Dell IT

SD-WAN: A Key Factor In Scaling 120,000 Dell Technologies Team Members To Connect Remotely

By Jason Chan Senior Director, Global Network Services, Dell Digital May 12, 2020

When Dell IT set out to modernize our Wide Area Network (WAN) to address the increasing Internet-based traffic flowing between our more than 200 locations around the globe, we knew it would improve user experience, particularly for software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications. What we didn’t realize was that the roll out of our software-defined WAN over the past 16 months would be a key factor in our ability to readily scale our global network’s points-of-presence to allow some 120,000 Dell Technologies team members to connect remotely in the face of a worldwide shift to working from home.

It wasn’t something we could predict. But it does show the importance of modernizing your network to accommodate growing Internet traffic—so central to the way users work today— for flexibility to meet whatever future demands arise.

Such modernization, however, requires a change in mindset that traditional IT has struggled with—relinquishing the idea that all mission-critical workloads need to be on private telecom carrier connections and that accommodating Internet traffic can be relegated to ‘best effort.’

Our SD-WAN Story

Our Global Network Services Site Connectivity team had made that mindset jump away from channeling all mission-critical traffic through a private transport several years ago, in favor of establishing a better mix embracing Internet traffic. In 2018, we launched an effort to modernize our network using our own technology, VMware SD-WAN by VeloCloud, to link our company’s 218 branches, main offices, factories, data centers as well as remote workers. The cloud-managed network provides faster performance at less cost and offers higher bandwidth to take on ever-growing Internet traffic.

Admittedly, a main motivation for our transition to SD-WAN was the fact that we were seeing rising network costs as Internet traffic across our network exploded with the rise of SaaS applications and Infrastructure-as-a-Service managed workloads and a general increase in web uses by team members. We found that more than 70 percent of the traffic on our network was Internet connected.

Having to run all that Internet-bound traffic through our core data centers via our Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS)—the traditional, premium-priced transport procured from major telecom carriers—meant costs kept ballooning. We needed a way to deploy a mix of network options, including much-needed Internet-based transport.

We used a Dell EMC purpose-built hardware box called the Dell EMC Networking Virtual Edge Platform (VEP4600) as the foundation for virtualizing network functions and VMware vSphere ESXi for the orchestration layer to transform our network to software defined.

Site by site, we transitioned telecom carrier provisioning, changing our transport to reduce MPLS and increase Internet-based circuits.

We had deployed SD-WAN to more than 80 percent of our workforce and reduced network costs by an estimated 20 percent when the need to accommodate a home-based workforce hit.

Modernization Made The Difference

The performance and user experience benefits of SD-WAN made all the difference in enabling our employees to work from home right away.

In our migration from legacy MPLS private line connections to Internet connections, we had beefed up our core data centers’ Internet points-of-presence, which is the same environment that supports our VPN platforms crucial for remote connections. Because our Internet environments were increased in size, we were able to handle the full global work from home volume when that need suddenly arose.

Beyond that, we had been improving the performance of our SaaS offerings due to our increased bandwidth and the fact that we were now directing our traffic in the most efficient way. And since SD-WAN provides application visibility, including an evaluation grade on every application, we are able to make informed decisions in terms of how we want to route applications through the network.

Bottom line: we revved up to support our SaaS offerings and other corporate application flows at scale rooted in a common and performant experience whether at an office or remote.

For the past 16 months, Dell IT’s Team Member Experience has been rolling out SaaS collaboration tools—such as OneDrive, Teams and Zoom—to more team members as the locations to which they are connected transformed to SD-WAN.

That meant that most of our team members were already equipped and familiar with these tools so vital to staying connected and productive from home when they had to go remote.

We were fortunate to have made these changes when we did. What this underscores is that moving forward to modernize the way your company stays connected with the right mix of private carrier and Internet transport just makes sense in today’s flexible work environment. You can maintain your mission-critical capabilities while accommodating crucial Internet access and efficiency.

And staying out in front of the ever-changing workforce needs can help you be prepared for future challenges.

Find out more about our transition to working from home, including our modern network connection.

Get more transformation details on Dell Technologies: Our Digital Transformation.

Check out one of my previous blog’s: Using SD-WAN to Tame the Wild West of Exploding Internet Traffic

And keep the discussion going by commenting below.

About Jason Chan

Senior Director, Global Network Services, Dell Digital

Jason has over 20 years of experience in the networking and telecommunications industry. He currently is Head of Global Network Services for Dell Digital leading the company’s own internal transformational initiatives from software-defined networking in the Datacenter with open networking and SDN, all the way to the Edge with SD-WAN.

Over Jason’s career, he has contributed to IEEE telecommunications standards related to broadband access technologies, to architecting both service provider and enterprise networking solutions.

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