Delivering Freshness Despite Outages
Delaware Valley Floral Group (DVFG) has been in business for over 50 years and during that time they have grown into one of the largest floral distribution and logistics companies in the United States.
DVFG had deployed single MPLS connections between their locations. From time to time, they experienced line degradation and outages, which resulted in lost productivity. This was particularly disruptive during peak holiday times, like the weeks approaching Valentine’s Day and Mothers’ Day.
Distribution points were most vulnerable, as they rely on communications with the home office for inventory, orders, invoicing and Voice over IP (VoIP) phone service. “In the past, if they lost their connection to headquarters, we’d have to print orders and invoices at the main office and drive them around to our distribution sites,” said Bill Prendergast, Sr. System Administrator at DVFG. “That kind of support doesn’t scale.”
DVFG set out to fortify their Wide Area Network (WAN) and remove the single connection vulnerability. They made plans to add local cable connections at each location to supplement their MPLS network, which they would keep for Quality of Service (QoS) assurance. They needed a way for network traffic to traverse either connection, based on the quality of the links at any given moment. Should a line fail altogether, critical traffic would need to be routed over the remaining functional circuit. They researched several SD-WAN options, including Ecessa, for traffic load balancing and automatic failover.
Initially, they selected a competitor, but the product never quite worked.
“We rolled that solution out to our closest locations and we had a lot of hiccups along the way. We continued to experience packet loss and other issues would creep in,” said Prendergast. DVFG needed a better solution.
After six months of frustration and dissatisfaction, DVFG returned the competitive product and replaced it with WANworX®, Ecessa’s Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN) solution.
This time the roll out went smoothly, using Ecessa’s proven SD-WAN deployment process. The staged process is project management driven and focuses on properly setting expectations, identifying verifiable goals, conducting in-depth information gathering, clearly communicating between organizations and providing thorough documentation. In just over a month after receiving their WANworX units, DVFG had locations up and running with SD-WAN.
“We got more done with Ecessa in five weeks than what we did with [the competitor] in five months,” said James Young, IT Manager at DVFG. “There was no disruption to phones, we never lost communication with hardware at the remote sites after installation and all of the cuts were done very quickly. The best part is that our team was able to configure these with just a little coaching. That saves us time and money. It also makes us a lot more comfortable with the technology, since we had a hand in it. Switching to Ecessa was the best decision and I’m confident it was the right thing to do.”
Prendergast agreed. “Ecessa took a phased approach to our deployment, which gave us a lot of confidence in the solution. We had regular check-ins where they presented data to validate that the system was working right, and we didn’t move to the next phase until we were satisfied with performance.”
The successful deployment process consists of three stages, with each stage introducing more complex software-defined network features and verifying successful implementation before advancing. “WANworX is working out as advertised,” said Prendergast. “We don’t have to keep an eye on it. It fits in the network better and the installation was pain free.”
SD-WAN is having an immediate, positive impact on the business. When there are line disruptions, DVFG employees at remote locations continue doing their day-to-day jobs, unaware of network issues. “Morale isn’t impacted and the team doesn’t have to worry about executing Plan B,” said Prendergast. “The main thing is, when a connection goes down, especially in critical periods, we have peace of mind the network isn’t crumbling. There used to be lot of panic, now our people just keep chugging along. It makes you feel better.”
On February 11, 2016, in the height of the Valentine’s Day rush, the unthinkable happened. A fiber cut in Philadelphia took out Delaware Valley Floral Group’s MPLS link. “Printing, wireless, phones, ecommerce – all of it could have gone away. The locations with WANworX didn’t even know there was a problem,” said Prendergast. Network traffic continued flowing over the cable connection without a hitch.
Prendergast looks forward to completing the network build out so future incidents won’t impact any locations. “With Ecessa we’ll achieve our main goal: to stay up and connected.”