In This Case Study

Challenge

Every day, more than one million riders rely on a mass transit agency to get where they need to go. The agency is committed to providing safe, fast and reliable service across its network of subways, buses, commuter rails and ferries. 

The agency understood rider experience was key to improving loyalty and growth, and envisioned a contactless ticketing system that would let riders board any mode of transportation with the tap of a smartphone, pre-paid fare card or contactless credit card.

But to make this vision a reality, the agency first needed to modernize its core network. 

For decades, the agency ran on a synchronous optical network (SONET). Yet without any routing capabilities, SONET networks are unable to support digital experiences that rely on an internet connection. Rather than trying to keep its old network alive with short-term fixes, the agency wisely decided to move to a routed optical networking solution from Cisco. The converged network architecture of the solution provides the agency with the best of both worlds: the unparalleled traffic throughput of a private line with the flexibility of IP routing.

However, IP routing represented a net new skill for agency engineers, many of whom had spent decades operating SONET. WWT drew on its optical experts, routing experts and the capabilities of its Advanced Technology Center (ATC) to custom design the new solution and quickly teach agency engineers how to operate an IP network.

Solution

We started by creating a complete end-to-end optical and packet architecture that would ease the agency's path toward migration. When it came time to implement the solution, product shortages resulted in us only receiving part of the equipment order. Luckily, our experts quickly found ways to work around the issue to keep the project ahead of schedule and within budget.

Compared to a traditional multi-layer solution, a converged optical and packet solution allows network operators to not only manage optical traffic but also route it at the edge, all through one networking layer.
Compared to a traditional multi-layer solution, a converged optical and packet solution allows network operators to not only manage optical traffic but also route it at the edge, all through one networking layer.

During implementation, we developed a custom practice lab inside the ATC for agency engineers to acquire all the skills they would need to operate the solution once it was deployed.  

Because COVID-19 prevented face-to-face collaboration, our experts and agency engineers relied heavily on the ATC's virtual capabilities. For example, the vCloud-based lab was assigned to engineers for training sessions. This allowed our experts to lead sessions remotely while also providing engineers 24/7 access to the lab for extra practice.

Agency engineers quickly gained valuable hands-on experience with the routed transport solution. They learned how to manage the Cisco Network Convergence System routers that were placed at two major subway hubs during the first phase implementation. Skills acquired included the configuration of basic IS-IS and BGP to provide MPLS Layer 3 VPN services, which will enable contactless boarding. They also learned additional skills for Layer 2 VPN solutions, knowledge that'll make it easier for the agency to pursue similar customer-experience enhancements in the future. 

In addition to the ATC's custom practice lab environment, agency engineers extended their knowledge by leveraging our complimentary and publicly-accessible Cisco Evolved Programmable Network Manager (EPNM) lab, which introduces Cisco EPNM and demonstrates how it can help operate, administrate, and manage Optical (Layer 1), Routing (Layer 2/3) and Converged Multi-Layer Transport.

Our experts virtually sat with engineers at every step of the way to ensure they were fully confident in operating the new network. By the end of the engagement, agency engineers had mapped existing applications to the new architecture, learned the ins and outs of managing an IP network at scale, and became completely comfortable operating Cisco's converged solution.

Results

As more Cisco routers with optical pluggables are placed within the agency's transit system, riders will begin to experience contactless boarding on subways, buses and eventually ferries. 

In addition to navigating subway platforms faster, one of the biggest enhancements riders will experience is the ability to board buses at multiple doors. Not only will riders benefit from a more seamless boarding process, but buses will be able to move along routes faster. 

The mass transit agency is now well positioned to deliver even more innovative experiences to riders. No matter what digital initiatives it pursues in the future, the agency can be confident that its Cisco-supported network and team of upskilled engineers are ready to make those goals a reality.

Technologies