Cloud Transformation Project of the Year
While experts estimate that up to 70 percent of applications have already moved to the cloud, the transformational promise of the cloud has fallen short of the hype and expectations. One challenge is that router-centric and basic SD-WAN wide area network (WAN) approaches can’t keep pace with today’s rapidly changing business requirements. The fundamental nature of applications has changed, and security needs are different when everything is open and connected in the cloud.
Today’s imperative for geographically distributed enterprises is to liberate their applications from the compromises and constraints of existing WAN approaches by shifting to a business-first networking model – and this is exactly what one of the UK’s leading homewares retailers, Dunelm, chose to do following its transformation from a traditional retailer to a multi-channel business.
Transforming the shopping experience
With more than 170 stores across England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, as well as 30,000 products in store – plus extended product ranges online – more than 3.5 million customers visit Dunelm stores and websites each week to find products to enhance their home.
The homeware retailer is continually working to make shopping easy and convenient for its customers. That was the motivation for its transformation from traditional retailing to a multichannel business, introducing innovations such as mobile point-of-sale (POS) devices in stores. If a customer can’t find an item in the store, a sales associate can now use the mobile POS to help them find it at another store or order it online, allowing them to help the customer on the spot, and open up the extended online offering to everyone in-store.
To enable such a fluid shopping experience Dunelm is moving away from running applications in a physical data centre to adopting serverless technologies in the AWS cloud. This move also meant ensuring a robust wide-area network (WAN).
Challenges with traditional architecture
Dunelm’s traditional hub-and-spoke WAN architecture, connecting each store across a single MPLS circuit to a central data centre, was not up to the task. Frequent circuit outages took stores offline. Pushing out price updates to the stores’ POS systems took 10 – 15 minutes and brought all other traffic on the WAN to a crawl. And introducing new services to stores was a tedious, time-consuming process. For Dunelm, the solution was to retire the old hub-and-spoke topology in favour of a full mesh network – and this is where software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) comes into play.
Improving performance, efficiency and security
Having researched SD-WAN vendors, Dunelm came across Silver Peak. After meeting with a Silver Peak representative, Dunelm saw immediately that the Unity EdgeConnect SD-WAN edge platform fit the bill. Dunelm is now rolling out the EdgeConnect platform to all 170-plus stores, as well as warehouses, depots, business offices, manufacturing facilities, a call centre, and a photo studio. In total, the SD-WAN will include 196 sites once fully deployed.
As well as taking advantage of the full range of SD-WAN capabilities in EdgeConnect – including path conditioning, quality of service and dynamic path control – Dunelm is also using Unity Orchestrator, a centralised management console that provides unprecedented levels of visibility into legacy and cloud applications. With Orchestrator, Dunelm created business intent overlays with classes of service for key applications, including point-of-sale, customer Wi-Fi, voice over IP (VoIP) and video. Dunelm also uses the zone-based firewall in EdgeConnect to logically segment VLANs within the stores so, for example, customer Wi-Fi traffic is completely isolated from the POS or VoIP system. This provides the team with a level of control and security that simply didn’t exist in the past.
In addition, by leveraging the optional Unity Boost WAN optimisation software performance pack, unified within the EdgeConnect platform, Dunelm has seen a fourfold increase in network throughput. Pricing updates that previously took up to 15 minutes now finish in a matter of seconds. In fact, application performance has improved overall, with latency up to 70 percent lower for some applications, such as a cloud-based inventory management system.
What’s more, by retiring traditional routers, firewalls, and carrier-specific networking devices at the stores, as well as eliminating the need for outsourced management of that equipment, it is estimated that Dunelm will save nearly £400,000 per year once the full rollout of the EdgeConnect SD-WAN edge platform is complete.
Agility to continue delivering customer-enhancing new services
One of Dunelm’s main objectives in moving to the cloud and building the SD-WAN was to gain more agility to introduce new capabilities in stores and deliver a consistently high-quality customer experience. On the legacy network, planning and implementing a virtual local area network (VLAN) for a new service would take weeks. Through Orchestrator, Dunelm can create a new VLAN and roll it out to the stores in 10 – 20 minutes.
Ultimately, Silver Peak is at the forefront of enabling businesses to liberate their applications from the compromises of existing WAN approaches. With 1,000 EdgeConnect customer deployments worldwide, including Dunelm, Silver Peak is helping enterprises worldwide to realise the true transformational promise of the cloud.