Key to Great SD-WAN Management? Great Customer Service

eWEEK IT SCIENCE RESOURCE PAGE: Swisslog needed a vendor that could supplement the company’s small IT staff and provide a highly reliable, high-touch network management service. Open Systems was its ticket.

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Here is the latest article in an eWEEK feature series called IT Science, in which we look at what actually happens at the intersection of new-gen IT and legacy systems.

Unless it’s brand new and right off various assembly lines, servers, storage and networking inside every IT system can be considered “legacy.” This is because the iteration of both hardware and software products is speeding up all the time. It’s not unusual for an app-maker, for example, to update and/or patch for security purposes an application a few times a month, or even a week. Some apps are updated daily! Hardware moves a little slower, but manufacturing cycles are also speeding up.

These articles describe new-gen industry solutions. The idea is to look at real-world examples of how new-gen IT products and services are making a difference in production each day. Most of them are success stories, but there will also be others about projects that blew up. We’ll have IT integrators, system consultants, analysts and other experts helping us with these as needed.

Today’s Topic: The Key to Great SD-WAN Management Is Great Customer Service

Name the problem to be solved: For Swisslog, a midsized provider of automation solutions for health and logistics, IT resources are precious. In 2008, the company went looking for a vendor that could supplement the company’s small IT staff and provide a highly reliable, high-touch network management service. The company’s previous three vendors (over just three years) had unreliable services and often took considerable time to resolve issues—sometimes as long as 10 hours.

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Describe the strategy that went into finding a solution: At that time, several WAN vendors provided similar technology, but Swisslog’s goal was to find a company that could go beyond meeting the technical requirements. The company wanted a partner it could rely on for implementation services and the highest levels of post-implementation support. Open Systems had a strong reputation for working with its customers as partners, and after extensive due diligence, the partnership between Swisslog and Open Systems began.

List the key components in the solution: The critical components of the service for Swisslog were reliable uptime; high security; 24x7x365 network monitoring across the globe; rapid, proactive resolution of issues that arose; and the ability and willingness to adapt to evolving requirements. Furthermore, Swisslog was in need of a partner whose team was an extension of its own, that understood the business inside and out, and that acted in the best interest of Swisslog.

Describe how the deployment went, how long it took, and if it came off as planned: Because Swisslog lacked sufficient WAN and security expertise on staff, the company needed Open Systems to act as a guide through the implementation. Open Systems reviewed the business requirements, performed interviews, analyzed the technical requirements and recommended a solution. Once Swisslog agreed on the solution, the partners worked together to transition all locations around the world from the previous vendor to Open Systems over a period of just four months. During this period, Open Systems provided Swisslog with dedicated resources who took ownership of the project as if it were their own business. Any time there was a challenge, Open Systems was able to address it within minutes, and the company did not encounter a single issue that had a negative impact on the business. Based on the company’s previous experiences, this far exceeded expectations.

Describe the result, new efficiencies gained, and what was learned from the project: Open Systems has been a true partner and extension of the Swisslog team. There is rarely a technical problem, and when one does occur, Swisslog is often able to reach Open Systems within 30 seconds and the issue is typically resolved in 10 to 20 minutes, not hours.

Key learnings from Swisslog’s experience with managed SD-WAN services include:

  • Things aren’t always what they seem when reviewing vendor capabilities. Due diligence on a vendor must include speaking to existing customers. Before selecting Open Systems, Swisslog contacted other companies that were Open Systems customers to make sure the vendor was delivering on its promises. Swisslog also visited Open Systems multiple times to observe first-hand how the operations center worked.
  • It’s hard to understand the business requirements for a technology when there is limited in-house expertise in the technology. No matter how much you analyze your needs—in terms of speed and latency, for example—there is always an element of guesswork. This means the vendor must be able to react quickly when something that wasn’t planned for occurs or the customer realizes something is not working well.
  • When you find a reliable vendor, let them be the expert. Sometimes Swisslog fell into the trap of assuming it knew more about a particular issue than Open Systems. This turned out not always to be true. The takeaway? When you work with trusted partners, you really need to put your trust in them and listen to what they say.

Describe ROI, carbon footprint savings and staff time savings, if any: Swisslog was able to reduce its WAN management staff from seven individuals to three, which is still the staffing level today, and does not need to worry about ensuring 24x7x365 staffing in locations around the world. However, the real business benefit of Open Systems is much greater. Thanks to improved monitoring, security and time to resolution, the company saw an overall 35 percent increase in uptime of the SD-WAN, which has translated into significant ROI. For example, if a site with 300 people is down for six hours, that lack of productivity comes out of the bottom line. Swisslog no longer experiences these outages.

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Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...