Vitec boosts application performance while improving global WAN efficiency from data center to cloud
For many communications professionals, whether in television, film, still photography, or the fast-growing realm of independent content creation, there’s one go-to source for specialized equipment: Vitec. The company has three divisions— Production Solutions, Creative Solutions, and Imaging Solutions—with global manufacturing facilities and business offices that provide customers with everything from camera accessories and mobile power to robotic film systems and video transmission solutions.
Following years of growth, fueled by acquisitions, Vitec’s MPLS-based wide-area network (WAN) had become complex. In addition, while failover to backup circuits was automated, the process was complex and end users could still have a dropped connection to sensitive applications such as voice and Citrix.
Ben Skinner, Vitec’s head of corporate networks and infrastructure, took the lead in the Production Solutions division to simplify the WAN edge, and in the process, improve network uptime and efficiency.
The key: a business-driven, software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) built on the Silver Peak Unity EdgeConnect™ SD-WAN edge platform.
Simplifying the WAN edge with Silver Peak
With a background in networking, Skinner knew about SD-WAN and extensively researched potential vendors, including Aryaka, Cisco Meraki, Oracle Talari, and Silver Peak. He and his team then methodically narrowed down the contenders to Silver Peak and Talari. “The key thing about Silver Peak was the simplicity of the EdgeConnect platform,” he says. “The team all agreed Silver Peak was much better in terms of SD-WAN management, ease of deployment, and supporting our cloud strategy.”
The ability to extend SD-WAN connectivity into the cloud is essential for us. From the end user’s perspective, we want them to have a seamless experience connecting to applications whether they are on premises or in the cloud. With Silver Peak that’s been a success.”
— Ben Skinner, Head of Corporate Networks and Infrastructure, The Vitec Group plc
In less than six weeks, Vitec rolled out the EdgeConnect platform to all 19 global sites in the Production Solutions division—from Costa Rica, across New York and London, to Singapore, Japan and China. At each location, the EdgeConnect platform is now terminated with at least two WAN transport links, which may be a combination of dedicated internet access (DIA), commercial broadband, or 4G/5G LTE. Skinner also deployed a virtualized EdgeConnect appliance in Microsoft Azure. MPLS has since been decommissioned.
With the Production Solutions SD-WAN in place, Skinner is now working with the Imaging Solutions division to assist them in deploying the EdgeConnect SD-WAN edge platform across global locations—approximately 20 sites, from its Italy-based headquarters, through the rest of Europe, and across Asia and Australia.
Seamless end user experience from data center to cloud
Vitec’s Production Solutions division runs its critical business applications—product lifecycle management (PLM), enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), Skype for Business, and others—in a centralized data center in the UK, using Citrix for application delivery. Skinner reports that with capabilities such as path conditioning, quality of service (QoS), and dynamic path control delivered by the EdgeConnect platform, application performance has improved on average about 20 percent. “Citrix is much snappier,” he notes.
By taking advantage of the optional Unity Boost™ WAN optimization performance pack, Skinner also accelerated other services such as backup and file sharing. “Using Boost with our Veeam backups, we’ve seen a 70 percent latency improvement across the line,” he says. “SharePoint and our patching software have also seen latency improvements of 60 to 70 percent.”
With automated, sub-millisecond failover, network uptime and quality of service have improved significantly. Moreover, by using business intent overlays, Skinner has been able to prioritize applications and ensure each application receives the network resources required to deliver the highest quality of experience to end users. For example, voice is designated real time to eliminate latency and jitter, and ensure no dropped calls.
Skinner recalls an incident while still transitioning from MPLS to broadband on the SD-WAN: “We had our MPLS circuit go down just as a company all-hands meeting was starting. But with EdgeConnect, the voice traffic jumped right onto broadband and nobody even noticed.”
While the majority of Vitec’s applications currently run on premises, the company is transitioning into the cloud. Today, workloads such as web servers, domain controllers, Office 365 authentication servers, and federation services to other SaaS applications are running in Microsoft Azure. Skinner notes, “The ability to extend SD-WAN connectivity into the cloud is essential for us. From the end user’s perspective, we want them to have a seamless experience connecting to applications whether they are on premises or in the cloud. With Silver Peak that’s been a success.”
Saves substantial amounts of time and money
One of Skinner’s main objectives with SD-WAN was to consolidate and simplify the WAN edge, and EdgeConnect has made that possible. For example, the EdgeConnect platform provides unified routing interoperability and a zone-based firewall, enabling Skinner to retire conventional edge routers and firewalls. Ultimately, he expects to reduce the WAN edge infrastructure to just three devices—the EdgeConnect platform, a network switch, and wireless access point—reducing the footprint and producing attractive financial savings.
“By moving to an all-broadband SD-WAN and consolidating the WAN edge with EdgeConnect, we’re expecting savings of a quarter-million pounds per year,” Skinner says. “And that’s a conservative estimate.”
In addition to saving money, the Silver Peak SD-WAN also helps Skinner and his team save time. The Unity Orchestrator™ management interface plays a key role in simplifying and centralizing SD-WAN management to improve business agility. “Orchestrator has been one of the best parts of the SD-WAN deployment,” Skinner remarks. “It’s really simple to use and easy to see where a problem is. We can now have junior members of the staff use Orchestrator to diagnose problems, which frees up the senior people to focus on more strategic projects.”
He adds that Orchestrator also streamlines deployment of the SD-WAN as Vitec opens new locations. “We might close a site in one location, open another site somewhere else. Now we have the agility to handle those changes very easily. All we do is plug in the EdgeConnect appliance at the new site and push out the configuration with Orchestrator using zero-touch provisioning.”
Skinner concludes, “Our goal with SD-WAN was to provide the highest quality of experience to our end users at lower cost, but also be more agile. The EdgeConnect SD-WAN edge platform has helped us achieve that goal.”
For more information on Silver Peak and our solutions, please visit: silver-peak.com
Vitec is a leading global provider of premium-brand products and solutions for the fast-growing “image capture and content creation” market. Vitec’s customers include broadcasters, film studios, photographers, enterprises, and independent content creators (ICCs) for which the company designs, manufactures, and distributes a wide range of high-performance products, including camera supports, camera-mounted electronic accessories, robotic camera systems, prompters, LED lights, mobile power, monitors, bags, motion control, smartphone accessories, and noise reduction equipment.
Vitec’s MPLS-based router-centric WAN had become complex and increasingly difficult to manage. While the company had automated failover to backup circuits, the process was complex and could result in dropped connections to sensitive applications like voice and Citrix. Vitec needed a solution to consolidate and simplify the WAN edge, and in the process, improve network uptime and efficiency.
Vitec rolled out the EdgeConnect SD-WAN edge platform to all 19 global sites in its Production Solutions division. At each location, the EdgeConnect platform is terminated with at least two links, which may be a combination of dedicated internet access (DIA), commercial broadband, or 4G/5G LTE. The company also implemented the optional Boost WAN optimization and manages the SD-WAN centrally using Orchestrator.
- Simplified the WAN edge, consolidating on the unified EdgeConnect platform
- Projected savings of approximately £250,000 per year
- Increased application performance by 20 percent on average
- Improved latency for file shares and backups by up to 70 percent with Boost
- Enhanced quality of experience for employees from data center to cloud
- Retired traditional routers and firewalls, enabling local SaaS breakout
- Enabled higher network uptime with automated, sub-millisecond link failover
- Enhanced network agility to support ongoing business expansion