U.S. Grocery Retailer Takes Advantage of a Lower-Cost MPLS Alternative
Hughes delivers fully-redundant architecture and increased throughput.
Companies with retail and distribution locations spread across large geographic areas often have a hard time pulling together connectivity solutions that can satisfy all of their needs—especially when budget concerns enter the picture.
This is especially true as more bandwidth is required for new sophisticated transactions and Web applications. Companies often patch together a mix of solutions. Add on layers of partner and supplier communications that need to be addressed, and the picture is even more complicated.
How a Large U.S. Regional Grocery Retailer Made Some Choices
Consider one of Hughes’ customers, a large regional food retailer in the Northeast United States. They needed to transition from an older infrastructure to a broadband solution that could handle their high data traffic requirements. The company had growing demands with respect to POS, credit, and transactional data. They were also layering on more robust business applications that required broadband connectivity at each of their distributed locations.
The retailer knew they needed bigger pipes, better availability, and improved reliability—at a reasonable cost. However, the options presented by various vendors confounded their efforts. During preliminary technology evaluations, they found that no one technology could cover all their stores…except for T1. However, T1 across their whole chain would be too expensive. A local telephone company proposed using dark fiber, but the grocer discovered that solution would only cover approximately 25 percent of their locations (supplementing with T1 coverage to the other stores would drive costs way beyond their budget threshold). They investigated 3G wireless as an alternative for backup, but that didn’t perform to their satisfaction.
This retail chain needed a comprehensive solution, from a single vendor—something that would not take a lot of oversight and management from their end.
Circling Back to a Trusted Partner
The company had been a Hughes customer previously. They were happy with Hughes’ services for the previous 10 years, and they were familiar with the people, processes, and the professional services group in particular. Although happy with Hughes as a company, they felt their existing satellite network could not provide the bandwidth and application performance they now needed. Once they started down that path, they quickly realized that they couldn’t get all their requirements covered with one solution provider. The company circled back to Hughes to see if they had anything new to propose beyond the standard satellite solution currently in place.
Hughes proposed a blended approach providing primary coverage via DSL at most sites and fractional T1s to cover the rest of the locations, and secondary redundant coverage via Hughes’ broadband satellite. The resulting price from Hughes was significantly lower than other options, and the customer could get everything done with a single vendor. Hughes was able to provide comprehensive service for all their network management needs.
The complete engagement included network design, application performance testing, planning and implementation as part of the managed network solution Hughes provided the customer.
A Deeper Dive: What Did This Company Get for Their $$$?
This particular Hughes customer received a low-latency, high-bandwidth network solution by deploying two broadband connections to each store: a DSL path in parallel with a redundant satellite broadband connection. It’s a fully-backed-up solution with more than enough throughput to handle their transactional and business application needs. The solution also provides a fully-managed service from one provider and a consistent/reliable/tested set of technologies (as opposed to mixing vendors and technologies). This service—Hughes High-Availability VPN—is designed to provide many of the benefits of an MPLS network, but at a much lower cost.
The company did not have to choose between “broadband with limitations” or “MPLS with cost over-runs.” They enjoy:
- More bandwidth and better application performance
- Dramatically enhanced network reliability
- Robust security
- Low cost
- No-cost Hughes professional services that got them up and running quickly
- A trusted, long-term partnership
As a result, the company protected revenue streams and operational performance while increasing bandwidth and bolstering security. The solution also provided ample opportunity for growth and plenty of flexibility.
LAN-like Performance over the WAN
The Hughes High-Availability VPN solution delivers LAN-like performance over the WAN. It uses a symmetrical architecture approach for bandwidth control and acceleration. Enterprise-class routers are deployed at each remote location, providing WAN optimization for:
Application Prioritization and Traffic Shaping: With the growth in remote applications as well as recreational traffic, demand for WAN bandwidth often exceeds available bandwidth at branch sites. Instead of traditional traffic engineering approaches that attempt to manage traffic levels, a more efficient method is to use prioritization to ensure that business-critical applications are provided preferential access to WAN bandwidth. The Hughes solution provides four priority levels. Traffic flows are classified via a variety of rules, such as application type, TCP ports, or IP addresses.
Application Acceleration: Protocol acceleration is an effective method for delivering excellent application performance by minimizing or eliminating the effects of latency and jitter on commonly used protocols. TCP, for instance, is susceptible to significant performance degradation due to well-known issues such as slow start and window scaling. While these have no user-perceivable impact on LANs, their effect becomes more pronounced in WANs. Hughes incorporates both TCP and HTTP/HTTPS (Web and secure Web) acceleration functionality into every Hughes enterprise-class router. No expensive and complex third-party appliance or service is required. Application acceleration occurs transparently to the end user application systems.
Data Reduction: Data reduction refers to the decrease or elimination of redundant data over the WAN. The technique delivers significant benefits in terms of WAN bandwidth efficiency. Hughes has incorporated two forms of data reduction to maximize these gains—compression and protocol overhead removal. Both are transparent to the end systems. Stateful, content-aware compression provides lossless compression gains of up to 10 times, depending on the actual traffic content.
As a result, Hughes customers enjoy the performance and cost benefits illustrated below.