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From the start of its first software-defined WAN deployment, problems and delays plagued Diamond Crystal Brands. Routers were back-ordered. Firewall deployments took weeks. And, ultimately, the SD-WAN technology didn't even work, according to IT Director Arlete Bacon.
When Hormel Foods sold Diamond Crystal Brands to a private equity firm in 2016, a team of third-party management and acquisition consultants recommended a managed SD-WAN service from Verizon, using Cisco's Meraki platform.
In theory, if the network's primary MPLS connection went down, the Meraki SD-WAN would fail over to its secondary connection and keep business-critical applications online. But, in reality, "that never happened," Bacon said.
"It was just a very problematic implementation. The network was constantly dropping our major ERP application, Oracle, and we could never seem to get through Verizon's red tape," she added.
To her point, Bacon said Diamond Crystal Brands filed a help desk ticket with Verizon in mid-2018 that remained open and unresolved for 10 months -- all while it paid thousands per month for the ostensibly managed service. Recent research from SD-WAN vendor Cato Networks suggested the company was not alone in this experience, with 71% of IT pros saying their biggest issue with managed SD-WAN services is the time it takes to resolve problems.
Finally, Diamond Crystal decided to explore other SD-WAN vendor offerings -- ultimately landing on one from CloudGenix. Bacon said the technology stood out for being "very much application-oriented," with the ability to create network policies based on business intent, such as prioritizing the performance of mission-critical apps.
With a lean IT staff of just four people -- all with limited knowledge and experience when it came to SD-WAN -- Bacon also wanted an SD-WAN vendor that could help lead deployment. CloudGenix stepped up to the plate.
"They put a project plan together for us and worked with our infrastructure partners to make sure they were on the ball," Bacon said.
Additionally, CloudGenix enlisted the services of partner organization Serviam Communications to help Diamond Crystal Brands assess local connectivity options at each of its five plants, which are spread across Georgia, California and Iowa. The Serviam consultants analyzed available service provider offerings in a given location and then presented their recommendation to Bacon's team.
Arlete BaconIT director, Diamond Crystal Brands
Diamond Crystal didn't have a second-choice internet service provider (ISP) available for a secondary SD-WAN connection at its plant in Visalia, Calif., so Serviam lined up a satellite option. That connection hasn't performed as well as expected, so the consultants are now helping the Diamond Crystal team assess how much it would cost to add a coax link in that location. Serviam's support and response impressed Bacon.
"Through CloudGenix, we found another great partner in Serviam," she said, adding that the company now also uses the firm's services for voice application management.
The new SD-WAN deployment started in April 2019 and finished on schedule one month later. By the end of May, Diamond Crystal had disconnected the Verizon system.
"It was the simplest, most seamless and most professional implementation I have ever been a part of," Bacon said. "Not one of our customers or executives noticed -- it was all done without any hiccups."
After adopting CloudGenix technology, she added, Diamond Crystal Brands' bandwidth costs fell by 35% -- enabling it to hire more staff members for its in-house IT team. And, most importantly, the SD-WAN technology now works as promised. If one network link goes down for any reason, the backup takes over, and business-critical applications stay up.
"They really kind of wowed us the whole way through, starting with the salesperson," Bacon said. "We liked their leadership style, technical knowledge, project management skills, the documentation they left with us -- it was just very impressive."