overcoming the requirement for costly enterprise circuits and adopting almost any internet-based transport mechanisms. Centrally orchestrating the corporate network and utilization of features such as application-based overlays and templates can dramatically improve network management quality, allowing IT teams to react more quickly to any restructuring of the organization.

Choosing the right technology partner

While the benefits of a successful digital transformation with SD-WAN as the foundation are huge, the challenges involved in such projects should not be underestimated, especially for critical services like rail, where even minor disruptions can have serious consequences. Legacy networks are often highly complex, delivered by multiple providers and based on hardware approaching end-of-life. Engaging with a trusted technology partner with a proven track record in similar projects across the sector can help operators throughout the deployment project and beyond, ensuring expected outcomes are delivered and passengers are provided with a fully integrated system that increases user experience, improves security posture and facilitates growth and adoption of new services.

Looking for a solution to enhance your rail operations and prepare for any challenge?

Xalient has helped national rail operators navigate obstacles with our full turnkey SD-WAN solution. Our approach combines Silver Peak technology with our consultancy, design, monitoring, and management expertise to create an agile, high-performance network. Read our case study to learn how we helped a major rail franchise operator improve performance and stability, add flexibility, and improve the customer experience.

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Portrait of Mark Foulsham, Board Advisor, NED, COO/CIO, Fractional Support, Digital Leadership Coach

Mark Foulsham

Board Advisor, NED, COO/CIO, Fractional Support, Digital Leadership Coach

With a broad background as a COO/CIO/CDO, C-Suite Advisor, NED, Senior Transformation Leader and Coach, Mark tackles multiple fronts from the advantage of diverse experience in business operations, technology, procurement, delivery and risk. With a deep knowledge of business models from multiple sectors and extensive experience in fast-paced digital start-ups.

Mark’s work across extensive business types, functions and countries empowers him with experience to bear across silos. Mark has built a reputation for advocating cross-business collaboration, taking a pragmatic approach and championing transformative change.