Top geospatial services firm streamlines data-intensive work sharing across nationwide business network

SAM, LLC drives greater efficiency, lowers costs with QoS-enabled broadband on Unity EdgeConnect SD-WAN edge platform

SAM, LLC (SAM) is a national leader in providing geospatial data solutions and construction phase services. The firm is consistently ranked high by the industry journal Engineering News-Record in its annual list of Top Design Firms, and for the seventh year straight, SAM was named a Top Workplace in Texas by the Austin American-Statesman.

SAM’s industry leadership and accolades result from a top-down commitment to putting customer results first, and equipping its employees with the best tools and technologies to enable their success. In fact, the company has invested millions of dollars in advanced systems such as Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), photogrammetry equipment, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software, and much more.

SAM, LLC drives greater efficiency, lowers costs with QoS-enabled broadband on Unity EdgeConnect SD-WAN edge platform

Systems like these can generate terabytes of data just for one project. And that data may reside in a data center in Texas while the employees working on it are in another office elsewhere in the country. Historically, SAM used Silver Peak WAN optimization to accelerate file transfers and optimize performance of applications, like Autodesk Civil 3D used for design work and consolidated licensing, across its MPLS wide-area network (WAN). But with the firm’s rapid growth, this approach no longer worked.

As we move more workloads into cloud services like Azure and AWS, EdgeConnect will make it easier to extend the SD-WAN and classify applications heading to the cloud. The beauty of EdgeConnect is it’s just set it and forget it. Once you have it up and running, it just works.”
— Shawn Dunn, Director of IT, SAM, LLC

Shawn Dunn, SAM’s Director of IT, explains, “We’ve been growing extremely fast and our biggest challenge has been getting MPLS circuits provisioned at our new sites quickly and efficiently. As project opportunities present themselves, we need to get working quickly, so that kind of delay is not acceptable. We need to be able to get new offices up and online in a matter of days, not months.”

Unified edge infrastructure provides seamless end-to-end connectivity

Working with their networking partner, Presidio, Dunn and his team decided the Unity EdgeConnect™ SD-WAN edge platform was the best solution for the next generation of SAM’s WAN edge infrastructure. The team is now deploying the EdgeConnect platform in a phased approach, first bringing broadband links into the company’s smaller office locations as pilot sites and to gauge responsiveness. Near-term plans include bonding one broadband link with existing MPLS circuits at their larger office locations and replacing the legacy Silver Peak WAN optimization appliances with the new EdgeConnect platform.

New sites are being brought online with broadband only, many with dual-bonded links. SAM will then take full advantage of the advanced SD-WAN capabilities in EdgeConnect, including path conditioning, quality of service, and dynamic path control. SAM is also implementing the optional Unity Boost™ WAN optimization with EdgeConnect to accelerate performance of large file transfers and applications like AutoCAD.

SAM LLC Case Study

The SAM IT team uses network address translation (NAT) on the stateful zone-based firewall within EdgeConnect to direct application traffic to one of the data centers or to break out locally to the internet. Running in passive mode behind the EdgeConnect appliances, SAM uses firewalls at each location to perform intrusion detection and prevention. In addition, the company expects to retire conventional routers at its branch locations and use the built-in routing interoperability provided by EdgeConnect. At larger data centers, the company will pair two EdgeConnect appliances in a high-availability cluster to ensure the highest levels of uptime and business continuity.

Helps bring new office locations online faster

By consolidating the WAN edge on the EdgeConnect platform and adopting an all-broadband approach going forward, the SAM IT team projects substantial financial savings. “With the unified SD-WAN capabilities that EdgeConnect brings, paired with the our next-generation firewalls, we expect to save almost $10,000 in up-front costs per site,” Dunn points out. “Then when you figure how much less a 300 Mbps broadband connection costs compared to what we’re paying for a 50 Mbps MPLS circuit, we could reduce ongoing operational expenses by 25 percent.”

