About the Client

A real estate investment trust, one of North America’s largest publicly traded owners and operators of shopping centers and mixed-use assets, the client has been in business for more than 60 years. The company has specialized in shopping center acquisitions, development, and management.  As of the end of 2020, it owned interests in 400 U.S. shopping centers and mixed-use assets totaling 70 million square feet of gross leasable space.

The Challenge

The client had been using a traditional MPLS WAN to connect all remote locations to their headquarters. As part of their digital transformation initiative, they migrated their most business-critical applications and data to Microsoft Azure Cloud. While IT leadership knew that the Cloud was the right place for its applications and data, they also realized that the corporate WAN had to evolve:

  • It did not make sense for branches to connect to the corporate data center anymore, as the key apps and data had moved to the Cloud
  • Traditional MPLS WAN was no longer the most cost-effective way for branches to access their applications and data
  • Internet connectivity was clearly the most important connectivity for the business

With the MPLS WAN contract coming to an end, IT leadership explored and evaluated all available options to maximize the value of the Cloud for the organization. The Microsoft Azure Virtual WAN (VWAN), a software-defined WAN solution launched in the fall of 2019, seemed to be the most interesting choice based on the business case. To determine the validity of the strategy, the company wanted to:

  • Test Azure VWAN and assess whether Azure VWAN would meet business and technical requirements for:
    • Branch to Azure connectivity
    • Branch to branch connectivity via Azure VWAN
    • Branch to non-Azure-VWAN branch connectivity
    • Branch to Internet connectivity
  • Identify any caveats or constraints in the functionality and performance of Azure VWAN that might limit a broader roll-out of the service

CloudView Partners was engaged to work with company leadership to accomplish these goals and to deploy VWAN across 5 pilot locations prior to making a broader company-wide roll-out decision.

Our Approach

In the discovery phase, the team identified stakeholders to participate in the pilot as well as key business and technical requirements for the project. Interviews were conducted with key personnel to understand the current environment at pilot locations, most notably WAN connectivity, firewall configurations, and internet connectivity.

In the next phase, CloudView Partners designed an Azure VWAN network to address key business and technical requirements, including connectivity of:

  • Azure VWAN branch to Azure VWAN branch
  • Azure VWAN branch to non-Azure VWAN branch
  • Azure VWAN branch to Internet

Upon design completion, CloudView Partners presented the pilot plan to the client, discussed pros and cons, and noted potential business impacts. Deployment proceeded in five pilot locations, the functionality of Azure VWAN was tested, and all key test criteria were documented. After completion of the deployment and test, CloudView Partners delivered a broader roll-out plan that could be automated.

Results

Results from the pilot validated both the business case and the cost estimates. Performance was greatly improved. Branch locations were able to connect to their applications and data in Azure using an Azure-native service which is Azure VWAN. The potential cost savings from retiring the traditional MPLS solution was upwards of $100,000 and the company was confident about moving forward with organization-wide deployment.

Business Benefits

The move to Azure VWAN aligned the company’s network strategy with the overall Cloud strategy, and the business will be able to further leverage its investment in Microsoft Azure.

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