Rogers-O’Brien maximizes value of advanced construction technologies with the Unity EdgeConnect SD-WAN edge platform and Unity Boost WAN optimization
After 50 years of success in the construction industry you might expect a company to be set in its ways. Not so for Rogers-O’Brien Construction Company. This tech-savvy firm is continually looking for “A Better Way” — it’s their motto and business practice. For Michael Shepherd, this was an inspiring atmosphere in which to join RO as its first chief technology officer (a rare position in the industry).
“RO has a legacy of innovation in construction technology,” Shepherd says. “It’s a testament to Justin McAfee, our CEO, that he invests the resources needed to make technology a differentiator for the business.”
In fact, RO led the industry in using drones to record aerial footage of job sites and capturing 360-degree building images with laser scanners mounted on robotic dogs. The problem was these innovations generate enormous digital files—some hundreds of gigabytes in size—and RO’s wide-area network (WAN) struggled to handle the load.
Shepherd notes, “When I joined RO, the biggest complaints I received were around application performance and network reliability. Connectivity was slow and unreliable; it was a constant problem.”
Silver Peak could easily scale to meet our needs, and the EdgeConnect platform provides true circuit bonding to use all available bandwidth simultaneously. That was huge for us.”
— Michael Shepherd, Chief Technology Officer, Rogers-O’Brien Construction Company
Job sites connected at a moment’s notice
Having read about SD-WAN, Shepherd saw an opportunity to improve network reliability and performance at job sites, and reached out to IT partner, Presidio, to evaluate SD-WAN solutions. The contenders quickly narrowed to Silver Peak and Meraki, with RO ultimately selecting the Silver Peak Unity EdgeConnect™ SD-WAN edge platform.
Shepherd explains, “We wanted to like Meraki because we are a Meraki shop, but Presidio urged us to look closely at Silver Peak. Meraki had some capacity limitations, and while they offered circuit failover, we couldn’t use more than one circuit at a time. Silver Peak could easily scale to meet ourneeds, and the EdgeConnect platform provides true circuit bonding to use all available bandwidth simultaneously. That was huge for us, especially when a location is limited to LTE service.”
RO now deploys the EdgeConnect platform at all job sites, branch locations, and its Microsoft Azure cloud environment. This eliminates the need for separate routers and firewalls at the edge. While the number of job sites constantly changes, the firm currently has 36 EdgeConnect appliances in active use with others available to deploy at a moment’s notice.
The speed of deploying EdgeConnect to job sites is critical. When RO receives a notice to proceed with a project, the project owner expects work to begin immediately. Since many job sites don’t initially have a formal address, the company typically sets up multiple LTE devices, aggregated in one or more Cradlepoint wireless adapters, to establish a connection until more permanent circuits can be provisioned.
“When the dedicated service is available, we simply plug it in and it just works,” Shepherd explains. “The Cradlepoint then becomes either active-active or active-passive for us to provide immediately failover that is transparent to the end user. We can have a new site connected and ready to work the same day after getting a notice to proceed.”
Elevates quality of experience
At many job sites, the RO team relies heavily on large files, some generated onsite from image capture applications, and others transferred from Azure. This is where Shepherd takes advantage of the optional Unity Boost™ WAN optimization performance pack, which is unified with the EdgeConnect platform. While not used at every job site, Boost can easily be applied where needed, and moved from one site to another without disruption, through the Unity Orchestrator™ management interface.
Shepherd says wherever Boost is applied, sites run dramatically faster. “Previously, our WAN infrastructure was so slow that employees had to drive back to the main office just to transfer the image files that were captured in the field to our render farm. Access to large or complex models remotely was also a big issue. Our operations and design teams often had to download a copy of the model before they left or drive to an office in order to make simple design changes. Now with Boost they can work at the job site as efficiently as if they were in the office.”
Real-time applications like Microsoft Teams also run more smoothly thanks to capabilities like path conditioning, quality of service, dynamic path control, and by guaranteeing optimal network resources with a business intent overlay dedicated to video conferencing. “Being able to prioritize Teams traffic has had a huge impact on quality of experience,” Shepherd reports. “When we’re in an owners meeting, connecting people from all over the world, it reflects poorly on our whole organization if connections drop or there’s screen glitching. Having a high-quality video conference experience gives comfort to the owners and reinforces their trust in RO.”
Improves efficiency and productivity
Job sites are also filled with numerous trade partners working with RO to construct the building. These trade partners also require connectivity to their own data centers and internet resources. To accommodate this need, Shepherd uses the routing interoperability and stateful zone-based firewall within EdgeConnect to segment traffic at the edge and break out each trade partner directly to the internet. This keeps trade partners and RO securely isolated from one another.
RO staff can also break out locally to the internet for SaaS applications like Microsoft Office 365, as well as connect to Azure to run business and construction applications. “Local breakout was significant for us,” Shepherd says. “It allows users to get to the nearest Office 365 node so they can access those services faster and more efficiently.”
Efficiency is a major point for Shepherd—both for the business and IT. “We try to be as efficient and effective as possible,” he says. “Any slowdown or interruption to connectivity hurts productivity and can cause delays to the project. That’s no longer an issue. We get so few calls about problems with job site connectivity, we’re able to focus staff more on innovation and further improving efficiency rather than just keeping the lights on. That’s where the Silver Peak SD-WAN has paid off so well for us.”
For more information on Silver Peak and our solutions, please visit: silver-peak.com
Rogers-O’Brien Construction Company is the premier commercial builder in Texas. For 50 years this family-run business has delivered excellence and expertise, gaining trust from project owners around the world to construct their hospitals, data centers, corporate headquarters, retail stores, and more. A leader in construction technology with five branch locations across Texas, RO consistently delivers high-quality buildings that exceed the most demanding expectations.
Rogers-O’Brien requires reliable, high-performance network connectivity at a wide range of construction sites across Texas. However, its previous approach using traditional routers and firewalls was complicated to deploy and couldn’t scale to support data intensive applications like video image capture and building modeling. Site users complained about frequent network outages, and poor application performance forced workarounds and slowed productivity.
Working with partner, Presidio, Rogers-O’Brien standardized on the Silver Peak Unity EdgeConnect SD-WAN edge platform to connect all its job sites, as well as branch locations and its Microsoft Azure cloud infrastructure. With EdgeConnect, job sites can connect with any available technology, typically LTE at the start of a project, and later broadband or dedicated internet access (DIA). RO uses Unity Boost WAN optimization to accelerate large file transfers, and manages site deployments and the overall SD-WAN with Unity Orchestrator.
All production facilities are configured with dual-active appliances to ensure high availability, and in every location EdgeConnect is terminated with dual bonded circuits comprised of MPLS and either DIA or DSL broadband. EdgeConnect is also service chained with Palo Alto Networks firewalls at the edge, in the data center, and in the cloud. The IT team centrally manages the SD-WAN using Unity Orchestrator.
- > Eliminates downtime due to circuit outages or brownouts on any single WAN circuit with sub-millisecond circuit failover
- > Enables secure local internet breakout at job sites, enabling more efficient access to SaaS applications like Microsoft Office 365
- > Improves productivity and quality of experience for RO staff and project owners, optimizing real-time applications like Microsoft Teams
- > Uses all available circuits simultaneously, improving application performance and quality of service
- > Accelerates large file transfers from cloud and data center with Boost WAN optimization, providing job site staff with office-like experience
- >> Frees IT from answering network complaints to focus more time on innovation and business improvements
- >> Speeds job site deployments from days or weeks to hours, meeting project owners’ expectations and accelerating time to revenue