Improve the resilience of network connectivity without increasing costs.
A flexible SD-WAN based on Cisco Meraki technology and commodity broadband connections, fully managed by Xalient.
Affordable dual network connectivity at every site, network-wide visibility with easy-to-use dashboards, wireless connectivity to support in-store initiatives like mobile POS.
This long-established toy store is loved by kids and adults alike, but that doesn’t guarantee success in the often cut-throat world of retail. To help keep the business booming, the company decided to move from its enterprise MPLS network to an internet SD-WAN offering greater resilience and flexibility.
Our customer, a multinational toy retailer, operates a large store in London as well as around 20 other stores in the UK. It also has more than 90 franchise stores in other countries.
In the UK, an in-house team is responsible for the company’s technology. Because it’s a relatively small team, the Head of IT prefers to work with IT service providers who are proactive and responsive, able and willing to be almost an extension of his team.
This wasn’t the experience the company was having with its UK network provider. So when the time came to rethink the company’s network, the Head of IT decided to rethink its provider as well.
“When we talked to Xalient, it quickly became clear that they would be a much better fit and give us the peace of mind we were looking for,” he says, adding: “Besides being experts in their field, they provide 24×7 management, and free us from having to deal with different telecoms companies to get the flexible service we need.”
There were three reasons that the existing MPLS network was no longer the best fit for the company: breakout, resilience, and cost. The Head of IT was conscious that the network’s one internet breakout gateway was a single point of failure, while individual sites also had a point of failure in their single network connection. Adding a second connection for site resilience would add to the cost of a network that was already looking expensive compared with newer technologies.
Since the network was first installed, the company had continually been opening new travel stores at UK airports and train stations, and regional stores around the country. The more the business grew, the more of a risk the lack of resilience became. With cost-control a continual business pressure, the IT team started investigating the possibility of a network built on lower-cost broadband connections and SD-WAN technology.
The ‘intelligent’ control afforded by software-defined networking, together with developments in SD-WAN security and continuing improvements in commodity broadband, made this a viable alternative. The Head of IT and his team liked the look of the Cisco Meraki solution, and the Xalient team agreed it was a good fit.
“Besides meeting our cost and security requirements, the Meraki solution stood out for its ease of use, and its integrated support for add-ons of interest to retail, such as enterprise wireless access and smart security cameras,” he says.
Although the plan was for Xalient to provide a fully managed service, the visibility provided by the Meraki management dashboard — accessible on any internet-enabled device — gives additional peace of mind and helps Xalient and its customer to operate as a unified team.
“We trusted Xalient to get on with the network setup and management,” says the Head of IT, “while the cloud-based solution gives us the flexibility to log in and see what’s going on ourselves. It contributes to the sense of shared ownership between us.”
The first two sites on the company’s SD-WAN were new two new airport stores, scheduled to open in time for the peak summer holiday travel period. “Xalient repaid our trust by getting those stores up on time, despite a very tight schedule,” says the Head of IT.
Since then, sites have been migrated or added to the network at the rate of about 2-3 per week. With the transition now almost complete, the focus is on the future. Retail has become a fast-paced, multi-channel undertaking, and the Head of IT’s job is to ensure that the company’s network is up to the job of supporting the needs of its stores in an increasingly competitive environment.
Because the Meraki network is so cost-effective, even the smallest travel store can now have two connections for resilience, with both being actively used to share the load. The Head of IT was also quick to take advantage of the fact that the Meraki platform includes enterprise-grade wireless access points that integrate seamlessly with the rest of the solution.
“We’ve started rolling out wireless at some of our smaller stores and it’s good to know that the foundation is now there to support our plans as they develop. It means, for example, that we can support mobile point-of-sale or stock-taking applications, as well as giving customers wireless access,” he says, concluding: “The SD-WAN gives us the flexibility to continue to evolve and grow, and we believe that Xalient is the partner that can evolve and grow with us.”
Sherry Vaswani, CEO Xalient
Head of IT, multinational toy retailer