Persistence is, as they say, the key to personal success. It’s also the key to the success of any IT project particularly when that project is a new network architecture.
Just ask Jonathan Phillips. As the Group IT Manager of Network Services at Klӧckner Pentaplast (kp), Phillips was responsible for handling the global network of this leading manufacturer of recycled content products and high-barrier protective packaging for food, pharma, medical, and specialty products.
It was three years ago when kp first considered SD-WAN. At the time, kp had a global MPLS network spanning 63 locations across 27 countries. Each location had an MPLS router and a local WAN optimization appliance. “WAN optimization was valuable for us because of the kind of files we transfer,” he says. “They’re pretty compressible, by about 20 percent, which reduces our MPLS bandwidth costs, of course.”
Nevertheless, kp started to face the MPLS challenges common to all global enterprises. Costs were proving to be too high, and bandwidth was too limited. At the time the CIO considered SD-WAN but didn’t think the technology was yet ready for international deployment. “It was still early days for SD-WAN and we were very concerned that the solutions weren’t going to be mature enough,” says Phillips. “Remember, we’re talking about replacing a global, tightly-controlled MPLS network with the global Internet. It was just too unpredictable, too unknown.”
Instead, kp re-upped with their global MPLS provider for most locations. There were a few locations, though, where MPLS was unavailable or prohibitively expensive. In one site in Europe, for example, MPLS was unaffordable. Performance at this site was a daily frustration, due to the site depending on an IPsec VPN tunnel between Palo Alto firewalls making it a good place to test how SD-WAN would perform.
Led by Phillips, the team started looking for an SD-WAN solution. They engaged with SD-WAN Experts, evaluating key SD-WAN offerings until finally settling on one. The team deployed a virtual SD-WAN appliance into the European office branch and another in the company’s German data center. The trial worked impressively enough to decide to roll out SD-WAN in a number of sites around the world — and increase the overall company’s comfort level with SD-WAN deployments everywhere. Later this year, kp is phasing out MPLS, equipping all locations with SD-WAN appliances and Palo Alto firewall appliances.
Phillips is a big believer in SD-WAN, even with this new way of working. With COVID-19, kp moved non-factory based employees to a working from home policy transitioning up to 900 users to remote working. Moving to Office 365 reduced the need for a VPN, he says.
For those that did require a VPN, Phillips set up Palo Alto firewalls in Germany, USA, Thailand, and one in the UK to reduce congestion. Customers run Palo Alto Global Protect clients and auto-connect to the nearest Palo Alto. “It’s all very seamless,” he says.
Even when those same users come into the office. “When remote users come into our Gordonsville, Virginia office, for example, the VPN client auto-starts and knows from the IP addresses that you’re in the office and won’t start up a VPN tunnel. That makes the experience very simple.”
The big question now is, “What will the office look like tomorrow?” With more users working from home, the same sized offices may no longer be needed.
Good questions, indeed. One that Phillips and his team are still looking to answer.
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