Corporate mergers are rarely tidy, and integrating the newlywed companies' disparate networks into one wide area network (WAN) comes with complications aplenty. Rather than build a new WAN on its own while completing a merger, a European dairy cooperative is waiting out contracts with local operators around the world in favor of managed MPLS-based services from one global WAN service provider.
"We want to offer end-to-end service levels, so if we have to manage 20 network providers for one [service level agreement], it is a nightmare," said Nuria Simo, corporate CIO at FrieslandCampina, a Netherlands-based dairy co-op born out of a 2008 merger between former Dutch dairy co-op rivals Royal Friesland Foods and Campina. "Either we have to simplify or we can never offer any guarantees."
The joint company -- which includes 16,000 dairy farm members and 21,000 employees dispersed among 27 countries -- recognized early on that its IT department would be better served by focusing on other objectives, such as moving to global voice over IP and virtualization, Simo added, rather than day-to-day WAN management and security.
"We really didn't have one single network, and we didn't have any network managed services. It was a bunch of networks that were managed by ourselves," she said. "It was not a network we felt had really any consistency or any policies."
But as FrieslandCampina's existing service provider contracts gradually expire, the dairy co-op has tapped Verizon Business to incrementally bring its sites onto a more unified WAN through the global telecom operator's managed multiprotocol label switching (MPLS)-based services, Verizon Private IP, instead of continuing to cobble together smaller networks.
"Verizon Business is using phased delivery taking existing contracts into account," said Jeff Rallet, regional sales vice president for continental Europe at Verizon Business. All of the co-op's sites will be live on Verizon's MPLS-based network by June 2010, he said.
"In this merger, it was not only a merger that is putting two companies together. It is also taking the step of integrating the previous two companies," Simo said. "Both Friesland Foods and Campina are the result of many mergers before, but this is the first time there is a very strong drive to … have one company, one culture and one way of doing things."
Managed MPLS services ease security concerns
After the merger began, Simo learned she had inherited 20 service provider contracts from local operators throughout the co-op's combined 200 sites. The approach had been a way to keep expenses down, she said.
But decentralization came at a cost. Employees and member farms in some locations had trouble accessing company resources on the Internet or simple collaboration tools.
Worse yet, the divisions had made FrieslandCampina's networks susceptible to attacks over the past year as the merger moved forward, Simo said. Disconnecting a group of sites in response to an attack could mean idling a factory until the issue was resolved.
Above cost and even reliability, security was the main selling point in FrieslandCampina's search for managed MPLS services, she said.
"In this year that I've been with FrieslandCampina, there have been some security breaches that were difficult to manage because of the fragmented network portfolio," Simo said. "For us, security was a big worry."
Some sites have no local IT support from FrieslandCampina. A managed MPLS network allows the dairy co-op's IT team to sit back and let Verizon take care of network problems there.
Enterprises that entrust their WAN to managed MPLS services are not only freed up to tackle other objectives but also benefit from constantly monitored and updated security services.
"This consolidation of the network has been an enabler," Rallet said. "If you keep the same puzzle, in terms of IT infrastructure, somewhere that [becomes] a big roadblock."
Let us know what you think about the story; email: Jessica Scarpati, News Writer