Westcon-Comstor Builds a more Visible WAN

For Michael Soler, a senior infrastructure manager at Westcon-Comstor, a major IT distributor, moving to a software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) was as much about taking control of the network as it was about saving money.

The move accomplished both, according to Soler.

“It’s been a very successful story,” says Soler. “We have gained visibility, and this means control. I can see which users are using which applications, and we can look at bandwidth. We wanted to save money and we greatly succeeded.”

Of course, there is more to the story than that. Soler says moving to an SD-WAN platform, built by Silver Peak, accomplished many goals at once. These included:

  • Creating better network failover redundancy
  • Improving the performance of VoIP applications
  • Reducing the cost of private lines
  • Easier management, with network visibility and orchestration using software
  • Better network and application performance overall

The project had a natural starting point, said Soler, because many of the company’s MPLS contracts were set to expire and it was time to look at its relationship with WAN carriers. As it dug into the details and looked at a variety of SD-WAN vendors and offerings, Soler concluded the technology was mature enough to implement.

“We had too many site routers and we had a mix of aging and new infrastructure,” said Soler. “There were two pieces we were looking for: To improve resiliency in terms of failover and deliver resiliency to the business. SD-WAN was there. Players were already doing it and some of our partners were getting into the game.”

Users Don’t Notice Failures

Soler says that overall, the move to SD-WAN has made his life easier. He can see detailed reporting data about what’s happening everywhere on the network, all from a single screen. And with the new capabilities for failover, users don’t notice network outages, giving him more time to work behind the scenes.

“There is failover redundancy so when something happens, we can focus on resolving the issues and our users don’t even notice,” he said.

The most attractive features of the Silver Peak Unity EdgeConnect™ SD-WAN edge platform, according to Soler, are the ease of use in the deployment using centralized software-based orchestration, as well as the failover and performance features such as forward error correction FEC and path conditioning.

“FEC and path conditioning was a big eye-opener,” said Soler. “To provide quality over these tunnels, that was a big factor. It adds network resiliency and spreads your bandwidth.”

Ease of Deployment

Another big factor for Soler is the ease of management, being able to deploy and control sites with software orchestration and a single management interface.

Westcon-Comstor started in 2017 with a proof of concept (POC) that included using Silver Peak to use SD-WAN to connect high-availability services to the data center. After the POC, Westcon deployed an SD-WAN that included 24 total sites, two data centers, and two azure data centers.

Overall, of course, one of the primary goals was to save on WAN costs, which the move to SD-WAN did. Soler says the company can’t disclose specific savings, but it “greatly succeeded” at reducing its WAN costs.

When I asked Soler about feedback from users, Soler says that ironically, he barely ever hears from them anymore – and that’s a good thing. “In IT the best feedback from users is no feedback. We have experienced carrier issues during the production day and there is nobody complaining.”

Overall, Soler says the company is providing more bandwidth before at a lower cost – because it can now direct applications more quickly to where they have to go, including cloud applications.

“From an IT perspective, it’s made a world of difference. We were able to do carrier migrations at our sites without business interruption. Our uptime is incredible. Contention and network issues are very rare now.”