Consumer Goods Company De-risks Global Network Refresh with Lab Hosting Services
In this case study
With networking hardware nearing end-of-life, a consumer goods company decided to take a fresh look at improving connectivity across its entire enterprise. The move would require updating distinct environments, from warehouses and manufacturing plants to campus and branch sites.
As part of the initiative, the company wanted to compare different wide area network (WAN) solutions and make sure it could take advantage of all the features new Wi-Fi 6 access points and controllers can provide. At the same time, the company needed a rock-solid plan for deployment.
While the prospect of improving connectivity across the globe was exciting, it came with risks. The company's IT organization would need to validate an immense amount of hardware and software changes before rolling new technology into production. Any miscalculation could degrade the employee experience, disrupt warehouse operations or cause manufacturing downtime.
With so much at stake, the company turned to WWT and the capabilities of its collaborative, multivendor lab ecosystem, the Advanced Technology Center (ATC).
To help the company execute its global network refresh with as little downtime as possible, WWT gave the company access to the technology evaluation capabilities of the lab ecosystem as well as custom-built lab environments that mimicked the company's production environments as part of WWT's Lab Hosting offering.
Lab Hosting work played a critical role in helping the company execute some of the following use cases.
- Testing and certification of new wireless controllers and access points. The company had to pivot when Cisco 3400 and 5500 Series Wireless Controllers went end of life sooner than expected. It needed to quickly assess the deployability of Cisco Catalyst 9800 Series Wireless Controllers as well as Cisco Catalyst 9130 Access Points. In short order, WWT lab staff certified the new controllers and performed needed code upgrades so they would work in the company's production environments. Lab staff also performed feature and regression testing to determine how different workstations could best take advantage of the updated Wi-Fi 6 features of the new access points.
- Comparison of SD-WAN solutions. While increased usage of Wi-Fi was the primary driver for the company's global network refresh, they decided to take the opportunity to explore SD-WAN vendors. The company had been long-time users of Cisco SD-WAN and wanted to assess the capabilities of two other integrated SD-WAN solutions to verify they were using the correct solution for their needs. After receiving results from our vendor-neutral product comparison proof of concept, the company decided to continue using Cisco SD-WAN because the product allows the customer to control devices on the edge of their networks from the cloud.
- Design of carrier-neutral facilities. WWT lab staff also worked with the company's core networking team to evolve the design of its carrier-neutral facilities. By building virtual extensible LAN (VXLAN) into the design, the company will be able to better segment network traffic for security policies.
Testing, certification, proofs of concept and architectural design de-risked the company's global network refresh and kept the project on track. Findings from the Lab Hosting work informed deployment methods, which were then executed through WWT's supply chain and integration capabilities.
To date, 113 sites have been refreshed with 37 sites in flight, and the company is already seeing gains from updated connectivity. Wi-Fi downloads have increased by 231 percent and uploads by 180 percent. The company is also seeing a 4 percent improvement in Wi-Fi latency.
The company continues to use the ATC and Lab Hosting services to test and certify networking equipment and implement deployment strategies with minimal cutover time.
In addition, the company is using WWT's lab ecosystem for other IT needs. Most notably, the company is piloting Microsoft Teams in its Lab Hosting space to ensure emergency 911 calls can be made over Teams in its various environments.