Thermal technology innovator boosts global business productivity and efficiency

With a global SD-WAN powered by the EdgeConnect SD-WAN edge platform, Gentherm improved network performance and stability while lowering WAN costs

You may not see Gentherm’s products in everyday life, but you could easily feel them. That toasty warm car seat on a cold winter’s day—the same seat that keeps you nice and cool during the dog days of summer? Thank Gentherm.

Since introducing the first heated and cooled car seat in 1996, Gentherm has continued innovating and expanding its business through acquisition to become a global leader in a wide range of thermal technologies and solutions. Today, the company has 25 facilities—including business offices, R&D, manufacturing, and distribution—in 13 countries across North America, Europe, and Asia.

Naturally, the company’s WAN is critical for everything from sharing massive CAD files to shipping parts on-time. But performance and reliability problems with the network put a drag on applications and caused nothing but headaches for Bruce Jarrett, the company’s infrastructure team lead and network architect.

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“When I joined the company our WAN was a shotgun hazard,” Bruce quips. “We had a single MPLS circuit that was constantly up and down, and the vendor support was poor. To keep traffic moving, we had to just find ways to route around the MPLS using whatever backup internet connections we had. But this really slowed down the business.”

Instead of waiting weeks or months for an MPLS circuit, I can use a local ISP and bring up a new site in a matter of days. Once all the equipment is in place, I can use Orchestrator to set up the EdgeConnect appliance and have traffic flowing in less than 30 minutes.
— Bruce Jarrett, Infrastructure Manager, Infrastructure Team Lead and Network Architect, Gentherm

Transforming Gentherm’s global operation with business-driven SD-WAN

After attending several conferences and learning about virtualized networks, Bruce began researching SD-WAN as a solution to solve Gentherm’s network challenges. He evaluated Talari, Fat Pipe, and Silver Peak, ultimately deciding on Silver Peak and the Unity EdgeConnectTM SD-WAN edge platform.

“EdgeConnect really stood out to me because it provides a vendor-agnostic appliance,” Bruce says. “That gave me a lot of leverage to negotiate with MPLS providers and take greater advantage of broadband. The Unity OrchestratorTM also stood out to me in how easy it is to manage and monitor the WAN.”

Bruce deployed EdgeConnect at 23 physical sites in just four months—everywhere except two minimally staffed offices. Each site is connected with an MPLS link and one to three broadband circuits with quality of service (QoS). All the links are bonded to maximize utilization and provide instantaneous failover for assured network and application availability.

Bruce also deployed three virtual EdgeConnect appliances in Microsoft Azure to handle backups sent to regional Azure sites in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. For this, he takes advantage of the optional Unity BoostTM WAN optimization performance pack to accelerate backups and reduce data by using protocol acceleration, deduplication, and compression. In addition to eliminating the need for tape backups, the cloud solution streamlined backups dramatically.

Gentherm Thermal Techonology-Company Case Study

A new level of network and application performance

Since building an SD-WAN with the EdgeConnect platform, Jarrett has been able to switch MPLS providers to achieve better service at lower cost. “Silver Peak really saved us,” he says. “The vendor agnostic piece is huge. If a provider doesn’t do right by us we can just move, and there’s no downtime.”

Bandwidth has increased substantially since EdgeConnect enables all circuits to be fully utilized. “In the past, the most we got out of our five MPLS circuits was throughput of 10 Mbps,” Bruce recalls. “But then we were under-utilizing our 20, 50 and 100 Mbps broadband links by over 60 percent. We were paying a high cost for over-saturated MPLS connections and throwing money away on the under-utilized internet connections. The EdgeConnect platform has allowed us to right-size our MPLS at a better cost and then get utilization of all links up to 75 percent during peak times.”

Increasing available bandwidth was only one part of the story in getting traffic flowing faster and smoother. The other key factor was adding Boost, which compresses data and reduces the amount of traffic traversing the WAN. As a result, Gentherm can send more data over the SD-WAN and have that data transmit much faster.

Bruce points out, “With Boost, a 10 GB file is compressed to just 4 to 5 GB. This allows our business to move large CAD files around in a secure manner, and instead of taking over two hours to transmit, we can now send them in 30 minutes or less.”

In addition to improving network throughput, latency has also been cut in half—from over 500 milliseconds in the past to less than 250 milliseconds with the EdgeConnect SD-WAN edge platform. As a result, Bruce says end users have noticed a big jump in application performance, particularly for the company’s Microsoft Lync voice system. Jitter and poor call quality caused by high latency have been eliminated by prioritizing voice traffic and applying path conditioning, which includes adaptive forward error correction and real-time packet order correction, combined with quality of service and dynamic path control over multiple links.

Improved WAN reliability keeps the business productive

With the EdgeConnect SD-WAN edge platform, circuit outages or brownouts are no longer an issue for Gentherm’s global operations. Bruce notes, “We have seen a more stable network from a business point of view. That is, if one of the links goes down, production continues without disruption. In the past, any time the MPLS network went down, the affected site was off the network, which caused a lot of late nights and angry business managers. Now with EdgeConnect, we no longer worry about MPLS or broadband outages. If a link goes down, the business doesn’t even notice. And I’m able to sleep at night knowing this.”

Gentherm Thermal Techonology Company

As Gentherm continues to expand and acquire additional companies, Bruce can use Orchestrator to quickly and easily configure and deploy new sites. “Instead of waiting weeks or months for an MPLS circuit, I can use a local ISP and bring up a new site in a matter of days. Once all the equipment is in place, I can use Orchestrator to set up the EdgeConnect appliance and have traffic flowing in less than 30 minutes.”

He concludes, “Silver Peak saves me a lot of time not having to deal with all the network hassles we used to have. That’s freed me up to focus on things that are more important to the company. Now I have time to architect and streamline other aspects of our infrastructure to help the business operate more efficiently and competitively.”

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

Customer

Gentherm is a global developer and marketer of innovative thermal management technologies, providing everything from thermal electric generators to intelligent temperature management in operating rooms to specialized cooling systems for the growing energy storage industry.

Challenge

Overcome network and application performance and reliability problems with existing MPLS circuits, which forced IT to create inefficient workarounds that slowed business operations and limited business agility

Solution

Deploy the Unity EdgeConnect SD-WAN edge platform at 23 physical sites, bonding an MPLS link and one to three QoS-enabled broadband circuits at each site, along with three virtual EdgeConnect appliances in Microsoft Azure for data backup, using Unity Boost to accelerate cloud backups and reduce data through deduplication and compression

Results

  • Increased available bandwidth tenfold while lowering WAN costs
  • Cut latency in half, dramatically improving voice service quality
  • Accelerated large file transmission from up to 2 hours to less than 30 minutes
  • Ensured 24/7 network availability with instant failover across multiple circuits
  • Improved business productivity by eliminating downtime due to circuit outages
  • Reduced the time to bring up a new site from months to days