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Global food distributor taps HP SDN technology

HP SDN hardware and applications allow The Bama Companies to improve and speed up IT operations, and ensure reliable Lync communications.

Software-defined networking won't be an appropriate IT strategy for every business, but for The Bama Companies Inc., SDN brought a flexible IT infrastructure for efficiently tracking inventory and production cycles at its bakeries.

The manufacturer and distributor of bakery products to large restaurant chains operates eight production plants, four located in the U.S. and four in international locations. While the company's core competency isn't technology, the growing business is heavily dependent on a reliable network. Three years ago, Bama needed to change its IT approach to help its disparate locations run more smoothly and to ensure reliable communications between its employees, said Eric Spille, Bama's IT manager.

After considering technology from several IT vendors, including Cisco and Brocade, Bama selected HP's SDN technology with the help of its technology partner ISG Technology.

SDN wasn't a familiar strategy to many businesses when Bama was considering it three years ago, Spille said.

"When we were talking with [ISG] about switching our network gear to HP's OpenFlow-enabled switches and controllers, I didn't know what it all meant at first, but when we started to really look into these technologies and what we'd now be able to do with SDN, it started to make of lot of sense," he said.

HP's SDN applications made it possible to modify and deploy network capabilities and functions on the fly, Spille said. Agility is critical, because if the network goes down in one location, so can inventory tracking, communications and production.

In adopting a single-vendor IT infrastructure approach for the data center, Spille and his team deployed HP 5800 and 3800 Switch Series networking components with Intelligent Resilient Framework technology, HP Intelligent Management Center (IMC) software and HP ProLiant DL380 Servers and 3PAR StoreServ 7200 Storage. Also deployed was HP's SDN Network Optimizer app for Microsoft Lync voice and video calling.

With a small IT staff, any tools or functionality that requires fewer resources is a bonus. The IT team is enjoying increased network visibility and automated management with Hyperglance, an application developed by Real Status and available from the HP SDN App Store, and HP's IMC. Hyperglance gives IT staff real-time visibility over the entire Bama network by aggregating data across the HP SDN Controller and HP IMC. 

 With HP's IMC, switches were configured to move traffic to the appropriate controller, which has the intelligence for incoming traffic monitoring and traffic prioritization and optimization.

HP's IMC eliminates the need to automate or make changes to each switch separately, a big time-saver for Spille and his IT team.  

The HP Network Optimize SDN app for Microsoft Lync will help Bama move off its legacy Avaya phone system and roll out Lync softphones next year.

"With SDN, we can make sure the new voice experience will be acceptable and optimized for users, " he said. Without OpenFlow-enabled switches, the network wouldn't have a way to prioritize voice and video traffic.

Enabling BYOD is on the roadmap for Bama, which plans to use IMC to automate device policies over the wireless LAN, Spille said. With IMC, Bama employee devices can join the production network and guest devices will join the guest network without any IT intervention.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, news writer and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter. 

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