The SAM IT team can also now bring up new office locations much faster than if they had to wait for an MPLS circuit. For example, in most locations broadband service can be provisioned in less than 10 days. Then, using configuration templates pre-built in the Unity OrchestratorTM centralized management software, IT can deploy EdgeConnect within a couple hours to quickly get a new site up and running.

“The speed that we can bring up new sites with EdgeConnect is critical to help the company expand and compete more effectively,” Dunn affirms.

Ensuring smooth operations with business intent overlays and QoS

Leveraging EdgeConnect to bring in higher-bandwidth broadband—effectively increasing available bandwidth from 50 Mbps to 350 Mbps at some sites — while ensuring high quality of experience for end users, will make a big difference for employees sharing data-rich project files between geographically dispersed offices. Especially as imaging technologies advance from 4K today to 8K video and 3D imagery in the near future, that extra headroom will help keep everyone working efficiently and productively.

Even more important, once dual links are bonded at the sites, IT will be able to use the Orchestrator management software to configure business intent overlays for specific applications like Autodesk licensing, VoIP, or CIFS file sharing, each with centrally managed quality of service (QoS) policies. This will ensure that each application is prioritized based on its unique requirements or criticality to the business.

SAM LLC

Brian Traut, IT Operations Manager, remarks, “The EdgeConnect SD-WAN platform will allow our business to do more work sharing across different offices and data centers to further improve efficiency. Applying QoS to that traffic is critical, because if someone starts a big file transfer or opens a huge image, it could crush the link and really slow down regular operations. For example, we centrally manage application licenses, and if employees can’t get to the license server, they can’t run the application in the first place. Using the business intent overlays with QoS will help us keep the operation running smoothly and deliver the highest quality of experience to our users.”

Dunn adds, “In the future, as we move more workloads into cloud services like Azure and AWS, EdgeConnect will make it easier to extend the SD-WAN and classify applications heading to the cloud. The beauty of EdgeConnect is it’s just set it and forget it. Once you have it up and running, it just works.”

For more information on Silver Peak and our solutions, please visit: silver-peak.com

Customer

Founded in 1994, SAM, LLC has grown to become one of the largest providers of geospatial data solutions and construction phase services in the United States. The company offers a complete suite of geospatial services including professional land surveying, airborne/mobile/terrestrial LiDAR, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE), Utility Coordination (UC), aerial mapping, photogrammetry, and hydrographic surveying. SAM also provides construction phase services through its wholly owned subsidiary, SAM-Construction Services, LLC (SAM-CS). Headquartered in Austin, Texas, and employing more than 1000 professionals, SAM has the capacity to field more than 200 crews with the ability to mobilize quickly, perform reliably, and consistently provide quality deliverables.

Challenge

SAM is growing rapidly and requires new offices to be online quickly. However, the long lead times, high cost, and limited bandwidth of MPLS was impeding growth. With large volumes of field data and imagery in multiple data centers, the company’s employees needed reliable and efficient access from any office in the U.S.

Solution

SAM is deploying the Unity EdgeConnect SD-WAN edge platform in a phased approach across its 10 principal data centers and another 20 business offices in the U.S. leveraging a combination of MPLS and broadband circuits. The company is also implementing the optional Unity Boost WAN optimization performance pack to accelerate large file transfers and applications including CAD licensing. SAM uses Unity Orchestrator to centrally manage the entire SD-WAN infrastructure.

Results

  • Saves nearly $10,000 in capital expense per site, and lowers ongoing operational expenses by approximately 25 percent
  • Allows the company to retire conventional branch routers using the routing interoperability of EdgeConnect
  • Increases available bandwidth from 50 Mbps to 350 Mbps at many sites
  • Enables local internet breakout leveraging zone-based firewall
  • Ensures smooth business operations and unimpeded access to critical data by classifying applications with appropriate QoS policies
  • Supports rapid business growth by accelerating time to bring new offices online from months to less than 10 days
  • Enables more inter-office work sharing to further improve business efficiency and responsiveness to customers